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DMARC changes and Relenta

DMARC changes for Yahoo and AOL and how it affects Relenta users.

A DMARC-ation in the sand?

April, what a month for email marketing! So let’s recap what has changed.

In the beginning of April, Yahoo! published an ultra-strict email authentication standard using DMARC. There’s a lot of talk about their using “p=reject,” which basically means that if you send an email using an @yahoo.com email address through any service other than Yahoo! SMTP servers, it will not be delivered. No questions asked. A few weeks later AOL instituted the same policy for @aol.com email addresses. Comcast has put a similar policy in place but it applies only to corporate @comcast.com addresses, not personal accounts.

Why the sudden change? You may or may not be familiar with the term phishing. If you’ve ever received a scam email from support@paypal.com or contact@bofa.com, or an email from a friend with a spam link, you’ve experienced it. It’s somebody sending a fake email pretending to be someone else usually to get you to click a virus link or share personal information like a password. As criminals have increased their efforts, email providers have developed complex spam traps to reject or at least categorize these messages as dangerous.

Now they’ve taken it one step further by checking to see if an email was sent by the sender’s server; if it’s not, they reject it. So now if you have an @yahoo.com or @aol.com email address, you must use their server to send the message. A bad change? Not necessarily. Now, someone will have to know your email password to send from your account. There’s no way to get around that.

With such a drastic and sudden change, there has been a bit of collateral damage.

Who has this affected? U.S. embassies sending eVites. Small cities sending out road construction notices. Weather services notifying people of weather alerts. People sending eCard greetings or newspaper article recommendations by email. And, of course, all email marketing customers who use Yahoo and AOL email addresses regardless of what service they use to send their email.

What does this mean for Relenta users? The majority of you will not be affected. However, any users who use @yahoo.com or @aol.com email addresses will be able to receive email in Relenta but will no longer be able to send email from those addresses using the Relenta interface. This may be a temporary problem. Yahoo and AOL are getting a lot of flack for not announcing this change to anyone before instituting it; this may force them to revert to a less strict — but still effective — form of DMARC. But don’t bet on it.

Here are what we are recommending going forward:

For business email, use an email based on your website domain. If you don’t have one, we recommend finding a web developer to set one up for you. Let your business customers know of this address change. This is an email that you control, not Yahoo or AOL, who can basically do whatever they want with your email. Switching to another freemail provider like Hotmail or Gmail is probably like jumping on a sinking ship. (However, these changes are not currently affecting Hotmail, Gmail, or any other email service providers.)

Relenta is in full support of DMARC changes. We realize that adjustments have to be made to fight spam. If the right changes are made, it will actually improve email deliverability and response rates for all legitimate email senders. We just hope that future changes don’t have as much collateral damage, and will let email users use their email legitimately, however they see fit. We’ll keep you posted about any new developments.

(Our friends over at Word to the Wise have published a very good DMARC Primer that helps explain Yahoo and AOL’s changes in more detail. It’s worth the read.)

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