Four questions about ISP feedback loops

I realize that talking about ISP feedback loops can just lead to a lot of blank stares from folks. Not because they're stupid, by any means. But because for the most part, FBLs are such a basic, foundational part of an email sending platform, and most of those platforms long ago "just dealt with it" -- meaning dealt with the set up and management of feedback loops many years ago (almost 20 years, in some cases), that a lot of marketers haven't ever been required to set up or manage feedback loops themselves. Indeed, some modern email sending or relay platforms just manage the feedback loop stuff for you, automatically, suppressing complainers and generating reporting. So some newer platform maintainers may not have ever even set up and managed ISP feedback loops.

Question number one: If nobody really knows about or remembers this, and if new platforms perhaps don't even bother thinking about it, how necessary are FBLs?

As I mentioned recently, Validity has said that they're going to start charging for full ISP feedback loop feeds. A few folks have told me that their Validity "accounts" have been graced with a basket full of "credits" to cover this cost in the near term -- which is certainly helpful, but perhaps might only kick the can down the road a bit. The issue of paying for access to those feeds still looms, unless Validity decides to change their mind. So...given this potential new cost, is it worth it to continue with this model? I can't stop asking myself, if a tree falls in the forest, and nobody paid to hear the sound of that tree falling, does it matter?

Question number two: Is the ISP feedback loop-driven complaint/reputation model even something we should be continuing with today?

This got me to thinking about where we are in 2023 and how do ISP feedback loops even fit into email marketing best practices nowadays, given that (basically) the most recipient mailboxes are hosted by Google's Gmail, and Gmail doesn't even have a feedback loop, and that's clearly not the end of the world. We don't hear individual trees falling in that forest. That doesn't seem to be a problem. Read more of my thoughts on that here.

Question number three: What about Abusix?

And now German anti-spam/email security software provider Abusix is saying that there's a chance that they'll throw their hat in the ring, to provide a potential alternative to Validity's Universal FBL. This could prove to be an interesting alternative, though I see that they're desiring to base functionality on a new header, which gives me pause, given that any bad guy can probably add an email header to their spam. So hopefully that would be coupled with a registration database and some sort of measures to prevent abuse by bad actors.

Question number four: What comes next?

I started from the assumption that when the bill finally comes due, this will be a sort of "final nail in the coffin" for ISP feedback loops, but my ability to see the future is often sub-par, so who knows? And Abusix raising their hand might lead us down a different path, if there is indeed enough value for Abusix (and for ISPs) to work together to come up with an alternate path and alternate model compared to how validity, a vastly different company than Return Path, does things. Or maybe Validity will change their mind, either openly through a public policy change, or less directly, through credits and exceptions to their billing model.

It'll be interesting to look back on this in about eighteen months from now to see where things are, won't it?

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