Microsoft wants more spam

If you read some of the postmaster docs on Hotmail/Windows Live, you might get the impression that Microsoft takes the processing of unwanted email seriously. However, this seems to be untrue.We send a lot of opt-in mail to Hotmail accounts (about 250,000 messages a week), and of course many recipients decide that they don’t want to receive the stuff we’re sending any more and instead of unsubscribing they hit the spam report button (despite the fact that we also support the List-Unsubscribe header that Windows Live must be congratulated for supporting too). Our ability to deliver to those who do still want the stuff is partially dependent on those that don’t – deliverability to the inbox is dependent on spam reporting rate. We really, really don’t want to send stuff to people who don’t want it, so what we’d really like is for microsoft to tell us when someone does this. Enter Microsoft’s “JMRP”, the Junk Mail Reporting Program. Sounds great, and is theoretically very similar to AOL’s postmaster programme. The main difference is they don’t actually want to let you onto it. A year ago, they provided an email address to send applications to, but they then changed it to a web page (literally, they swapped the email address for a URL), but the URL didn’t actually go anywhere that would let you send them anything (it wasn’t even a link). This has now been fixed and does actually lead to a form, which you can fill in and receive no response. I’ve been trying to get onto it for over a year, contacting them every month or so, but they’ve been almost entirely unresponsive. I did receive one reply that said that we couldn’t join because we didn’t ‘own’ our IPs. How dumb is that? I’ve never met an ISP that hands over ownership of IPs (partly because the ISPs effectively lease them from RIPE anyway), and even though we could happily prove that we have exclusive use, and that DNS resolves forwards and backwards for our domains, they didn’t want to know. Now, surprise surprise, they have changed their supposed entry criteria and now only demand exclusive use. Not that it helps, they still don’t respond.

Contrast the AOL experience: Joining the programme involves a very short form, and within an hour or two, you are in. That’s it, no fanfare. The spam reports they send you are not only in an open, easily parsed format, but it’s even got a draft RFC which AOL are keen to push. Thanks to this programme, our spam reporting rate at AOL is now around 0.1% (because no matter what you do, people will still report stuff as spam that they requested).

Unfortunately this seems all too common – we see trouble from other Microsoft systems, such as Exchange, which sometimes sends bounces in incredibly convoluted MIME structures such as a text/plain in a multipart/mixed in a message/rfc822 in a multipart/mixed, all while actually omitting to tell you the address which actually bounced. Thankfully we use VERP to survive such ineptitude.

To their credit, their SNDS service does actually work, though it mainly serves to annoy by telling us how many spam reports they failed to inform us of.

So Microsoft, please, if you want less stuff coming in that your users don’t want, please let us help you rather than just damaging us.

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