The context: Over on Laura Atkins' Word to the Wise blog, she talks about the coming changes. The coming storm, if you will. How ISPs are fed up with sender practices. She rightly points out, that the rope ISPs currently give ESPs, is going to be used to hang a bad guy sometime soon, if it's not happening already. In the comments on that post, this reply caught my eye:

"While I’m with you in spirit, I’m not optimistic that 'blocking ESPs' will have much of a lasting impact. It’s the same old arms race. If a large ISP blocks an entire ESP, the ESP will respond by obtaining new IP space in such a way that it can’t be identified as a group. Cloud computing is only going to make this easier. If they block based on something in the headers or body, the ESPs will remove those those distinguishing marks."

Wow, are you really sure the response to an ISP blocking an ESP is going to be that the ESP will try to shift and evade? As the commenter points out, an "arms race" is a pretty common thing in the world of spam fighting, filters and practices ever emerging. I guess senders could try to dodge and weave, try to evade blocking by changing IP addresses and hiding who they are. But, as I pointed out in my rebuttal comment, dude, if they're mad at you, it's because of your mail stream(s). Wherever you move that mail to, it's still going to make them mad. They're still going to see that mail, denote it as undesirable, and block it.

Do you think evasion is the path to success? I don't. (And to be fair, I don't think the commenter was quite advocating it.) I think permission is probably an easier path to success. And more likely to be successful.

As I also pointed out in my comment, the people following the "dodge and weave" business model are already feeling the squeeze. It's getting harder for them to get their mail delivered. ISPs have been actively clamping down on them, as have reputation and certification companies. I'm sure the dying gasps of this bad end of the email industry will involve bunch of shady, possibly illegal stuff -- but let's make sure we don't encourage the good guys, the reformable guys, to go straight for the tactics that will only cause them more harm than good.


  1. Great comments as always, Al. How do we as ESPs go about educating our clients that permission is not enough now, that it's all about engagement?

  2. Education is what has been tried, and it hasn't been a very effective solution. There is enough spam coming out of various ESPs that the ISPs and filter companies are taking notice. Asking your customers to stop spamming and giving them the tools to do so is OK, but isn't enough.

    It's time for ESPs to stop letting customers send spam though their own blocking and policy enforcement activities.

  3. I agree 100%, Laura. Now if only we can get upper management on board and not have them worrying about losing a couple of clients. It's sad, but sometimes the views of the Deliverability Team and Management don't mix.

  4. The fine line that separates spammers from ESPs is evasion and obfuscation. When an ESP crosses that line, in my opinion, they become a spammer.
    Sending from a different domain is not evasion, but attempting to obscure the relationship between the ESP domain and the sending domain buys you trouble.


Comments policy: Al is always right. Kidding, mostly. Be polite, please and thank you.