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Yahoo retiring user IDs: why you shouldn’t worry

A couple weeks ago, Yahoo announced that they were retiring abandoned user IDs. This has been causing quite a bit of concern among email marketers because they’re not sure how this is going to affect email delivery. This is a valid concern, but more recent information suggests that Yahoo! isn’t actually retiring abandoned email addresses.

You have to remember, there are Yahoo! userIDs that are unconnected to email addresses. People have been able to register all sorts of Yahoo! accounts without activating an associated email account: Flickr accounts, Yahoo groups accounts, Yahoo sports accounts, Yahoo news accounts, etc,. Last week, a Yahoo spokesperson told the press that only 7% of the inactive accounts had associated email addresses.

Turning that around, 93% of the accounts currently being deactivated and returned to the user pool have never accepted an email. Those addresses will have hard bounced every time a sender tried to send mail to that address.

What about the other 7%? The other 7% will have been inactive for at least a year. That’s a year’s worth of mail that had the opportunity to hard bounce with a 550 “user unknown.”

If you’re still concerned about recycled Yahoo userIDs then take action.

  1. Go through your customer database and identify Yahoo IDs that bounced over the last 12 months with “user unknown.” Permanently disable those addresses in your database. This is particularly important if you have any reason to think you may need to email your whole database (like legal notices).
  2. Consider setting up internal processes that if those addresses show up on your list in the future, you actually send out confirmation messages and get the recipient to double opt-in.
  3. If you have accounts tied to those usernames, disable the accounts and do not let new users of those addresses see the old data. Remember, these are addresses that have been inactive for at least 12 months, and have been returned to the pool. The new user is probably not the same as the old user.

What Yahoo! is doing is not unusual. Many ISPs recycle unused and abandoned addresses back into the pool regularly. The difference here is that Yahoo announced it beforehand. For email marketers, there really is nothing new here and they shouldn’t worry.

Carlo at Exacttarget has more to say from a delivery standpoint. 

4 comments

  1. Updated: Yahoo Releasing Email Addresses Monday, July 15 says

    […] this post was originally published, new information has come to light. Word To The Wise reports, “Last week, a Yahoo spokesperson told the press that only 7% of the inactive accounts had […]

  2. Omar says

    One question of importance to a mailing list hosting provider is whether Yahoo uses long-inactive addresses for spamtraps the way I’ve heard that other ISPs do. Any idea?

    If one maintains a database of invalid addresses, you’d have to decide whether to release them in light of Yahoo’s plans.

  3. Updated: Yahoo Releasing Email Addresses Monday, July 15 | E-mail Marketing Specialisten says

    […] this post was originally published, new information has come to light. Word To The Wise reports, “Last week, a Yahoo spokesperson told the press that only 7% of the inactive accounts had […]

  4. Delivery implications of Yahoo releasing usernames – Word to the Wise says

    […] I don’t think there are many changes from my previous advice not to worry too much about this. There aren’t going to be huge delivery implications to the username […]

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