Emails that look successfully sent may not arrive! Reliability.

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You can actually be sent emails, that look properly sent to the sender and have not bounced, and not receive them.

Did you think you already knew that because of the arrogantly strong spam filtering systems some folks like to have, taking the decisions for them and never showing them the selected against mails? Ah, no this is not about spam filtering. Quite apart from that, proper emails, from your well-established contacts, even your listed contacts! From anyone! Can look entirely successfully sent, to the sender, does not bounce back to them, yet does not arrive to be seen by the recipient.

Are all the technical whizzkids used to this sort of thing and unsurprised? Are all the technical whizzkids used to this sort of thing and unsurprised? For the rest of the world it is a shocker, we need to circulate lots of messages about it.

We have got into a habit of relying on records of sent mails to know a mail has arrived, unless it bounced back. Usually we have found that reliable in practice. But it’s still not reliable. This affects the entire reliability of sending emails, for everyone, between every system. Every email hosting company still needs to ascertain that every other company’s system will either bounce an email or actually get it to the account holder.

I have experienced it in the context of BT (British Telecom) ending its relationship with Yahoo. For 9 years it totally appeared that BT addresses had simply been taken over by Yahoo and so permanently were Yahoo really. It has turned out they are not: all that time BT was paying Yahoo for the service, mostly being associated with its broadband service. After the change was announced, I did not leave any more email life in my old BT account than continuity of uses I was already using it for: everything else I moved elsewhere. With BT’s new service unknown in nature, and becoming paid for too, it would have been wrong to stay dependent on it in any long term way. But to help with continuity I thought it would be a fair deal to keep the BT address temporarily until I was satisfied I had disposed of every piece of email business where address continuity would be helpful and avoid confusion – a gradual changeover better than a sudden abrupt change. Surely a fair bargain to pay a small amount for that. But this common sense has been rebuffed by their unbeatable total shambles in which the service has not been delivered – ever since the changeover day Sep 16 I have not received any incoming emails! Including test ones sent to myself.

BT’s technical helpline is a monster consumer experience of impenetrable call centres, a chaos where they seem to clutch at every possible cause to try that they can think of, with no real idea whether it is likely to be right, and where they are all differently informed and give you conflicting information on which of 3 phone numbers you can use and their opening hours. On an 0808 number that I was twice told is open 24/7, but it’s not, eventually a 45 minute call went through both companies, the second attempt at that – previously there had been a call where they said they were putting me through to Yahoo and didn’t! In the second phase of this call I got a guy who claimed he had fixed it, but it would take several days for the missing emails to be “retrieved” and show. Will believe it when I see it, there is no sign of them yet. Looks like won’t be keeping that account for as long as planned.

You don’t want to be on the end of any email company’s technical helpline fighting over not receiving emails that look successfully sent to their senders. You need to know that sent can be relied on or else you will receive a bounce back: you need that to be continuously reliable, you can’t carry on your email business with this frequently failing and emails missing. Email companies need to know that too, to provide their service, that they are not up against unreliable non-service messes like BT. Everyone tell their friends. It needs circulating as widely as psosible across the web, that every email company needs to ascertain this freshly, all over again, with every other email company.

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