Some E-Mailers Having Hotmail Problems

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E-mails to MSN Hotmail are still being received by its members, but some are being referred to junk e-mail boxes after Microsoft said all Hotmail e-mail must be compliant with Microsoft's Sender ID e-mail verification program starting earlier this week.

E-mails from companies that have not published their Sender Policy Framework -- the method MSN uses to identify a sender's authorized outbound e-mail server -- are going to Hotmail users' junk folders or inboxes with a "Sender Unknown" question mark symbol and a "safety bar" within the e-mail that says, "The sender of this message could not be verified by Sender ID."

"If I use Hotmail, I probably have two inboxes to check now," said Robb Wilson, vice president of deliverability at Lyris.

After testing transactional e-mails from private servers Wednesday, Lyris found that some messages were referred to the junk e-mail box with the "Sender could not be verified" message while others stayed in the inbox with the same message.

Delivery companies report that e-mails are getting through, and suspect that servers at companies that have not complied with Microsoft's e-mail authentication program are the only ones that will have "flagged" messages.

"Most of our [clients] are SPF-complaint," Wilson said. "If they haven't upgraded to the newest releases that are compliant, they are experiencing some issues."

More than 1 million domains have published their SPF records, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft's new Sender ID requirements will help businesses and protect consumers, said Craig Spiezle, director of Microsoft's Care & Safety Group.

"Deploying Sender ID on the MSN Hotmail service allows Microsoft to move to the next level of protection, which is to provide information about suspicious e-mails to recipients," he said.

Businesses also need to recognize the urgency of e-mail authentication technologies, Spiezle said.

"To fully realize the benefits of these technologies, it's incumbent on us as an industry to act swiftly, authenticate our outbound mail and check inbound mail to help ensure we protect e-mail," he said.

Hotmail's move is getting the attention of small to midsize companies rather than corporations.

"Deliverability wasn't something on their radar screen," Wilson said of low- to mid-tier clients. "We are starting to hear from those folks."

E-mail software firm ExactTarget, Indianapolis, said it has not seen delivery failures or e-mails referred to junk e-mail boxes in Hotmail.

"They're only providing the [sender unknown] warnings in situations where there is a hard fail, or in situations where the spammer is making up a domain name," Chip House, deliverability expert at ExactTarget, said after speaking with Spiezle at Microsoft yesterday.

Yahoo released a similar "Domain Keys" e-mail authentication about a year ago, but referred to it as a "technology proposal" rather than a requirement. Yahoo likely will make the program more official soon, depending on the reaction of e-mailers and consumers to Hotmail's Sender ID program.

"My guess is, Yahoo is going to see what the fallout is at Hotmail," Wilson said. "If Hotmail is successful, Yahoo will definitely jump on board."

Yahoo may release more details on its Domain Keys requirements at the E-Mail Authentication Implementation Summit in New York on July 12.

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