How does Mac Mail's "unsubscribe" feature work ?

By the unsubscribe feature, i mean the feature as per the screenshot attached.

Eg. Does it follow the unsubscribe link that was sent in the email, or does it just add the sender to a "junk" list ? If the latter how can we ensure non "newsletter" messages from this sender dont go to junk.

Im running Mac OS Big Sur, but ive also noticed a similar feature in recent versions of iOS.

screenshot of unsubscribe feature in big sur

  • 3
    I don't how Mail does it but I guess it probably uses the information in a hidden List-Unsubscribe header.
    – lhf
    Nov 1, 2021 at 15:10
  • 1
    Which is exactly how Gmail etc do it too. However you're relying on the remote list operator to honour requests, which will not happen if its a spam sender, or a mailing-list seller.
    – Criggie
    Nov 2, 2021 at 3:14

1 Answer 1


Apple's Mail app looks for the list-unsubscribe header which contains the mailto: address to unsubscribe from a specific list. Not all senders include this in their emails which is why not all emails have the 'unsubscribe' link.

Mail then creates a simple email from your address and sends the 'unsubscribe' email for you. This is the same process as if you would send an email yourself to unsubscribe from that list.

The benefit to the email sender is that by using the unsubscribe link, you're less likely to mark the email as spam on your email service provider (which negatively impacts the sender's email reputation) or send a complaint to the government entity responsible for monitoring spam (in the US it's the FTC).

  • Unsubscribe link (anchor tag in the mail body) or Mail's unsubscribe button? Nov 1, 2021 at 23:24
  • 1
    @theonlygusti Also wondering which is referring to which. I believe the first two paragraphs mean the Unsubscribe button from Mail, while the last paragraph refers to the actual "unsubscribe link" that is part of the body of some emails.
    – Clashsoft
    Nov 1, 2021 at 23:49
  • I'm 99% sure the whole above answer refers to the button in the Mail UI. Don't let the word "link" confuse you because List-Unsubscribe may contain links. As for the links at the bottom of the email body - while there are conventions, the process is always custom and up to those who implement it (i.e. they can try to win you back, or ask you to select a reason to unsubscribe, or offer to unsubscribe only from specific topics), unlike the List-Unsubscribe where the endpoint is supposed (and is able) to do only one thing, unsubscribe
    – WhatHiFi
    Nov 2, 2021 at 8:25
  • 1
    @WhatHiFi To be fair, I spend last weekend unsubscribing from around 25 email sources, and the large majority unsubscribed first and then asked for feedback/ways to get you back. Ignoring 3 or 4 'bad players' in general the entire experience was weirdly 'smooth'. Nov 2, 2021 at 17:12
  • I also did a recent purge and it worked and was painless for almost all of them - with the glaring exception of Sydney real estate agents who almost exclusively appear to ignore any and all unsubscribe requests. Nov 3, 2021 at 1:39

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