End of an era


A few weeks ago, Return Path announced they were being purchased by Validity, who also own BrightVerify. Last week, they had a round of layoffs. According to sources inside the industry, Validity is closing the New York headquarters and Indianapolis offices and layoffs involved more than 170 staff members.

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Return Path has been a fixture in the deliverability space for years. While they didn’t invent email certification, they were the only VC backed company that survived. Their suite of tools was the only major player in the market for quite a while. All of this contributed to creating the deliverability industry as we know it today.

But as I’ve been writing about for a while, things are really changing in delivery. How mail is filtered is significantly different now than it was a few years ago. The changes at Return Path, including some of the positions eliminated during the layoffs, tell me that the new owners see those changes as well.

Over the years Return Path has effectively addressed current deliverability challenges. When deliverability was mostly about IP address reputation and global inbox decisions, they created probe accounts and developed their certification program. As filters changed, they introduced panel data and improved their certification requirements. I attribute much of their success to the company leadership and their focus on supporting the same goals as the ISPs – to get email to the people who want it and minimise the amount of unwanted email.

The purchase announcement from Validity makes me wonder how much of that will continue over the next few years. Part of the reason Return Path has been so successful over the years is their focus on permission and good email marketing practices. I don’t see much of that focus in the Validity announcement. In fact, looking at the products Validity are selling they seem to be building a suite of tools designed to minimise the bad effects of acquiring addresses through channels other than direct opt-ins from recipients.

Will Return Path continue on the path its been on for the last 2 decades or will this change under their new owners? Only time will tell.

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  • Amassing a portfolio of complementary products isn’t a bad idea, but what I’ve seen so far in the Validity acquisition of BriteVerify didn’t impress me. In fact, it caused me to drop BriteVerify in favor of a competitor.

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