August 18, 2004, 12:00 AM

SenderID emerges as the new e-mail ticket into AOL, MSN and HotMail inboxes

To get messages into inboxes at AOL, MSN and Hotmail, e-mail marketers must make sure their in-house e-mail systems or e-mail service providers are compliant with Sender ID, an e-mail authentication system.

As Internet technology gurus devise complicated methods to gain control of e-mail, here’s an alert to marketers: To get messages into the inboxes of AOL, MSN and Hotmail subscribers this fall and beyond, make sure your in-house e-mail systems or your e-mail service providers are compliant with Sender ID.

Getting up to speed with Sender ID should be painless for marketers, experts say, but failing to do so will subject e-mail campaigns to extensive filtering by AOL Inc.’s and Microsoft Corp.’s e-mail platforms. “Without compliance with Sender ID, AOL and Microsoft will knock you off their e-mail white lists and put your e-mail through a lot more filters,” says David Daniels, vice president of research at Jupiter Research.

Non-compliance with Sender ID will cause even bigger problems for marketers who try to send e-mail containing graphical images, the increasingly common strategy of dressing up e-mail marketing messages with product photos and promotional illustrations, Daniels says. A consumer who receives an e-mail from an unregistered sender would have to click on a link to see any images embedded in the e-mail messages, he adds, rather than having the images load as the message is opened.

Sender ID is the first practical application of an ongoing effort to rid the world’s inboxes of unwanted e-mail messages. Sender ID requires marketers to register their IP addresses according to Sender ID specifications, a process that will let ISPs authenticate that each incoming e-mail did in fact originate from the IP address shown in the “from” header, preventing illegitimate marketers from spoofing other companies’ IP addresses to send spam.

AOL has 23.4 million e-mail subscribers; Microsoft has 8.8 million subscribers to MSN.com email plus 187 million active accounts at MSN Hotmail. Experts say they expect other ISPs to eventually adopt SenderID or a similar version of it to authenticate incoming e-mail.

Retailers can publish their IP addresses for no charge at Postmaster.aol.com, Microsoft.com/senderid, and SPF.pobox.com. Pobox.com was founded by Meng Meng Wong, its CTO, who authored the Sender Policy Framework specifications that serve as the technical backbone for SenderID.

In addition, Microsoft advises e-mail marketers to follow the industry best practices and technical recommendations designed by the ISP industry group Anti-Spam Technical Alliance, which include blocking or limiting use of Port 25 in Internet firewalls, limiting the rate of outgoing e-mail traffic, closing all network open relays, and configuring proxy servers, which can re-route e-mail traffic sent to main web servers, only for internal network use.

 

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