The From Line

Sending, Managing & Monetizing Email

Are Yahoo!'s MTA Connectivity Issues Over Yet?

There has been a small buzz growing about Yahoo!’s recent connectivity issues. Because sending to Yahoo! is so important to email marketers, I want to clarify some of the key points. For those of you who are reading this blog for the first time in a while, you may be unaware of any connectivity issues at all. So let me provide a brief recap to get everyone up to speed.

Yahoo! has been experiencing intermittent connectivity issues since January 26th, 2010. Therefore, when you send a message to a Yahoo! account (i.e. people with @yahoo.com, @ymail.com, @rocketmail.com @att.net, @sbcglobal.net email addresses) your message could take longer than normal to reach the inbox. It also means that the problem is sporadic, so connectivity might be fine this morning and difficult tonight. This is commonly referred to as the message being “deferred” by the Yahoo! mail servers.  Besides the small list from above, Yahoo! hosts mail servers for many more organizations worldwide.

Once we were alerted of the issue on January 26th,  we communicated as much information to our clients as possible. Our clients send email to Yahoo!’s servers all the time, so we knew the issue would be important to almost everybody. While we didn’t have much information to share, we still thought it was important to notify everyone immediately despite the potential confusion it might cause.

Internally, we speculated this might cause some confusion among users who rely on us as their Email Service Provider to distribute their campaigns. The biggest challenge with this type of alert is that it often makes it appear it was our fault they were having connectivity issues to Yahoo!. Questions immediately began coming in asking, “When is Gold Lasso going to solve this?”

So to clarify: This in no way was a result of anything any Email Service Providers have done. All ESPs are sharing the industry-wide challenge of delivering email to Yahoo! during their intermittent connectivity issues, and no ESPs are to blame. This is purely an issue on Yahoo!’s side. It’s very unfortunate that they have been struggling for almost two weeks to remedy the situation, and we hope they are able to bring it to a close very soon. The only thing we can do to help is continue to keep the public informed, communicate any updates provided to us by Yahoo!, and educate on who and what is affected.

Here is the background to outline the ongoing issue and then I will chime in my two cents on the situation.

Back on January 26th, Yahoo! began reporting connectivity issues through their YmailAdmin group with this message:

“If you're seeing some queuing in your outbounds today when sending to Y! users,
we're currently experiencing low connectivity across our MTAs, which started
this morning. We're working to get things back to normal.

The SMTP error message being generated by the issue should be:

"420 Resources unavailable temporarily. Please try later
hostname>"

Our apologies for the inconvenience..

This mostly went unnoticed unless you were a member of the YmailAdmin group (or an email administrator watching log files or monitoring their MTA’s).  It was speculated that Goodmail was the cause of the connectivity issues however Goodmail reported that the Yahoo! issues had nothing to do with them.  These rumors may have been because of Yahoo! and Goodmail’s recent public divorce and people were just looking for a scapegoat.  A few hours after it was reported through the ymail group, this message was posted:

Our MTAs' connectivity levels are stable and back to normal, folks. Thanks for
hanging in there.

Even though it was reported late that night that the issue was resolved, a few hours later (early the next morning on January 27th) the issues began again. This time it took a while (mid evening on the 27th) for Yahoo! to confirm the ongoing issue with the below message:

Sorry for the late update, but as I'm sure most of the senders have noticed,
we're again experiencing low connectivity on our MTAs, starting very early this
morning.

We're working hard to restore the connectivity to normal levels, and I'll post
an update as soon as I have some good news.

These types of messages have continued off and on up until February 5th when they reported the below message. This was the last message since the 5th that they have posted:

Our connectivity levels have been stable since Wednesday noon (PST). That said,
we are still investigating reports of timeouts when trying to open a connection,
as well as dropped connections during the DATA portion of the SMTP transaction.

Updates to follow as developments arise. Thanks.

I feel that Yahoo! did a fair job of keeping the community up to date with their progress. What concerns me is that there has been no update since February 5th regarding timeouts and dropped connections which leads me to believe that they are still experiencing at the least intermittent issues.  Yahoo! has always been one of the toughest ISP’s to deliver to and these recent issues haven’t made that task any easier for marketers. With the amount of yahoo addresses (as well as the many companies using Yahoo!’s MTA’s to host their mail) Yahoo! has a lot to shoulder in terms of users counting on them for sending and delivering mail day in and day out and we wish them the best of luck putting this behind them.

We will continue to update our clients as well as post publicly as we receive information on the issue. Meanwhile, please let a Gold Lasso Representative know if you have any comments, questions or suggestions.

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Yahoo Mail Servers Experiencing MTA Connectivity Issues Today 01/26/2010

This was posted today...

tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/ymailadmin/message/17

If you're seeing some queuing in your outbounds today when sending to Y! users, we're currently experiencing low connectivity across our MTAs, which started this morning. We're working to get things back to normal.  The SMTP error message being generated by the issue should be:  "420 Resources unavailable temporarily. Please try later hostname>" Our apologies for the inconvenience.

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New Delivery Authentication Technology Rising in Popularity

DomainKeys, OpenSPF and Sender ID – if you don’t know what these things are, find out fast! Mail server authentication, both from a marketing and corporate admin standpoint, will become a necessary defense in the spam war.  It is estimated that only 30 percent of mail servers currently use these email authentication technologies, but this number will grow quickly as email marketers rush to take advantage of technology that will help distinguish actual email from spam.
 
Review and commit these terms and definitions to memory.

DomainKeys
DomainKeys is an e-mail authentication system designed to verify the domain of an email sender and evaluate the message integrity.  Simply stated, it verifies the sender’s domain name, confirms the message hasn’t been altered somewhere along the line, matches the "from" address to the sender's domain name to sniff our forgeries, and traces the message back to the sender's domain name.

This particular form of email authentication is valuable because it positively identifies the sender’s domain, which makes domain-based blacklists and whitelists more effective. It also allows abusers to be identified more easily. 

OpenSPF
A large problem in the complicated world of SPAM is the use of fake or forged sender addresses. The innocent marketers who fall victim to forgery pay heavy consequences for this stealthy activity.  Sender Policy Framework (or SPF) protects the envelope sender address, which is used for the delivery of messages and is often not seen by the receiver.

Sender ID
Sender ID is another authentication tool that is built on the idea of verifying the domain name from which email messages are sent. It validates the origin of a message by checking the IP address of the sender against the owner of the sending domain. Using this tool requires that e-mail senders and domain owners publish or declare all of the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses used by their outbound e-mail servers, or the IPs authorized to send e-mail on their behalf, in the Domain Name System (DNS).

Gold Lasso uses all three of these technologies already, but don’t be surprised if the FTC made these a mandatory practice as part of compliance with the CAN SPAM Act.

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EEC Study Reveals Confusion on Bounce Management

In March, the Email Experience Council held a webinar to discuss the results of its recent survey on the current state of e-mail metrics and bounce management. The survey of 400 email marketers and 29 email service providers revealed both positive and negative outcomes. It found that respondents knew delivery was an important, if not the most important, element to a successful campaign. Despite this knowledge, however, EEC’s study also confirms serious concerns about the apparent confusion and miscommunication on reporting and management of bounces.

The good news is that 83 percent of mailers and 88 percent of ESPs rate “email delivery” as high or above average in importance. The bad news is that the study also revealed there is “widespread industry disagreement on key bounce definitions” and inconsistent bounce data. Approximately 25 percent of ESPs reported that they didn’t break out hard and soft bounces for their clients and nearly 40 percent can’t isolate why an email bounced. The lack of detailed data leaves clients unable to distinguish bad addresses from other delivery issues, such as spam blockers or technical failures.

So, what is the email marketer to do? A few recommendations also came out of the study.  Most important is to be proactive and ask questions.  Find out how your ESP or company calculates bounces and other email metrics.  
eLoop has tools to help you.

First is a glossary of terms in the Help section.  If you don’t understand emarketing jargon refer to it or send us an email so we can explain the difference between terms like “hard” and “soft” bounces. Understanding the terms is the first step in effective bounce management.  The Reporting section of eLoop also breaks out the number of hard and soft bounces in addition to the total and unique opens and clicks.  The metrics are all there and we will work with you to understand it and customize it to your needs.

Gold Lasso considers bounce management as a priority to successful campaigns and you should too.

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The Email Monetization Playbook
Email Monetization Playbook
69 Must Scan Pages For Publishers!

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Email Monetization Playbook
69 Must Scan Pages For Publishers!