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AOL e:mail and bounce backs

Not just us!



1:45 pm on Aug 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


After weeks of wrestling with this whole AOL, bounce back problem, I have discovered that this is a massive problem across the globe!

The unfortunate part is that AOL users are mostly oblivious to the problem. After all, how are they to know that they aren't getting a good portion of their messages?

I have been casually asking friends in the industry (from all over the world) if they are seeing an inordinate number of bounce backs from AOL customers. Most hadn't really thought about it, putting the bounce back problem down to incorrectly typed addresses, full mail boxes, etc.

Since asking around, I have received 14 messages from those same friends saying that since I asked them, they had been paying more attention and now realize that the bounce backs are all AOL and nobody else!

They've asked me what to do about it. I can't be bothered condescending to AOL's "spam blocker" power play and "applying" to be approved for their white list. Their whole system is broken and THEY need to fix it!

Sooner or later, AOL users will figure out what's happening and will switch to MSN, Google or some other email service which works.

I for one have given up. I've tried just about every solution there is ... unsuccessfully. Yes my sales are being affected, but I will ride it out just as i've ridden out many other problems in the past.

WAKE UP AOL ... you are messing up big time! Its one thing to block spammers, but its quite another to block mesages from those responding to your customers at their request!

A mailman doesn't decide for the people on his route what he deigns to be unwanted mail and then send it back! Neither should you! Just deliver the darned mail as you are supposed to and stop trying to save the world from spam ... unless of course you figure out how to do it right!

<End of Rant>


6:45 pm on Aug 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

What sorts of things have you tried?

I found that our email to AOL (and yahoo and gmail) were being rejected for various resons.

Our solutions were:

1) Run sample emails through SpamAssassin. There are lots of online email testing systems where you can test your email templates for their spam levels.
2) Set up Reverse DNS [searchcio.techtarget.com]. You'll have to talk to your ISP/PRovider to set this up properly if you don't own the netblock you're on.
3) Set up SPF [spf.pobox.com], which AOL uses. (To look at theirs, on a *NIX command-line type: "dig TXT aol.com". This system will only accept mail from your domain by systems with IPs listed in the SPF record of your domain.

None of these is a magic bullet on its own, but if you combine all of them, your domain is regarded as a "spam-safe" domain.

We haven't had any trouble with AOL,Yahoo or GMail since implementing these changes.



4:07 am on Aug 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I'm sure all these things mentioned above contain valid advice ... but I know nothing about any of them. I am NOT a "techie type person" and would be considered a "non professional webmaster" ... at best.

I simply respond to customer inquiries. Since when was that against some unknown and truly ridiculous set of rules?

1) I have a web site.
2) A potential client sends an inquiry asking for info.
3) I spend 20 minutes to half an hour (or more) answering.
4) Three days later, my response to the customer inquiry is bounced back.

Net Result: Customer has already bought elsewhere!

I truly appreciate your response ... but I don't know how to accomplish any of the things you've suggested.

I will no longer respond to anyone with an AOL e:mail address ... its that simple! Its a complete waste of time and energy.

My ISP has found no reason for these bounce backs. My web host is at a loss as to why its happening. I've written to AOL without a response. Who knows ... maybe they never received my message!? LOL!

I have lost faith in the possibility for a timely cure and fear that any AOL business is a lost cause for me at this point. I am well and truly stimied!


9:05 pm on Aug 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


The responsibility for the points made by mattymoose lies with your webhost. Perhaps you coud send the url of this thread to your webhost support people. If they don't understand what to do from his post, then maybe you need to consider changing hosts.

This message in no way condones the position of AOL and especially does not condone the methods of blacklists. I am just pointing out that where a technical solution is required, it is your hosts responsibility to carry it out.



10:55 pm on Aug 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

As I recall, Liane is hostage to the only ISP available to her.... due to where she lives and does business.


2:53 am on Sep 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

generally i thikn aol went about their antispam in a pretty crappy way but nonetheless, i didnt think any of their stuff was unreasonable.

the biggest thing i have seen issues with is reverse dns. make sure that you have your forward and reverse dns set up for your 'mail sending machines' resolving to the same thing.

if you're still havign issues, this is where it becomes abnormal: if you want to get anything resolved you need to set up some 'feedback loop' with them in order to be able to get your mail flowing. Generally this isnt too big a deal but could you imagine if all hosts did somethign like this? omg


4:58 am on Sep 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Since this thread has popped to the top again, I would like to mention that on further research into SPF it seems to be the thin edge of the wedge into a *paid* certification program. For something that is relatively new, there seems to be a great deal of commercialistion surrounding it. The idea has some merit, but it is being pushed without the benefit of an RFC as a standard and with an intent to commercial gain underlying it for the proponents of the third party certification process.

The bottom line is that while I *might* implement SPF records, *if* a RFC is promulgated, I will not be seeking additional third party certification.

Narrowly available third party certification would be another closed club similar to the issuers of SSL certs.


8:26 am on Oct 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hi all,

I've arrived late on the thread.. but hopefully most of it's still fresh in everybodies mind..

What AOL is doing here is following best practises with regards to MTA delivery to ensure the least amount of spam delivered. This issue is covered in various RFC's:
as well as rfc1912.

So AOL is catching up with corporate types, ISP's mailhosts and SMEs accross all sections of the internet community. The general consensus is that loads of spam come from ip addresses that do not have a corresponding DNS entry.

To check the condition of your address space, visit [samspade.org...] and enter in an ip address and press the 'do stuff' button. your return reply will be something along the lines of:

Server Used: [ whois.apnic.net ] = [ you.somedomain.net ]

If you do not have a correctly setup RDNS, the value in the square brackets will be blank.

Setting up an RDNS for your mailserver is trivial for competent administrators; Liane this may not be you; but it certainly "should" describe the company that hosts your website. Unfortunately I must digress and quote you:

"My ISP has found no reason for these bounce backs. My web host is at a loss as to why its happening. I've written to AOL without a response. Who knows ... maybe they never received my message!? LOL!"

This is an obvious indication of their cluelessness. 'Bounce backs' and so forth are logged and information is provided as such:

Oct 17 19:20:12 kt sendmail[28110]: i9I0KCf28110: ruleset=check_rcpt, arg1=<email@address.com>, relay=[], reject=450 4.7.1 <email@address.com>... Relaying temporarily denied. Cannot resolve PTR record for

Denying emails from hosts without an RDNS (ptr) record is entirely within reason, As in this example above, there's no way to tell where this email is comming from. I might add that kmarcus' response can confusing.. most implementations of this don't require that the RDNS matches forward, just that you resolve to 'something'... even if it's dialup-121.isp.com ... at least its something! :)

Further to this, just to touch on 'plumsauce' response to SPF... I believe it's the 'Sender ID' framework that you wish to dislike; it's a proposed standard by microsoft and is incumbent on many software patents. Implementation of this scheme by anybody using open source is impossible; and anybody not wishing to pay microsoft just to stop spam that originates from compromised windows systems...

I cannot find an RFC for SPF, only rudimentary documentation on it's use therefore IMHO it is not yet ready for primetime, but it does look to soon be another weapon in our arsenal on spam and spammers.



6:27 pm on Oct 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I am not confused, it is specifically SPF that I don't like as proposed at spf.pobox.com. the details and reasons are covered in another thread on webmasterworld.

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