Now you see it, now you don’t (The Economist)

PLUTO, the ancient god of the underworld (pictured above), dealt with the dark and the dingy. Perhaps it is appropriate that a new email service allowing users to pull back murky messages from the depths of a recipient’s inbox bears his name.

Every email you send has the potential for permanence and repercussions. Whether it’s that raunchy picture you sent a partner before breaking up, or that email you mistakenly forwarded to your boss detailing what you hate about him, once an email is sent you lose all control. David Gobaud and Lindsay Lin, Harvard Law students, have spent months creating Pluto Mail—a free messaging service that aims to make such embarrassing events relics of the past.

It was released in beta on March 1st and gives users the ability not only to set self-destruct parameters for sent emails, but also edit those that have been sent already. Pluto Mail also allows authors to see when their message has been opened. Currently, the service has about 2,000 users and about as many on its wait-list. It allows just a few new recruits to join each day.

Although there have been past attempts at similar email programs, Pluto Mail has two advantages. It neither requires that users change their email service nor that email recipients have Pluto Mail accounts. This flexibility comes at a cost, however: it eliminated the possibility of Pluto Mail being able to completely delete sent emails.

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