Graymail is a term used in the field of cybersecurity to describe a type of email that falls somewhere between legitimate email and spam. While not outright spam, graymail is often unwanted or uninteresting to the recipient, and can clutter up inboxes, making it harder to find important messages. Graymail can include newsletters, social media updates, and promotional emails that the user has signed up for, but no longer wishes to receive.

Unlike spam, which is typically unsolicited and often contains malicious content, graymail is generally solicited by the user at some point. For example, the user may have signed up for a newsletter or agreed to receive promotional emails from a company. However, over time, the user may lose interest in these emails or find them irrelevant, turning them into graymail.

Origins of Graymail

The term ‘graymail’ is a blend of the words ‘gray’ and ’email’. ‘Gray’ is used to denote the ambiguous nature of these emails – they are neither completely unwanted (black) nor completely wanted (white). The term ‘graymail’ was first used in the early 2000s as email marketing became more prevalent and users began to receive an increasing number of promotional emails and newsletters.

As email marketing strategies evolved, so did the concept of graymail. Initially, graymail was mostly associated with newsletters and promotional emails. However, with the advent of social media and other online platforms, graymail has expanded to include notifications from these platforms as well.

Types of Graymail

There are several types of graymail, each with its own characteristics and implications for the user. The most common types of graymail include newsletters, promotional emails, social media notifications, and updates from online platforms.

Newsletters are a common type of graymail. These are periodic emails sent by companies or organizations to their subscribers, containing news, updates, and other information. While some users find these emails useful, others may consider them to be graymail if they are no longer interested in the content.

Promotional emails are another common type of graymail. These are emails sent by companies to promote their products or services. While these emails can be useful for users who are interested in the company’s offerings, they can become graymail if the user is no longer interested or if the emails are sent too frequently.

Social media notifications are a newer type of graymail. These are emails sent by social media platforms to notify users of updates, new posts, and other activities. While these notifications can be useful for active users of the platform, they can become graymail for users who are not active or not interested in these updates.

Impact of Graymail

Graymail can have several impacts on the user and their email experience. One of the main impacts is cluttering up the user’s inbox. With a large volume of graymail, it can be harder for the user to find important emails among the clutter. This can lead to missed emails and decreased productivity.

Another impact of graymail is the potential for important emails to be mistakenly marked as spam. Many email services use algorithms to identify and filter out spam. However, these algorithms are not perfect and can sometimes mistakenly identify legitimate emails as spam. If a user receives a large volume of graymail, the likelihood of important emails being mistakenly marked as spam increases.

Managing Graymail

There are several strategies for managing graymail. One of the most effective strategies is to regularly review and clean up your email subscriptions. This involves unsubscribing from newsletters, promotional emails, and other types of graymail that you are no longer interested in.

Another strategy for managing graymail is to use email filters. Many email services offer features that allow users to automatically sort emails into different folders based on certain criteria. For example, you could create a filter that automatically moves all social media notifications into a separate folder, keeping your main inbox free of this type of graymail.

Finally, some email services offer features specifically designed to manage graymail. For example, some services offer a ‘graymail folder’ where all graymail is automatically moved. This keeps the graymail separate from your main inbox, making it easier to manage.

Graymail and Cybersecurity

While graymail is not typically associated with cybersecurity threats, it can indirectly contribute to these threats. For example, a cluttered inbox can make it harder to spot phishing emails, which are a common cybersecurity threat. Additionally, some types of graymail, such as promotional emails, can be used as a vector for malware or other malicious content.

Therefore, managing graymail is not just about improving your email experience, but also about enhancing your cybersecurity. By keeping your inbox clean and organized, you can more easily spot and avoid potential cybersecurity threats.


In conclusion, graymail is a type of email that falls somewhere between legitimate email and spam. While not outright spam, graymail is often unwanted or uninteresting to the recipient, and can clutter up inboxes, making it harder to find important messages. However, with the right strategies, it is possible to effectively manage graymail and enhance your email experience and cybersecurity.

With cybersecurity threats on the rise, organizations need to protect all areas of their business. This includes defending their websites and web applications from bots, spam, and abuse. In particular, web interactions such as logins, registrations, and online forms are increasingly under attack.

To secure web interactions in a user-friendly, fully accessible and privacy compliant way, Friendly Captcha offers a secure and invisible alternative to traditional captchas. It is used successfully by large corporations, governments and startups worldwide.

Want to protect your website? Learn more about Friendly Captcha »