AOL Adds CertifiedEmail, Cuts Whitelist

AOL said today that it is implementing an e-mail authentication system for commercial e-mail over the next few weeks and will phase out its Enhanced Whitelist for e-mail senders by the end of June.

Both Yahoo and AOL announced in October that they would start working with Mountain View, CA-based Goodmail Systems' CertifiedEmail service so subscribers could differentiate between legitimate e-mail and spam.

AOL now said it is getting close to implementing the premium e-mail delivery service. Experian Consumer Direct and the American Red Cross are some of the senders already using CertifiedEmail. CertifiedEmail requires participating senders to pay a fee and implement code that allows the CertifiedEmail trust symbol to be displayed in recipient's inboxes and in the message window that frames CertifiedEmail messages.

Though Goodmail and AOL said they are still working on a fee for the service, it will be a “fraction of a cent” per e-mail, said Goodmail CEO Richard Gingras.

Senders still will be able to be placed on AOL's Whitelist, but the company is phasing out its Enhanced Whitelist, which allows links and images in e-mails sent from approved IP addresses.

“You know how important [links and images] are for people for their branding, so it is easy for recipients to recognize brands and remember that they have signed up for the newsletter. The problem is that we don't have the capability operationally to go in and review who is on the list,” AOL Postmaster Charles Stiles told DM News.

Marketers on AOL's Enhanced Whitelist still don't get all their campaigns sent consistently because they may not have all IP addresses listed in the automatic system.

“So, some days you may get your links and images enabled, and other days you may not,” Stiles said.

On April 3, AOL will change the qualification criteria for the Enhanced Whitelist, significantly reducing the number of IP addresses included in the program. Then, on June 30, it will terminate Enhanced Whitelist privileges.

“This change will disable links and images by default form all non-certified bulk e-mail viewed from AOL 9.0, AOL webmail and all subsequent client releases,” Stiles wrote in a paper explaining the phase-out.

The CertifiedEmail system works by accrediting senders, ensuring they are who they say they are and reviewing their past sending history.

“They will have to have a very good past sending behavior and will have to maintain a good sending behavior,” Gingras said.

If approved, they can attach an “encrypted token” to their e-mail messages, so Yahoo and AOL can identify the messages as CertifiedEmail.

Stiles said AOL, which is in the final stages of testing CertifiedEmail, needed to implement the system because of more sophisticated spam and phishing attacks that have sprung up recently.

“AOL has also found that even relatively basic HTML functionality like images and links can be abused for fraudulent purposes,” Stiles wrote in his paper. “As a result, AOL blocks the use of images on most high-volume messages. AOL has now determined that, with the increasing growth and sophistication of fraudulent e-mail behavior, it must take additional steps.”

Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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