DKIM: what it's not
An ESP twittered this past week about their new DKIM implementation going live. They were quite happy with themselves. Unfortunately, in their blog post, they mentioned 3 things that DKIM would provide for their customers, and got it wrong on all 3 points. Their confusion is something that a lot of people seem to get wrong about DKIM so I thought I would explain what was wrong.
- “[M]essages are affirmatively identified as coming from our servers…” DKIM isn’t necessary to affirmately identify mail as coming from a particular server or IP address. In fact, one of the major benefits of DKIM is that it allows sender reputation to be independent of IP address reputation.
- “Messages are more likely to be delivered to the inbox rather than the spam folder.” Not necessarily. The presence or absence of a valid DKIM signature is unlikely to increase inbox delivery on its own. Having a valid DKIM signature and a good reputation for that sender may result in better inbox delivery. The ISPs aren’t currently, are are unlikely to, offer preferential inbox delivery just on the basis of a DKIM signature.
- “Larger ISPs are heading towards requiring a DKIM signature on all incoming email. We are providing this feature now to avoid any issues in the future.” This is currently untrue and it is extremely unlikely that any ISPs will ever *require* a valid DKIM signature on all incoming email. The internet is just too large and too varied for ISPs to expect that all wanted mail will be DKIM signed.
DKIM is a way to authenticate email. Senders with good reputation will be able to take advantage of that reputation no matter what IP address they send mail from.
Senders should encourage ESPs and MTA vendors to implement DKIM signing sooner rather than later. However, DKIM signing alone will not improve delivery.