Starting sometime in February 2024 Gmail will have a new requirement concerning the use of the "unsubscribe" button that sometimes appears at the top of their messages. Gmail is implementing RFC8058 which describes how one-click unsubscribes should function and the benefits. The 3 main benefits for RFC8058 are:
Gives the recipient a clear consistent ability to unsubscribe from a list
For the recipient: Adds another layer of protection against email list aggregators finding valid email addresses
For the email list sender: Stops "in-message" one-click unsubscribe links from being "clicked" by Antivirus and email scanners
History - For over a decade Gmail has had the "unsubscribe" button at the top of their email messages. This button has functioned several different ways over the years. This first use of this unsubscribe was to call a URL to the email sender's system to request the unsubscribe confirmation. This was quickly abandoned because it was abused by email list aggregators that would send out anonymous emails hoping for the random recipients to click on unsubscribe link revealing the email address was active. With this happening most in-box providers like Gmail changed this link to initiate an email sent back to the email sender requesting the recipient to be unsubscribed. In this way the email list aggregators had no instant positive proof of active email addresses. This method was still not perfect, but many systems and email clients like Apple Mail and Outlook still use the this method today.
What's Happening Now - Gmail has decided to implement RFC8058 to further extend the protection of their users from spammers and also to allow a more orderly and easy way for their users to be removed from email lists. The "unsubscribe" button at the top of the Gmail messages will now require a multi-function unsubscribe page described in RFC8058. In a nutshell, the unsubscribe button should now reference webpage that should perform two different functions based on what method is used to access it. If the page is accessed using a GET method, like a normal webpage request, the resulting webpage should present to the user the ability to confirm the unsubscribe. If the page is accessed using a POST method the webpage should unsubscribe the recipient without further action. The unsubscribe button in Gmail will perform the POST method to unsubscribe.
The Confusing Part - Many email senders are confused by the fact that sometimes the unsubscribe button does not appear at the top of their emails sent to Gmail. Though Gmail has never revealed specifically why this is the case here is what we have discovered:
Though RFC8058 is another step towards stopping email list aggregators from harvesting email address but it is not perfect. If the unsubscribe button displayed for every list-generated email this would allow the list aggregators to get around the system. So the unsubscribe button may only appear for senders with a good reputation and sending an email with content that has been analyzed and passed some tests.
The unsubscribe button may initially appear but then disappear depending on how many people are unsubscribing from the email sent out. This may be a way Gmail is protecting it's users. We don't know what percentage is but we guess anything more than 5% unsubscribe rate. This may seem counter-intuitive to remove an unsubscribe ability on an email that may clearly be generating a large unsubscribe rate but this may be part of their reputation system.
We have seen a phenomenon where if you receive email on Gmail, unsubscribe from that email, then you receive another email from the same sender that the unsubscribe button does not show again. We don't know if this is a Gmail built-in function but we are investigating more. What we are hoping is NOT the case is that once the user unsubscribes from an email via the Gmail unsubscribe button does it consider future emails sent from that email addresses as a problem. This would cause problems with people that want to receive certain emails from an email sender but unsubscribe from others.
What We Do Know - Whether or not we agree RFC8058 is needed today the reality is we need to implement the rules around the RFC in order to be email list senders with good reputations. Also, whether or not the unsubscribe link in Gmail appears or not does not matter; the fact that the proper headers in the email are present and the functionality for the One-click is in place means we are abiding by the RFC. The important thing to remember is that you are still required by the CAN-SPAM Act to include unsubscribe ability in your email so you cannot rely just on systems like Gmail to be your only unsubscribe method.
Good News For Current Campaign Enterprise Users - Since last year any version updates to the Campaign Enterprise has included this One-click RFC8058 ability without any configurations changes. This built-in functionality is present and active on all campaigns that have the unsubscribe feature turned on.
A Warning For Email Senders With Older Email List Sending Programs - If you have an older version of Campaign Enterprise, or any other email list sending system, the emails you send out to Gmail and other inbox providers may not make it to the recipients going forward. The scary thing is that Gmail and others may never give you any feedback that this happening so it is imperative that you get a current version of the software you are using that will address this new RFC.
If you have any questions on this subject please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Campaign Enterprise is a scaleable enterprise-level email distribution system that runs on your own in-house computers connecting directly to your database or CRM in real-time, and using your own mail server. Visit http://www.arialsoftware.com for more information.