back to article Microsoft staff giggle beneath the weight of a 52,000-person Reply-All email storm

Microsoft is right now groaning under the weight of a 52,000-person internal Reply-All email storm. The Register understands this one started when Microsoft’s internal store shared a mail about discount software deals for friends and family of Microsoft staff. While that offer was generous, it didn’t apply to all Microsoft …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this a bad time to bring up the recent study about the carbon footprint of a single email?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Only if you work for Microsoft and can add this to the chain.

      Which begs the quetion how much iron is created through sending ironic emails?

      1. gv

        "Which begs the quetion how much iron is created through sending ironic emails?"

        Whatever the amount, it's a steel.

        1. M. Poolman

          "Whatever the amount, it's a steel."

          Although if you're using Chrome, your reputation will remain stainless.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Not if you program a mail-bot in Rust.

    2. Martin Summers Silver badge

      "Is this a bad time to bring up the recent study about the carbon footprint of a single email?"

      I'd hazard a yes.

      1. MyffyW Silver badge

        Ferrous it's nothing to worry about.

        1. Giovani Tapini

          I am now really worked if I send anything containing Titanium now...

    3. Psmo Silver badge

      Isn't recycled content good for the environment?

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge

      carbon footprint - what Santa Claus leaves in snow [after being in so many chimneys].

      If I were to hit 'reply all' I might attach something from a shock site...

    5. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Your message will cost the net hundreds if not thousands of dollars to send everywhere. Please be sure you know what you are doing.

  2. MatthewSt Silver badge


    At least it doesn't melt their network anymore -

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Bedlam!

      I really appreciate that post ending with "which neatly prevents this from being a problem in the future"

    2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Bedlam!

      Whoever named those mailboxes had a sense of humour though...

  3. Sykowasp

    I, for one, am glad that they are doing real world load testing on their enterprise software platforms.

    1. hitmouse

      The Bedlam DL3 email storm of 1997 did actually have an impact on mail server design. See Wikipedia and various first person accounts on the web,

      There was another MS-related email storm last week when 3000 customers were sent an invite to an online webinar and instructed to reply-all. Cue hundreds of IT professionals sending "Unsubscribe" messages that added to the storm. Not a single one noticed that they had received N-1 unsubscribe requests that were the essence of the storm.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did Microsoft outsource its email to Gmail?

    Like most Universities (hence why the Feds home in on Chinese at US Universities)?

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Did Microsoft outsource its email to Gmail?


  5. Phil Kingston

    Time to mention their own NoReplyAll Outlook Add-on I guess.

    But yes, I'd be mashing that ReplyAll button too.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      I actually disabled the 'reply all' button in Thunderbird, but I'm pretty sure I can make it happen anyway with a right-click [/me verifies - yep, it's there!]

  6. jake Silver badge

    All I can say is ...

    ... I'm glad I'm no longer in any danger of being on that list.

    Dumbasses, the lot of 'em.

  7. Paul 75

    This yor folt

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: This yor folt

      Damn it, now I want one of those mugs.

      I suppose I could just pirate the design and make my own, but I have an aversion to stealing someone else's work. Silly, I know.

      1. rcxb Silver badge

        Re: This yor folt

        Hard to call it stealing when there is no possible way for you to give over your money for it.

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: This yor folt

          And with white china mugs and printable transfers available, it is difficult to resist.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: This yor folt

          "Hard to call it stealing when there is no possible way for you to give over your money for it."

          Try telling that to the record companies and their ilk.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This yor folt

            Try telling that to the record companies and their ilk.

            That's easy - try to give it directly to the artist wherever possible..

    2. wrangler

      Re: This yor folt

      "English was obviously not his first language"

      Exactly what I was thinking as I read the beginning of that piece.

  8. AlgernonFlowers4

    Cursed to Live in Interesting Times

    Wasn’t one of Blind Io’s commandments that thou shalt use bcc or be cursed to live in interesting times!

    1. Cynical Pie

      Re: Cursed to Live in Interesting Times

      Have an Upvote for the Sir Pterry reference



    A friendly IT guy told me that the best thing to do was reply all with a 10 MB attachment and read receipts enabled. (We'd had two of these events - with more recipients.)

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Advice

      10Mb of:

      a) rule 34

      b) embarrassing photos of the CEO and/or spouse

      c) your favorite online comics

      d) cat video

      e) rule 34 cat video


    2. Kane Silver badge

      Re: Advice

      Plus convert the email to a calendar invite with pop up notifications.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: Advice

        And follow-up requests...

        1. Kane Silver badge

          Re: Advice

          Repeated daily.

    3. J. Cook Silver badge

      Re: Advice

      ... Not ony my server, you won't. At least not more than once.

  10. KittenHuffer Silver badge

    Bcc FTW!

    Where I w**k we always have one that will Reply All .... and it's always the same one!

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Bcc FTW!

      depending on the mail reader, you can probably disable that button on that particular computer as part of an "upgrade"

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Bcc FTW!

      There is a subspecies of human that can't see why they shouldn't reply to every email with the reply all button. I suspect they are the same idiots that feel the need to reply "no" to "does anyone.." emails.

      In other words;

      You'll get an email saying, say "Who's turn is it to chair the meeting?" And then everyone gets another one from someone saying "not me".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bcc FTW!

        They are the people who respond to Amazon customers questions such as:

        Q: How long do the batteries last

        A: I haven't taken it out of the box yet

        1. Imhotep Silver badge

          Re: Bcc FTW!

          And give it a five star rating. I've seen that in cases where the product hadn't actually been received yet.

        2. rcxb Silver badge

          Re: Bcc FTW!

          That's actually slightly useful.

          If you get no answers at all, Amazon will hide your question. Bad answers will make the question show up on the product page, where others may come along and give a proper answer.

          Now... those who give a 4-star review with a rambling response about why they got it, and how they've given it to someone else and have no idea if it works... They should be removed from the gene pool.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Bcc FTW!

      Where I work, the culture is to use Reply All for pretty much everything. Email is basically slow group chat. (Which, arguably, is better group chat.)

    4. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Bcc FTW!

      Hmm, multiple interesting interpretations of w**k are available to all.

  11. Rhuadh

    Barbie Time!

    In one 10k size organisation I worked for, a lowly Team Manager organised a barbie for his team at his home, then emailed them with an invitation...Yep! Even the CEO got into the gig. The grovelling apology got even more responses.....

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Barbie Time!

      Personally I was always more of a Sindy kind of girl.

  12. DrDarthLaser

    Read Receipt

    Reminds me of an email faux pas back in the late 90's in the days of Lotus Notes.

    I was a lowly student in a large multinational chemical company. I had no transport to work so decided to send out an email asking for a lift to work. I'd pay some money to petrol obviously.

    I set my out of office up for a 2 week holiday, thinking I'd read the generous offers when I got back.

    What I'd forgotten to do was click off the "Request Read Receipt" option in Notes. (Scratch "forgotten", I think to ignorant to realise might be better}

    I returned to work 2 weeks later with a straight to the bosses office moment. Apparently my innocent email had setoff a nasty death spiral of read receipt \ out of office mails that crashed the email server. I never asked if it was the whole company.....

    When my boss realised I hadn't done this intentionally we had a polite chat about email etiquette and moved on. I never mentioned it to the IT admin nor did he mention it to me!

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

      Re: Read Receipt

      In fairness, it was Notes . . . it would probably have crashed anyway.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Read Receipt

      Read receipts are vile. I disable them in every MUA I get my hands on. Why would I want to let my correspondents spy on me? If I think your email deserves a reply, I'll reply to it, when I'm good and ready.

      Of course that means I never request them, either.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Read Receipt

        Apple Mail has not had Read Receipts for years, I'm guessing Steve Jobs or Tim Apple (*cough*) shared your sentiment.

        Thunderbird, however, has both read receipts and delivery notification flags still available. The latter is sometimes interesting as it is a server response - the user doesn't see it. If the server admin has not switched it off, the user has zero control over it.

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Read Receipt

        Some of my in-office correspondents have receipt set on, which at my end appears as a request whether to send the receipt or not. I do pause to decide, but usually send. Especially if it's The Boss.

        After it happened, it's obvious-ish that "out of office" messages shouldn't request a read receipt even when you have that set on by default. But that requires the e-mail server to treat those messages as an exception to the "request receipt" setting. And you may not notice that until after it happened.

      3. Phil Kingston

        Re: Read Receipt

        Read receipts really get my goat. That and "High Priority" flags. Thanks, but *I'll* decide if it's High Priority for me.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Read Receipt

        Anyone remember Watch Your Back from Grinning Shark. It was a read receipt toolbox for Outlook. It could simply block the sending of read receipts or if you were feeling evil, you could change the test in the read receipt or spam the sender with hundreds of read receipts for each email received.

    3. David Hicklin

      Re: Read Receipt

      Has one where I worked once, someone forwarded emails to home automatically...only home got full and started bouncing messages back...which were forwarded again.....

  13. Snarf Junky

    Happened to us a few years back. One company (15k+ employees) wide email that wasn't sent BCC and someone thought it would be funny to reply to all saying "It's Friday, anyone fancy a beer?". Next thing all hell broke loose LOL.

  14. SVV Silver badge

    what a bunch of ker-ayzy guys!

    Come work at Microsoft where the yuks never cease. I mean Fred from the Notepad team, he's got this poster on his wall that says "You don't have to be mad to work here : but it helps!". And Monica from the crash screen background colour research group, she sent one round with the title "I Love You!" Although she got sacked for that........

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: what a bunch of ker-ayzy guys!

      Who's got the cat hanging from the branch with the "Hang in there Baby!" caption?

      In my early 90s Data General days, we had just strung orange (plenum safe) Ethernet around the building and the engineers had just received their UNIX workstations. Shortly thereafter, they discovered "xnetrek", where you could zoom around the known universe, blasting Klingons (while bringing the Ethernet to a screeching halt).

      Gaming hours were quickly decreed to begin at 16:00, once the network came back up.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: what a bunch of ker-ayzy guys!

        Ahh - the good old days - I saw that, and then Doom and then.....

      2. swm Silver badge

        Re: what a bunch of ker-ayzy guys!

        We played trek on a 3 MBit ethernet on ALTO computers. It didn't bring the net down but it did stop work.

  15. Securitymoose

    2020 and still no automatic filter for 'reply all'?

    People have been doing this since email began in nineteen hundred and something, and you still haven't sorted it? Serves you right.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: 2020 and still no automatic filter for 'reply all'?

      It's 2020 and people still can't get to the bottom of the article.

  16. chivo243 Silver badge

    Exchange is featureless?

    Our old mailserver from 6 years ago would prevent this... Keep using Exchange, it's good for a laugh!

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Exchange is featureless?

      In what way? I think most servers are capable of cancelling a reply all automatically, and the article confirms that was possible in this case as well. That doesn't help if someone doesn't enable it for the message, though. So does your server manage to automatically determine that this is necessary? Does it also work correctly when someone is supposed to reply all to a message with a lot of recipients, for example to update its content? That happens too.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Exchange is featureless?

      There's no reason a mailserver couldn't limit the number of "to" addressees after list expansion to some reasonable number, or forcibly move any lists containing more than 'x' addresses to the bcc line with a dummy 'to' address substituted (all-employees --> all-employees-noreply)

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Exchange is featureless?

        "There's no reason a mailserver couldn't limit [...]"

        There's no reason it couldn't, but several why it shouldn't. Let's look at your suggestions:

        "limit the number of "to" addressees after list expansion to some reasonable number,"

        What reasonable number? What if I have a list that has more people on it because I want to reach them all? The right answer is to limit who can send mail to that list, but we're discussing automatic methods the server can take when I've forgotten to set that, and this particular one blocks me from sending an all-company email at all. Maybe you just meant replies, but there are times when I might want to send a message and have someone reply to it. Maybe I'm replying to it to send out an update. Maybe someone else on my team is replying with the update. Maybe it's a company-wide congratulatory email and we're letting some senior managers reply with their congratulations as well as a morale method (while they're composing their congratulations, they're not affecting others' work).

        "forcibly move any lists containing more than 'x' addresses to the bcc line with a dummy 'to' address substituted (all-employees --> all-employees-noreply)"

        That makes a list unsuccessful if it's intended to let people discuss things. This could be a public list for any employees who are interested, and they're allowed to talk on the list too. Once enough interested parties join, the list breaks for everyone.

        There is a clear right way to do this. When you create lists, limit who can send messages to them. If you need to receive replies, redirect the emails sent to the list from people who don't have rights to send to the list to a different address from which you can read them. If the mailserver can do that, and they nearly all can, you don't need to do much more. Except remember to turn it on.

  17. ibmalone Silver badge

    I sort of miss a good email storm.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I kinda want to know just how good an offer it was.

  19. sisk

    So basically the new generation needs their own Bedlam DL3 moment to teach them not to reply all? Well, at least modern servers can handle it.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We're closed down and they have me sitting in the office by myself trying to upgrade all the systems to Windows 10 - watching how it's going I think this latest Microsoft screw up is just a little more evidence for banning Microsoft from the computer and tech world altogether. They simply aren't competent these days.

    XP was good but insecure, Vista was secure, Window 7 was usable, and it's just a turd sliding downhill ever since.

  21. Maximum Delfango Silver badge
    IT Angle

    But why is Microsoft still using email when they have Teams?

    Ah, answered my own question, didn't I?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where I work we have a number of pre-defined email lists, all of which are prefixed by a departmental prefix: XYZ-Finance (~10 people), XYZ-Travel (similar) etc. and XYX-All (~2k). I've lost count of the number of times some-one has Auto-completed to XYX-All instead of XYZ-SmallGroup. I would sneer, but I'm afraid I've done it too. I'm pleased to say that on receiving one of these I've never replied to all to warn the perp of their misdeed though, another all too common occurrence.

  23. Mattjimf

    I had this a few years ago with my address.

  24. MarkL1958

    Out of office

    My former employer caused the only one out of office reply rule to be created. One of the civil deputies set his out of office message to be sent to all users. Lots of people didn't care that he was in Yakima for depositions that day and told him so in no uncertain terms, which generated another all user out of office and started the snowball rolling. We dubbed him the Unamailer.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Out of office

      If I follow, you're describing two things:

      An automatic out-of-office message should not be sent to a recipient a second time if they e-mail twice.

      Sending "I am out of the office" to everyone in the organisation - not as a response, you just want to tell everybody - is only appropriate if you really are as important as you think you are, and is a way to find that out.

  25. ElectricPics

    When I worked for a division of ABN Amro, if anyone typed All into Lotus Notes recipient it didn't just send to all 300 or so users in the division, but global. And Reply All to 'cakes in the kitchen' sent in error to the world had predictable results.

  26. Spanners Silver badge

    We had one in a few years ago.

    At least this one seems to have a bit of humour in it.

    All we had was middle managers stating that they were really too important for this and we should all stop bothering them...

  27. Tim99 Silver badge

    Exchange killed by ~20 users

    Over 10 years ago I was a volunteer Board member for a charity. They had an MS Small Business Server that ran Exchange/IIS/SQL/PDC etc. I was asked to "keep an eye on the IT" as they had nobody trained up for it. The person who had been asked to run it on a day-to-day basis managed to kill it by cleverly breaking their multimedia PowerPoint presentation into a number off smaller bits (<10MB?) and sending it to only about 20 users, asking them to make any changes they thought necessary. As the 20 were Managers, trainers, or Board members all of them (except me) had an input. So within a couple of days of Reply All, each mail message went to everyone with each individuals' changes to each bit of the presentation. Exchange fell over when it ran out of space on its disk. The disk that was normally used to repair/truncate/pack Exchange was not big enough -So when I tried to fix it it crashed. The fix was obvious - Add a bigger disk - The only problem was that our vender had supplied a "proper" IBM Server with SCSI drives and our local supply chain didn't have any, so we had 2 weeks of people using their personal email accounts...

  28. markrand

    Correct email etiquette

    It should be noted that the fault lay not with those using reply-all:-, which is a reasonable response if you wish your comment to be read by all those in the to:- list.

    The fault lay with the fool who sent an email to large numbers of people using to:- rather than bcc:-

    I had blazing rows with our HR department over their use of to:- with the entire site mail list. Unfortunately, being HR folk, they didn't understand the rfcs.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thank yu peeple ov the REgister internets!!

    Somewhere on the internets where you can read the comments. (And where it gives you more.)


    Apple (UK) LTD

    Back in 1996 I was on the new Performer helpline at Apple (UK) Ltd., headquarters in Stockley Park and there were some Microsoft email servers for the UK network.

    A HyperCard program was set up to subscribe and unsubscribe people from a tech support database which had an auto reply function if you left the original subject line unaltered.

    So far so good until someone used the system to inform everyone of a new technical issue. Meanwhile someone else had set up their Microsoft Mail to make an auto reply out of the office.

    The Microsoft Mail duly replied to the technical issue saying it (he) was out of the office which the HyperCard program duly sent to everyone including the original sender, which duly replied it (he) was out of the office; ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

    My own contribution was, “Isn’t this great!” Others joined in and added contacts from across the pond so they could share in the fun.

    Eventually some spoilsport pulled the plug on the auto answer out of the office mac.

    It was one of my best days there.

  31. Christian Berger

    Wait Microsoft has E-Mail?

    I thought they'd only have Outlook and Exchange.

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