New Era of E-Mail: How to Thrive, Not Just Survive

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E-mail is broken. It's broken in two ways: trust and infrastructure.


First, the medium isn't trustworthy. Legitimate senders of e-mail can't trust the medium to deliver their critical communications, and recipients can't trust that they will get what they want, not what they don't want. The reasons are simple. E-mail's inherent openness has left the medium vulnerable to abuse in the form of spam and the tactics of spoofing and phishing associated with it. To combat these threats, Internet service providers have resorted to blacklists and filters that put the delivery of legitimate e-mail at risk and undermine the trustworthiness of the medium for senders and recipients.


The solution comes down to knowing the identity of the senders of e-mail so the ISPs and other receivers won't have to rely on imperfect filtering techniques to sort the good from the bad. That's what makes the adoption of e-mail authentication so crucial. It is an important step in restoring trust to e-mail.


Authentication alone won't solve the problem, but its adoption will signal that the day of reckoning for spammers is near. Once the senders of e-mail can be identified definitively, they'll be held accountable for their practices. Senders will be assigned a "reputation score" somewhat akin to a credit rating, and that rating will affect their cost of sending e-mail - directly through a bond, online postage or other fee or indirectly through denied access or poor (junk box) placement. Though aimed at spam, these measures also will alter how legitimate senders use the medium, too.


This brings us to the second way in which e-mail is broken: infrastructure. E-mail is moving into a new era, one of accountability where different rules of engagement - authentication protocols, reputation ratings, mail class segregation, etc. - will introduce even more complexities, and where regulatory requirements will mandate baseline behaviors and penalize those who violate them. Sender best practices will become required practices because customers and accountability standards demand it.


The ability of legitimate e-mail senders to support IP-based and soon signature-based authentication is merely the opening gambit. Senders will need to support reputation ratings, smarter customer feedback and bounce management, dynamic content for relevant messaging and the kind of intelligent, differentiated sending that the new classes of mail and domain access rules will demand.


Moreover, senders will need to capture, interpret and act on data faster to meet rising consumer expectations and ensure regulatory compliance. These are all outbound infrastructure challenges that require more powerful, technologically advanced sending platforms designed for tight integration and optimized for e-mail delivery.


Most e-mail senders are unprepared to meet these challenges. The infrastructure most marketers use - and on which all the benefits of the medium ride - is based on 25-year-old technology and cobbled-together, disconnected solutions that can't scale. E-mail was never intended for the kind of use, in terms of scope or scale, to which it's being put today, let alone the complexities this new era will introduce. Most senders know their infrastructure is broken. Legitimate senders no longer can defer the decision to fix it.


Imagine - no spam: Repairing trust and infrastructure will yield enormous dividends to everyone in the e-mail ecosystem, especially legitimate senders. Imagine when trust is restored to e-mail. Your customers' mailboxes no longer are clogged with spam, so your messages are opened and read. Your delivery is based on your reputation, not on your skill at evading spam filters. No more worries about someone spoofing your identity or phishing your customers and undermining a brand you've worked so hard to build.


Imagine what all this would mean to your customer relationships and bottom line. These are the promises of this new era of e-mail accountability. So adopt e-mail authentication now and support the reputation-based standards that will follow. E-mail needs them to survive. We all need them.


Now imagine the day your e-mail infrastructure is fixed. You no longer have to baby-sit your outbound mail or devote untold resources to do what should be routine. Performance isn't an issue, and you have complete visibility in your mailing results at every step of the process. Imagine, too, that you can do with e-mail all you want, and everything integrated seamlessly with your internal systems. And also imagine that your infrastructure is future-proof so you don't have worry about what this new era might demand, how digital messaging could morph next or where evolving business needs may take you.


It doesn't take much imagination to envision what these things could mean for your business. And these promises are real with the right e-mail infrastructure decisions. Those who decide well will be in a position to thrive and unlock e-mail's potential.
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