Email tracking is now off by default

Last week I blogged about investments in something that existing users will probably not appreciate and it appears that this week I am continuing the trend by announcing a change that only affects new accounts going forward:

Buttondown is turning off analytics by default. (This only applies to new accounts: I haven't changed any settings on existing accounts.)

This is something that a few folks have mentioned over the years: allowing newsletters to opt out of link and open tracking is nice but allowing an escape hatch is a little less opinionated than defaulting to do the right thing.

I was fortunate enough to get Fireballed this past week, and one of John's comments rekindled this notion:

Buttondown’s privacy “win” is that it at least allows you to turn tracking off with a simple checkbox. Most services don’t. I can’t find any hosted service that doesn’t offer tracking period, or even defaults to no tracking.

If you'll let me wax poetic about running a service for a second: it is tiring to make decisions, and it is easy to think from the outside that certain artifacts are deliberate as opposed to made from a lack of decision.

Analytics being opt-out wasn’t deliberate so much as it was an artifact of that being originally implemented as an opt-out and then me not changing anything or revisiting it in the past three years.

But that's how building things on a temporal budget goes, and "lack of decision" is not meaningfully better than a bad decision: it is useful to get the codebase viewed from a completely contextless lens, and to strip away a bit of the archaelogical detritus that comes from remembering the Buttondown of 2021 and the Buttondown of 2019 and the Buttondown of 2017.

Anyhoo. Now it's opt-in, because opinionated defaults matter. And all it was was a single line of code:

As a reminder, if you want to opt out (or now in) to analytics, all you have to do is go to your Account settings page.

And stay tuned for more news on the privacy & sensible data front! My goal is to push out some changes that let you get information about your newsletter without having to go whole hog on the tracking pixel front, like conditionally enabling clicks but not opens (or vice versa) and adding support for anonymized tracking (so you know what is opened or clicked on without knowing who.)

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