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Vanessa Hojda was an unknown Toronto-based York University student before she accidentally attached a photo of Nicolas Cage instead of her resume to an email job application. After sharing her mishap on her Tumblr blog, she quickly gained Internet infamy as a case study of e-mail blunders you’d never want to make.

No doubt that in the realization of what she’d done – perhaps seconds after hitting that “Send” button, Hojda wished she could just take the message back. But just like you can’t reach your arm into a postal mail box and retrieve a letter you instantly regret depositing, you can’t undo an email send – until now. Thanks to Pluto Mail, a new web mail service created by two Harvard University students, “unsend” is now an option to users – as is editing an e-mail already sent (but not yet opened) or putting an expiry date on an email. The new service created by the law school duo is detailed in The Crimson, Harvard’s campus publication.

Pluto users can do all this even if the recipient of their email message doesn’t use Pluto. Users can also use the service with their existing e-mail client, including Gmail, Outlook, or Apple Mail. A demo video from Pluto shows how it works:

After an e-mail is unsent, the recipient can still see the message’s subject header. But all body text and file attachments will be removed. Pluto also stores file attachments on its cloud servers instead of in a recipient’s inbox, so it can be removed by the sender or swapped out for a different file. So if Hojda had been using Pluto, she could have replaced the Cage photo with her actual resume before her prospective employer opened the message. That would have saved her from the resulting Internet mocking.

For businesses that have a policy that employees add disclaimer text to their email signatures, it seems that using Pluto Mail would be a much better alternative. Since the disclaimer text in emails is not binding in any way and doesn’t actually control what a recipient does once they receive an e-mail, the ability to control your content after you’ve sent it is much better.

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  • Beat Bucher

    Hi Brian,
    Sorry to tell you wrong… GMail offers this “unsend”
    features for several months now.. and I’ve used it more than once :-)…
    Outlook can do it for years, as long as the recipients are from your
    internal network.
    @GP_Beat

    • John-o

      And GroupWise has been able to do it for two decades…

    • http://itbusiness.ca/ Brian Jackson

      I use that “unsend” feature in Gmail myself but it’s really just a delay on your e-mail message being sent, giving you an extra chance to catch it before it’s out the door for good. This service is different because you can retrieve content from an email that is sitting in your recipient’s inbox.

      • Beat Bucher

        I Agree with that, the only difference is that if the email has been opened by the recipient, there is no way to ‘unsend’ the message… whereas in Gmail you can define a ‘wait’ period time, which gives you a chance to change your mind after having hit the send button… Outlook works the same way as Pluto, as long as the recipient hasn’t opened the e-mail, you can get it back..