Unsubscribe microformat


The current unsubscribe process from an email list is unwieldy and lacks standardization. Use of microformat in the email allows a standard single-click unsubscribe process independent of the email content & sender.

In a bigger picture, the proposed microformat is also an attempt to add ‘Semantic’ elements to content which are HTML but aren’t served directly over HTTP. For example, email message is HTML (along with other equivalent parts, which may exist in a message) but not much has been done to add semantic capabilities to the message.

Unsubscribe process

email list unsubscribe process

Most countries have laws where it requires that the unsubscribe process be completed within two steps. The user starts either by (a) sending an email to an address for opting out or (b) clicks on a link for taking the particular email address off.

In both the process, email publishers may have an extra step of a confirmation email which may have an additional link or a reply option to complete the process. In the link click through the user may have to fill out a form.

Unsubscribe compliance

Further, the CAN SPAM Act mandates compliance for the unsubscribe process which reads as:

  1. A link or Reply-To unsubscribe process must exist in every email sent
  2. For each email campaign the unsubscribe processes must remain for at least 60 days after the email is sent
  3. The email address must be taken off the list within 10 days
  4. The unsubscribe can be initiated by a reply-to or by clicking a link
  5. If choosing a link to unsubscribe, the click through of the link may take at the most one extra form to be filled

Come microformat to the resuce

Microformats are simple embeddable piece of additional attributes which can be added to the existing HTML/XHTML tags of the content. By annotating the existing ‘unsubscribe copy’ of the email, an email client can automatically extract the targets of the unsubscribe process and enhance it’s client capabilities. The email client can add a button which can enable a single-click unsubscribe from the list.

In most email campaigns the unsubscribe information is part of the footer buried in small fonts using myriad of colors and verbiage. The footer may also contain additional information regarding the copyright, sender’s physical address and additional links.

Why it is needed?

Reduce the pain of unsubscribing from an email list and as a fallout prevent legitimate emails being ‘Flagged as Spam’.

Other options

There exists a competing comparable functionality called List-Unsunscribe which proposes an optional header field in the envelope of an email message. List-Unsubscribe is supported by Gmail (announcement), Yahoo Groups, etc. Instead of the header, the unsubscribe microformat becomes part of the email content and does not require any modification to the sending process.


  1. Smart email clients completing the unsubscribe process in a single click
  2. Legitimate email not flagged as ‘Spam’
  3. Microformat code allows the unsubscribe functionality to be part of the content without depending on the email service provider


Here is a sample which an email footer may have:

<div class=”unsubscribe”>
<span class=”to-email”>indus@morpheusventure.com</span>
<span class=”remove-email”>remove-me-JDSJ72JDJ38LS065DNB2MF@corp.com</span>
<span class=”remove-link”>http://ent.remove.net/servlet/cc6?kPu</span>
<div class=”addr”>
<span class=”street-address”>1 Bust Nd</span>
<span class=”extended-address”>Gali #2</span>
<span class=”locality”>Katri Nadi</span>,
<span class=”region”>JH</span>
<span class=”postal-code”>828113</span>
<span class=”country-name”>India</span>

Next steps

  1. Bounce the idea around and find out whether it works or sucks
  2. Bucket of property lists for the microformat
  3. Propose this as an exploratory topic at http://microformats.org/discuss/mail/microformats-new/ (Done: Feb 2) & maybe create a page at http://microformats.org/wiki/exploratory-discussions
  4. Example XMDP Profile