Is it Spam? MS Outlook Receives 'Bacon' Email Filter

John Lister's picture

Microsoft has launched a new tool for MS Outlook designed to make it easier to deal with email overload. It will be available for business users at first, but could later be rolled out for home users. The feature will be available as part of Office 365 for business: that's the online edition of the Office suite, which is automatically updated when Microsoft adds new features or makes changes.

The name of the feature comes from the problem Microsoft is trying to tackle: Clutter. That's meant to describe the category of emails that are from legitimate senders, but which you don't consider important and would be happy to skip past for now if you are in a rush.

This type of email has previously been dubbed "bacon", with the idea being that it has both similarities and differences to spam. Spam is used synonymously to describe unsolicited bulk email (UBE), but it's also a commercially produced food product derived from pork. Hence, spam and bacon are similar in the real world, as well as in the computer email world.

New Clutter Folder Holds Less Important Emails

The feature, dubbed 'Clutter', works by adding a folder that is separate from the inbox and the spam folder. Any email messages that Outlook doesn't consider urgent will go to the Clutter inbox, allowing you to check them later when you have more time. Clutter is very much experimental, and as such will be disabled by default, so users will actively have to choose to use it.

Three factors affect whether a particular message winds up in the Clutter folder. The first is an algorithm that takes into account how quickly you read or delete emails from a particular sender or on a particular topic, or whether you leave them unread. (Source:

As a second factor, users can fine-tune this automated learning by manually moving messages to or from the Clutter folder. Microsoft says it will learn from these signals within a matter of days. It also says that this learning will allow it to quickly recognize when you have changed your priorities -- for example, if you start working on a project and thus emails from a particular sender become more important. (Source:

Social Network Contacts Play A Role

The third and final factor is whether emails are from senders with whom you are friends on Yammer, a business-based social network. If Microsoft extends the feature to consumer email, that might be changed to take account of friends on sites such as Facebook.

Google's Gmail already offers a similar feature to Clutter, but promotes it from a different perspective. Instead of emphasizing the less important messages, Gmail instead promotes the more important messages into a "priority inbox".

Whether the Clutter feature works will likely depend on how successful it is at learning user preferences and how quickly it learns. If users find too many emails "wrongly" marked as unimportant in the first few days, they may conclude Clutter causes more problems than it solves.

What's Your Opinion?

Would you welcome a feature such as Clutter in your email? Do you get many messages that fall into the category of neither important nor spam? Would you trust software to correctly categorize messages?

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adh773's picture

Sounds like a good idea to me, it happens all the time. ADH

spiras's picture

A Clutter Filter in Outlook would be most welcome. It would take care of all those newsletters, articles and the like which we are all so reluctant to delete but rarely have time to read. They inflate our inbox and leave us to wade through them when looking back for something more important.