I’ve never really understood why email’s default behavior is to send a message immediately. Now that immediate communications can take other, more appropriate forms like Instant Messaging, SMS or Twitter it makes even less sense. Email (especially work email) is a medium where you often need to craft your message to make sure that the tone is correct, that you haven’t misspelled anything and that you haven’t said anything that will later embarrass you. Furthermore, email is asynchronous, so it is rare that a few seconds delay will make any difference whatsoever. Instantaneous communication is not a primary use case for email and often it just invites trouble.

I propose the addition of a “safety valve” in the email client that briefly postpones the delivery of messages, giving you the opportunity to cancel or revise your text. Here’s how it would work:

  • When the user clicks send, the message is put into a state of suspended animation (see image below)
  • The message would remain in this state for, say, 20 seconds after which time it would be sent as usual, without intervention.
  • During the 20 seconds users are given the opportunity to cancel the message, putting it back in draft state or to click a “send now” button and bypass the wait time.

Email Safety Valve