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Christopher Knight

AOL's Enhanced Whitelist - Clearing The Air
By Christopher Knight

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I asked Charles E. Stiles, Postmaster/Sr. Tech. Mgr. of AOL to clear the air on the recent market activity and mis-information regarding the AOL/Goodmail deal. Mr. Stiles was kind enough to respond to me and re-iterated a post he made on

Charles E. Stiles, Postmaster/Sr. Tech. Mgr. of AOL said:

"I, too, have been on the front lines of AOL's spam fighting operations for three years, and I know I speak for the company when I say the last thing AOL would do is endorse a "paid spam" program. Given the overall lack of reliable information and the propaganda being slung around on this issue, I want to take this opportunity to set the record straight. First, AOL will continue to offer IP-based white list and enhanced white list privileges to mailers that do not wish to take advantage of the CertifiedEmail program. As long as there is market demand and operational need for these services, AOL will continue to operate them. Second, providing the opportunity to present qualified email with enhanced functionality is a step forward for the industry, not a step backward -- as some Goodmail competitors suggest. This was the original intent of the enhanced white list, and we are further delivering on this promise with our Goodmail initiative. The CertifiedEmail program was developed for highly qualified mailers sending permission-based messages to existing customers - this is an optional premium service we are offering above and beyond our existing whitelist services. And, we're confident the market will understand the value of this program when they take the time to evaluate it - especially when mailers will benefit from much needed consistency and uniformity, as well as better reporting tools. To encourage this, Goodmail is even providing free and/or reduced tokens to early adopters in the first year; this is an integral part of the charter program intended to ease the transition. Third, spammers are not allowed into the program and legitimate marketers that abuse the system will be expunged. And, even with the addition of CertifiedEmail, AOL retains the right to block or "pull the plug" on any companies that exhibit bad behavior, just as we do now. Accredited senders will be held to the same standards as anyone else sending email to AOL email users. Fourth, the idea that a company like eBay would have to pay millions to send email to AOL email boxes is simply wrong. eBay does not need to pay to get those emails delivered under our current nor "new AOL email model". In fact referring to it as a new model is misleading, because we are merely offering an enhancement above and beyond what exists today. There is not a change in how email is accepted or rejected, it still comes back to reputation. It is true that the AOL user experience will change -- but for the better. Legitimate, certified mailers that pass authentication tests will have their message displayed with images and links enabled and a visual notification that it is "AOL Certified." AOL has spent several years and millions of dollars fighting spam - through technology, industry-coordinated efforts, in courts, and in state and federal legislatures - and it has paid off, with spam reaching member email boxes down 75%. The idea that we would now turn our backs on this hard-won progress is ludicrous. Our antispam operation will continue to provide the best possible online user experience. And given my position at AOL, that will never stop. Frankly, a vast majority of the propaganda and negativity about our recent addition of CertifiedEmail is inaccurate and or misleading; it comes from the marketplace and specifically those in direct competition with Goodmail. Competition is fierce and in this evolving marketplace I suspect there will be more mudslinging before stability is reached. We are listening and attempting to distill legitimate concerns from the chatter but have come to learn that it's best to consider the source." It's great to see Charles and his team are plugged into the issues. I don't envy his position as it's nearly impossible to please every stakeholder that his job is designed to protect. In the meantime, we'll be watching as their CertifiedEmail program evolves.

This Ezine-Tip was submitted By Christopher Knight -- Email List Marketing Expert, author and entrepreneur. Get your weekly dose of Email newsletter publishing, marketing, promotion, management, email-etiquette, email usability and deliverability tips by joining the free Ezine-Tips newsletter:

Ezine-Tips for February 16, 2006

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