Graymail is a term used to describe unwanted email messages but do not qualify as spam messages. This term was first used by Microsoft’s Hotmail team in 2011, when Hotmail introduced new filtering methods for incoming messages. Graymail, unlike spam, typically includes regular transmissions from mailing lists and newsletters that users have signed up to receive. Over time, these subscription messages may clutter a user’s inbox and be mistaken and flagged by a system as spam.

Graymail messages are unlike spam because they are actually the result of a user’s legitimate subscription. The email is solicited through opting in, either by directly signing up for newsletters or by providing an email address to an ecommerce website. Graymail messages are also legitimate messages sent from reputable sources who have no malicious or untrustworthy designs on the recipient. The recipient is viewed as a valuable potential customer. Finally, graymail targets specific users — unlike spam messages which target all users, these messages are specific to user interests because the user has, at one point, requested the communication. These email marketing messages also typically relate a special offer or promotion that should be relevant to a user’s past online activity.

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