Email Clutter in Office 365

I have a personal Office 365 account, and have managed O365 in an enterprise environment for about a year now. Several months ago, Microsoft quietly introduced a feature called “Clutter” – it showed up on day as a folder in my mailbox with a single message which explained what Clutter in Office 365 is and a link to turn it on. Last week, Microsoft announced that they will be enabling the Clutter feature by default on all Office 365 mailboxes if users haven’t already specifically turned it off.

What does it do?

Clutter pays attention to how you interact with messages in your mailbox and determines what messages you are likely to ignore. As similar messages arrive in the future, it redirects them from your Inbox to the Clutter folder where you can browse through them at your leisure. If you move particular messages out of clutter and back to your inbox, it will learn that you don’t want those items to be classified as clutter and avoid doing so in the future.

How is this different from Junk E-Mail or Spam Filtering?

In a couple of ways, actually. Spam filtering usually uses pattern matching against known spam e-mail or message analysis that determines the likelihood that the message is spam. Messages that get filtered out at this point never hit your mailbox at all.

Those that make it past, but are still of questionable value may get directed to the Junk E-Mail folder. Items in this folder are restricted – they won’t download images, and you can’t click on links in an e-mail in your Junk folder. You have to move it out of Junk before you can interact with it.

Clutter works a bit differently. Items in the Clutter folder are still interactive. You can work with them just like you can with items in your Inbox.

On by Default?

Clutter is actually a pretty nice feature – I have been using it since it was released, and it tends to catch all of the automated status messages from system monitors, along with near-spam messages that make it past the various filters in place. In about two weeks, it will be enabled by default on existing O365 accounts as well as new ones. I can see this initially being a source of confusion to users, since they may not see messages they are expecting to see.

According to the announcement above, when the on-by-default goes live it will include periodic messages indicating what kinds of things are being directed to Clutter, which will be good – right now there is no indication other than the unread count number next to the Clutter field increasing.

There is a PowerShell command included in the announcement above to disable Clutter for your existing user accounts, but as you create new accounts you will have to return to PowerShell if you want to disable Clutter for them – it will be on for newly created accounts with no way to make “off” the default setting for your tenant.

The other good option, of course, is to just let your users know it is coming. This can be especially important considering they will begin receiving e-mail messages with links in them that they are not expecting to receive otherwise – and how many times have we urged users to never click on links in e-mails they weren’t expecting to get 🙂

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