In the Age of AI, is Inbox Zero the Right Focus?

Some people are dog people, others are cat people. Some are introverts, and some are extroverts. And, some are inbox zero people, while others are inbox [insert really large number here] people. Whatever camp you fall into, you likely feel pretty strongly about it.

We have strong opinions about email too (many members of the Astro team have been working on email and communications products for 10+ years). But, we think inbox zero is the wrong goal when creating email software in 2017 and, oftentimes, the wrong way to approach managing your inbox.

Inbox overload vs inbox zero

The solution to the problem of inbox overload is AI

With the rise of AI, specifically the recent advancements in machine learning, surfacing which emails are most important and need attention doesn’t have to be a burden. Email apps can suggest what’s highest priority, without requiring you to manually go through every single item in your inbox and respond, archive, or organize. At Astro, we’re focused on eliminating the cognitive overhead and time you waste managing your inbox. This is our primary goal— helping you focus on the highest priority message, at the right time.

Here are a few reasons AI will change how we manage our inbox…

1. Email is the keeper of our data

To state the obvious, people send and receive a lot of email. While chat apps have become commonplace in the office, email is still king. The inbox is a critical part of the way we share information, data, and files at work. There’s a massive quantity of untapped data and workplace information at our disposal. This means machine learning algorithms can get much smarter, really fast, based on how people interact with their emails.

Even without direct integrations, email inboxes also have a lot of information from other apps. Notifications are sent via email and email is the de-facto way to sign up for things. This data can be used to learn more about a user and to help them identify what’s most important in their inbox.

Email inbox with unread messages

Given the wealth of data in your inbox, it’s inevitable that machine learning will make managing your email a lot easier. And apps, like Astro, are already starting to do this work for you.

2. Email apps can tell you when to unsubscribe

Leveraging machine learning to help you manage your inbox is just scratching the surface. We can create algorithms that understand what an email is about and who it is from, securely and privately. Couple that with interaction data based on what a user does with emails most often (i.e. delete a newsletter without ever opening it, open and respond immediately, forward to someone else), and an app can recommend actions you can take to manage your inbox, including unsubscribe and auto-archive.

Unsubscribe from newsletter message prompt

3. Natural language processing can speed up reading and responding

Imagine if an email app was able to recommend email responses, signal importance and sentiment, provide email TL;DRs, and more. This is possible! Natural language processing (NLP) enables apps to securely and privately scan the content of your emails to determine the sentiment (positive, negative, etc.) and intent of an email. This will enable you to read emails and take action much faster, which means more time to focus on the actual work you need to do.

We think an AI-powered, automatically-prioritized inbox is a far better way to stay on top of communications than the endless pursuit of inbox zero. We are tackling this by building the most intelligent, connected, and focused email experience.

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