A.O.L. and "unsending" emails?

I used to be on AOHell. Because it was my first IP, I never gave much thought to the feature that allowed email to be “unsent” to other AOL addresses.

Is there any compelling reason why that software feature cannot be offered inter-IP ? Not to be overly dim, I have thought about this.

I send an email from Hotmail ( MSN servers ) to Yahoo ( Yahoo servers ). I decide not to leave it , and wish to Unsend it. How hard would it be to have all IP’s agree to that software change, so that I could send a note that pulled that email off of Yahoo’s servers before it is opened?

-grin- No, I’m not in a pickle. It just occurred to me that only on AOL could you undo the written word with such ease. Is such a thing even feasable across IP’s, and if so, would it in fact lighten the burdern of email flow, or increase it ?


It would be a major project to re-program every mail server on the planet.

SMTP and POP3 email just wasn’t built with an unsend function. The trick is in the nature of how mail gets routed - from your PC, to your ISP’s mail servers, out to the Internet itself, where it bops along from one server to the next until it hits the recipient’s ISP’s mail servers.

Sending a delete request would be challenging as you wouldn’t know what servers the message has been on, and the servers themselves don’t know where the message is once they’ve kicked it to the next server - Server A knows it sent the message to Server B, but it won’t know who Server B sent it to.

Oh, the difference with AOL is that they might or might not be using SMTP internally, but since the whole system - sender, recipient and servers are contained in their domain and under their control, they can readily know where a message is and kill it.

Plus, it would be almost impossible to do in a secure manner. Current email protocols do almost nothing as it is in terms of authentication. Trying to figure out if a delete request came from someone with the authority to make one would be a huge security nightmare.

There was a web service that offered this facility, but they cheated. You’d send an email, they’d store it on their servers, and they’d forward a link to it to your recipient.

I don’t see why. All you’d have to do is send another message to the same address with instructions for the mail server to delete the previous one. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t take the same route getting there.

Shagnasty’s point about authentication is the real problem with this idea.

That would be “Shalmanese”.

I guess I just saw the “Sha” and filled it in with the first random username that popped into my head.