Burn Note: Email Messages That Self-Destruct Automatically After One Minute

01/31/2012 07:29 pm ET | Updated Feb 01, 2012

There are many, many emails I've sent in the past that I wish would disappear from the Internet forever: ill-conceived poems to ex-girlfriends; inebriated declarations of love, infatuation, and admiration from afar; scandalous pictures of my barely-concealed undercarriage (just kidding, Mom!).

Perhaps you have similarly bared more than you would have had you been less soused. Well, it's your lucky day, as entrepreneur Jacob Robbins has created a messaging service for the regret-filled emailers in all of us. He has made a website on which you can send messages to your friends and would-be lovers that vanish completely from the Internet after a set amount of time (the emails, not your would-be lovers). The content of the messages cannot be copied and pasted, and screenshots cannot be taken (unless you specify that they can).

Robbins has named the service Burn Note, and the website was released to the public on Tuesday afternoon.

(Cue the "Mission: Impossible" theme song and a shirtless Tom Cruise dangling from the top of a luxury hotel).

Burn Note takes an incredibly simple premise and executes it simply. You write a message on the site, you enter the email address or email addresses of the people you want to send the message to, you configure your settings -- the length of time your recipient will be able to read the message, whether or not he or she will be able to copy and paste, etc. -- and you hit send. From here, Burn Note fires off an email with a link to your message on the Burn Note website; from the time your recipient clicks the link, he or she has 60 seconds to read your message (60 seconds being the default), after which time the message disappears from Burn Note's servers and leaves the Internet forever.

That's right: POOF. It's gone. Need to share a password, or a credit card number, or mother's maiden name, and don't want it stored in Gmail's cloud forever, waiting to be hacked and stolen? Burn Note wants to be your go-to.

The website boasts impressive, robust cybersecurity credentials that it claims will ensure both your privacy and the total deletion of your notes: All messages are automatically deleted form Burn Note after 72 hours whether they've been opened or not, for example, and after a message has been deleted from the servers, nobody can go back in recover it -- not you, not the recipient, not the engineers at Burn Note.

That lewd haiku about the man from Regina you sent your boss Friday night? Removed from the Internet after it is read just once, a distant memory by Monday, perhaps a figment of his or her imagination, with no evidence that it ever even existed.

Burn Note isn't perfect as is. The default message view flashes a few words of your message at a time, and the intervals are much too quick to read with any comprehension. When you receive a new Burn Note, it currently comes from a sender called "notice"; having the option to change the sender ID to your own email address, for example, would help immensely. The ability to attach files -- a function "in the works," according to an interview with Robbins on AllThingsD -- would make Burn Note a more robust service and perhaps add a few more fun use cases.

As it exists now, however, Burn Note is at least worth a shot for your self-destructing messaging needs. While nothing is preventing your recipients from copying down your credit card number or website passwords with, say, a pencil and paper, you are at least not leaving potentially sensitive information vulnerable to cherry-picking years later. And the barriers to using Burn Note anonymously are very low. There's no need to sign up, no need to create a user name, and no need to read through a Terms of Service agreement (somewhat of a pity, as Burn Note has the perfect opportunity/business model for a delicious "Your User Agreement, Should You Choose To Accept It..." nerd joke).

All you have to do is navigate to Burn Note and send one. Just don't go back the next day wondering exactly what it was you sent; that message just may have already self-destructed.

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