Why doesn't Gmail have a block button?
October 4, 2013 7:01 AM   Subscribe

Why don't gmail or other webmail providers have a simple "block sender" button, which not only archives/deletes a message but automatically does this for any future messages from that sender, so that you don't even see them?

To clarify, I'm not asking how to achieve this. I realize it can be done in a few steps with filters in gmail, for example. But it's such an obvious, simple function that you'd think there would be a one-click option for it, or at least a plugin that provides one, and I assume there's some good reason why there isn't. What am I missing?
posted by pete_22 to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The "report spam" button does this in one click. Or am I misunderstanding what you want?

Google will even try to unsubscribe you from mailing list automatically if you use the spam button.
posted by bonehead at 7:17 AM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Services like Gmail which millions of people use need to cater to the needs of the average user. Too many knobs and the service becomes too complicated to use. So having something called 'filters' that can accomplish x number of different things is better than listing them all individually so when you click on the drop down arrow you have 400 choices of things to do.

Also, forcing the user to go through a three step process to filter someone makes sure that you REALLY want to block that person and don't just accidentally click on 'block' when you didn't really want to block them.

Google Apps platform has a block sender list. Using that platform assumes that you are more of a mail administrator and understand that you are adding people to the block list. It separates the 'filtering' of mail from the INBOX.

I am a project manager of (in comparison to Gmail) a very small system that customers us to manage a service. Deciding whether to add a feature to the platform or not, and how to add it is always a very careful consideration and involves lists of pluses and minuses, customer feedback and slow rollout.
posted by effigy at 7:18 AM on October 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Filters and spam both do this to varying degrees. I think it's part of gmail trying to have one of those progressive disclosure interfaces. That is, the basic tasks are very very simple and only people who are motivated (and, by association, can be trusted with more sophisticated tools) can get to the next level of steps. I think you can see this happening with the more recent changes. It's now harder to change a subject line and harder to maximize a window and harder to switch to plain text because those things are (according to Google) not what people are using email for so much.

I am not sure I agree with this perspective, but I'm pretty sure this is it in action. Similarly, it wasn't until iOS 7 that the iPhone had the ability to block callers and people had to go through convoluted steps of setting their calls to a silent ringtone or whatever in order to not be bothered by them. A more cynical person might think that this was because it makes it easier to be advertises to and contacted non-consensually (by advertisers!) but I'm not sure I am all the way there yet. 95% of Google's revenue stream is from their advertising, why would they want end users to be able to get any better at filtering than they already are? Add to this their cozy relationship with Ad Block Plus (the tool many people use to block ads) and I think this is what is going on.
posted by jessamyn at 7:24 AM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

In addition to what @effigy said, email has certain deliverability acknowledgement features that would become broken or at least ambiguous if this were done. For example, should the email server respond with a typical "delivered-to=recipient@website.com" header if the message was never delivered to the inbox? The filter process makes this much more manageable because there is a workflow: email delivered to inbox -> sender matched against a filter list -> match found -> email moved to archive. (This is just one example but there are others - email receipts, etc).
posted by rada at 7:28 AM on October 4, 2013

Response by poster: I am pretty sure the "report spam" button does not do what I'm talking about. I think it just feeds into their general spam algorithm rather than having any direct immediate effect on my account. I've used it many times and kept getting email from the same senders.

Plus, a lot of what I would want to block is not spam -- it could be a mistaken identity, for example, or just an annoying mailing list whose own remove function doesn't work.
posted by pete_22 at 9:37 AM on October 4, 2013

Best answer: It's true that Google is an advertising company, but they make their money from display ads, not mass emails, so it doesn't make any sense for Google to add friction to email spam blocking. I don't think that's the reason for this.

An important principle in UI design is to include the ability to reverse commands that a user can invoke by mistake. If you have a button to block a sender, there needs to be a way to undo that action. But there's no logical place to put the unblock sender button, so it has to be buried in the settings.

Google probably wanted to avoid an interface where there's an button at the top level that 1) destroys what could be very important user data and 2) most people wouldn't be able to discover how to reverse.
posted by zixyer at 11:57 AM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Because many people would click on it without understanding what it did, and then be upset that they weren't getting their email.
posted by yohko at 4:44 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Something else to consider is the phenomenon of the Joe Job. If you block the "sender" you're actually blocking someone who is innocent (and may have had his e-mail addy harvested in the same pass as yours and, so, be someone you know) but the actual sender is free to send you another spam tomorrow as someone else.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:10 AM on October 5, 2013

« Older How to prevent divorce when travelling the world...   |   Please recommend a TV stand for a 60" TV Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.