Industry Updates

R.I.P. (some) AOL Postmaster tools

AOLrepThough most senders may be trying to pin down why Gmail isn’t displaying their images by default, there are still other mailbox providers out there to worry about. AOL, for instance, recently disabled their reputation checker and rDNS lookup tools while many of us were enjoying the long Easter holiday weekend (thanks to Word to the Wise for the heads up).

Gmail’s Postmaster Tools and Microsoft’s SNDS may have provided more data points, but the AOL reputation check was a great way to see at-a-glance where you stood with one of the major mailbox providers. It may not have been perfect, but I must say I’m a bit sad to see it go. Chalk is up as yet another casualty in the ever-changing email landscape.

– BG

Industry Updates

Yahoo introduces Google-style image caching in email (UPDATE: confirmed with more details)

Geocache Cache Small Geocaching Logbook In late 2013, Google began to cache all images in email sent to Gmail users, storing remotely-hosted images on their own servers instead of accessing them each time an email is opened. Laura at Word to the Wise wrote up some good info at the time, focusing mainly on the parts of email tracking that were (or were not) affected by the changes.

Fast forward to 2018, and it looks like Yahoo has adopted a similar policy of image caching. According to Litmus, Yahoo recently began caching images on their servers in the same manner as Google. And like Google’s version, this one won’t break open tracking –  but could cause some unusual data points or issues with geolocation or user agent tracking. If you track the location of email opens, you’re likely to start seeing a lot more traffic from Sunnyvale, CA (the location of Yahoo’s servers), and any dynamically-generated content based on the location of the recipient will reflect that. In fairness, IP geolocation has never been a precise science, so most marketers should rely on other signals along with that data to serve up location-specific content.

When Google introduced this feature, they used it as a platform to allow images to load by default for all mail sent to the Inbox. There has been no announcement or indication thus far, but Is it possible Yahoo is planning a similar feature? As with most of the changes taking place under the new Oath umbrella; we’ll just have to wait and see. Yes, according to the answers provided by the Yahoo Engineering blog.

This morning, they officially announced the change, also confirming images will now be on by default for Yahoo and AOL in desktop and mobile versions. We can likely presume this applies only to messages in the inbox, though no specifics are provided. The post also indicates that Yahoo will “continue to support most” open tracking via pixel, though again details are sparse.

And for those using IP geolocation to serve dynamic content, the authors “recommend falling back on other tools and technologies which do not rely on IP-based targeting.” I won’t say I told you so.

– BG

Industry Updates

AOL mail seeing Yahoo deferrals as mail integration continues

170403180613-yahoo-aol-oath-780x439A few weeks ago we told you about AOL’s migration of their MX servers to Yahoo’s infrastructure as part of the merger of the two entities under Verizon’s new Oath brand. Since that change in early February, mail to AOL recipients has been handled by Yahoo’s servers. No specifics have been released on how the combined mail system will handle filtering, but observations of recent bounces may shed some light on that.

Over the past 2-3 weeks a number of senders have been seeing the dreaded “Yahoo deferrals” from recipients with AOL email addresses. These deferrals – temporary bounces usually caused by a high complaint rate – occur frequently for many high-volume senders mailing Yahoo recipients. These bounces are typically returned in a format similar to the following:

421 4.7.0 [XXXX] Messages from XX.XX.XX.XX temporarily deferred due to user complaints – X.X.X.X; see https://help.yahoo.com/kb/postmaster/SLN3434.html

The appearance of these types of bounces when sending to AOL recipients means you now have to contend not only with AOL’s spam filtering but with that of Yahoo. While AOL is known for its useful resources and responsive Postmaster team, the Yahoo Mail team can be more difficult to reach when issues arise. If you do run into any of these bounces, it’s probably a good idea to reach out to Yahoo via their Support form since the filtering is occurring on their mail servers.

– BG

Industry Updates

AOL confirms move to shared mail infrastructure with Yahoo

Last week I wrote about the changes taking place at major email providers, specifically the convergence of AOL and Yahoo’s mail servers. Today on their Postmaster blog, AOL issued confirmation of these changes. The statement indicates the “majority of AOL’s MX records” will be routed to the new combined mail servers with little if any visible impact to senders.

The message also assured senders that established feedback loops (FBLs) should continue to function without interruption. While AOL notes that issues are unlikely, if you see any abnormalities postmaster@aol.com remains the best way to reach out for assistance.

– BG

Industry Updates

Changes

bowie-change
courtesy securosis.com

New year, new you…that’s what they always say, right? Just a few weeks into 2018, it seems like some of the big 4 ISPs (soon to be Big 3?) are really taking that concept to heart.

Microsoft’s major migration of Outlook.com to the Office365 backend was technically completed in 2017, but based on feedback from senders in industry groups delivery issues still abound. The indications from MS are that the mail handling and filtering infrastructure are a work in progress, but no formal statement has been issued to that end. Some senders have stated MS support is unable to provide remediation for many of these issues, even though there may be backend adjustments taking place. If you’re having trouble getting mail to Microsoft, just know you’re not alone and that someone over there is paying attention.

Verizon ended its own webmail service last year, and consolidated its AOL and Yahoo brands under the Oath moniker. AOL and Yahoo’s email services have remained separate thus far, but indications are that will change in the next few days. It’s been reported that the merger of these mail platforms starts in earnest on or around February 1st. As of that date, mail to AOL will be routed and handled by the Yahoo mail servers. To me this sounds a bit like the SBCGlobal arrangement between AT&T/BellSouth and Yahoo, wherein one provided the mail interface while the other handled the mail routing and filtering. At this time, no formal announcement has been made, so we’ll have to sit tight to find out exactly what this means for sending to AOL recipients.

– BG

Industry Updates

Verizon email is gone, but when?

verizonThere’s been a lot of industry buzz recently around Verizon’s announcement they are in the process of shutting down their email business. Most in the email industry knew this was coming, but with no solid details the ‘when’ remained a bit fuzzy. Even now, the official FAQs don’t provide a concrete timetable for the shutdown, and it seems likely it will happen in phases.

According to MediaPost, Verizon account holders have been receiving email notifications informing them of a 30-day deadline to take action. These actions include choosing to keep their verizon.net address (serviced by AOL going forward) or migrating to another service provider altogether. If no action is taken during that 30 days, the customer loses access to the account and all associated services.

Once account access is terminated, the email account is subject to Verizon’s typical account deletion timeline of 180 days of inactivity. The FAQs don’t specify, however, if the 6-month countdown starts from the most recent login or from the end of the 30-day window when access is terminated.

Verizon spokesman Raymond McConville estimates that, of its 4.5 million total accounts, 2.3 million have been active within the past 30 days – though that’s no guarantee they’ll take action on the shutdown notice.

What does that mean for senders? Sometime within the next 6 months you’re likely to see a large portion of your verizon.net subscriber addresses disappear as over 2 million Verizon email accounts are deleted. Most senders don’t have a huge component of verizon.net addresses, but it’s certainly a good idea to check now so you’re not taken by surprise by an abnormal bounce rate.

– BG

Industry Updates

Webmail problems at AOL resolved

For a few hours yesterday, some AOL users had problems accessing their mailboxes via the web. Laura at Word to the Wise reported these problems along with other sources, and AOL gave official confirmation via Twitter.

AOL also confirmed yesterday evening that the issues had been resolved, but mail sent early yesterday may have reflected a dip in engagement if AOL users factor heavily in your subscriber base. Hopefully you didn’t have a short response window on that A|B split test!

– BG