Opt in e-mail is a term used when someone is given the option to receive "bulk" e-mail, that is, e-mail that is sent to many people at the same time. Typically, this is some sort of mailing list, newsletter, or advertising. Obtaining permission before sending e-mail is critical because without it, the e-mail is Unsolicited Bulk Email, better known as spam.

There are several common forms of opt-in e-mail:

Unconfirmed opt-in
A new subscriber first gives his or her address to the list software (for instance, on a Web page), but no steps are taken to make sure that this address actually belongs to the person. This can cause e-mail from the mailing list to be considered spam because simple typos of the email address can cause the email to be sent to someone else. Malicious subscriptions are also possible, as are subscriptions that are due to spammers forging email addresses that are sent to the e-mail address used to subscribe to the mailing list.

Confirmed opt-in (COI)
A new subscriber asks to be subscribed to the mailing list, but unlike unconfirmed opt-in, a confirmation e-mail is sent to verify it was really them. Many believe the person must not be added to the mailing list unless an explicit step is taken, such as clicking a special web link or sending back a reply e-mail. This ensures that no person can subscribe someone else out of malice or error. Mail system administrators and non-spam mailing list operators refer to this as confirmed subscription or closed-loop opt-in.

Some marketers call closed loop opt-in "double opt-in."

The term double opt-in was coined by marketers in the late 90s to differentiate it from what they call single opt-in, where a new subscriber to an e-mail list gets a confirmation e-mail telling them they will begin to receive e-mails if they take no action. This is compared to double opt-in where the new subscriber must respond to the confirmation e-mail to be added to the list.

Some marketers contend that double opt-in is like asking for permission twice and that it constitutes unnecessary interference with someone who has already said they want to hear from the marketer.

Opt-out
Instead of giving people the option to be put in the list, they are automatically put in and have the option to be taken out.

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