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Whose side are you on?

A few weeks ago I was on an industry call. We were discussing some changes coming down the pike at the ISPs and filter providers. These changes are going to cause some headache at ESPs and other places that do email but don’t provide mailboxes. During the call I ended up explaining why what the ISPs were doing made sense and how it fit in with their mission and customer needs.

Icon of an eye looking around

At one point someone asked me “whose side are you on, anyway?” That made me think pretty hard. My first reaction was “there are no sides here, we all want the same things – recipients to get the mail they want.” But that’s not what a lot of companies in the industry want. Many of them don’t really think about the email ecosystem and how individual choices affect it.

I realised, though, that I do have a side. I’m on the side of the end user who just wants the email that they want and who doesn’t want email they don’t want. But there’s a little more to it than that. It comes down to some fundamental beliefs I have about email.

Here are a few of the things I believe:

  1. Users expect email to be safe.
    • Mail providers have a responsibility to protect users from unsafe email
    • It is better for filters to be more aggressive when it comes to safety.
  2. Users are possessive of their inboxes and treat it as ‘their’ space.
  3. Users want to receive email that they want.
  4. Users don’t want mail that they consider spam.
  5. Mailbox providers want to serve their users.

Each one of these beliefs affects how I approach deliverability and troubleshooting. They also each deserve discussion about how they affect deliverability. I’ll use this as a road map for future blog posts.

5 comments

  1. Marcel says

    Amen! Very well said. That’s how all of us should look at it. It’s our mutual users so senders and receivers should really be on the same side. If a sender doesn’t see that or doesn’t want to care about the user experience, maybe they are doing it wrong…

  2. Steevo says

    Oh, I bet your comments did raise eyebrows, but only in the guys who are actually spammers at heart.
    They pretend to be reputable email companies but their attitude is that if they can only get this email in that 10 million inboxes they will be rich! They won’t be, of course but that’s actually what they think. And that is the thinking going back to the 90s.
    Unfortunately there is entirely too much of that kind of thinking.
    But you are right of course. It’s a waste of everyone’s time filling inboxes with spam. Email will end up like the fax machines did when Fax.com started up. Hardly anyone outside the medical field wants a fax machine anymore for that reason.

  3. Tom Kulzer says

    Indeed, well said.

    Email is an ecosystem, regardless of whether you’re a mailbox provider or an ESP we all need to keep the interests of end users in mind to make sure that ecosystem stays healthy, vibrant, and viable.

    Sometimes folks need to look around and ask themselves, “am I the baddie?”

  4. Sally G says

    I appreciate your perspective, and I really appreciate someone speaking up for the end user.

    As an end user, though, who has been designated “high volume” by AOL after I got beyond frustrated with their “we detected suspicious activity” message popping up WAY too often, and who is a grassroots activist that forwards a LOT of mail but is not a business, without a domain of my own, probably unable to follow restrictions of services’ free accounts and without the budget for a paid account, I find myself in the middle—afraid that new restrictions will limit my ability to communicate. When DMARC came in, I had to have interoccupy.net reach out to get AOL whitelisted (which presumably helped a lot of other AOL users) and went through lots of bouncing e-mails before things got back to normal—and still had to add a signature including “opt out” (of course, I have always been removing anyone who asked, as well as the bounces) to defeat the computers and continue to get mail to those to whom I had been sending with no problem previously.

    I often tell folks that “I cannot ignore what I don’t see”—I would rather have to delete a lot to be sure to get what I do want than to have things filtered out by others before they get to me.

    (As with most customer-service issues, I am probably an outlier. Oh, well.)

  5. Neil says

    “thing pretty hard” => “think pretty hard” and maybe a space in “enduser”?

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