The Legacy Email Problem

Over the years, like many other people, I have obtained numerous email accounts/addresses. Trying to manage all these used to be a problem so a few years back I began to condense them down into the few I actually use.

I maintain access to the older accounts to receive any incoming mail from websites that I need to amend my contact details for. One of these accounts is subscribed to a mailing list and continues to get substantial incoming mail. So it's time to unsubscribe.

Unsubscribing can take a number of forms. On some sites you login uncheck a box and away you go, no more mail. Alternatively changing your email address to something random so you never get the email. In the past I have clicked a link and been taken to a page to enter the subscribed email address and later clicked another link in an unsubscribe confirmation email. These methods have always worked because the mailing list/site doesn't care who or where you are. I needed to send an email from the subscribed account to the unsubscribing email address of the mailing list.

The problem I have today is related to an issue with email accounts and spam prevention in general. Email is usually accessed in 2 ways via webmail/app or desktop client. I am using a Mozilla Thunderbird on the desktop to read my emails. To send email I need to use an SMTP server, every email account specifies which one to use and you need to pass along your login details to use it. Even though I have access to a lot of SMTP servers via a lot of accounts they are slowly locking themselves down. Most will now only send an email with an address they provide.

Smtp.example.com only sends emails from bob@example.com and not bob@somewhere.com.

This can stop spam and reduce traffic on an SMTP server as it isn't processing emails for people who aren't paying for their services.

Back to my unsubscribing problem. I had the correct SMTP server settings for the account and I was sending the email from the subscribed account in question. It failed. The reason was due to the fact that the email address is tied to an Internet Service Provider (I have switched since). It was detected that I was attempting to send an email through their SMTP server from outside their network. This for reasons of reducing spam and server load had been blocked.

So how do I send the email? The easiest option is to find an open SMTP server which would be happy to send the email for me. Google is able to do this, however the caveat is that rewrites the email address to that of the Gmail account used to send it. You can specify an alternative reply address in the account settings which will result in any replies to the email going back to the original account address and not the Gmail address. This is ok for most cases but I need the email to come direct from the subscribed account.

The solution, the webmail interface. Logging into the email account through the providers website allows me to send email from within their network. It means my unsubscribe email is sent from the subscribed account, through an SMTP server that is happy to send it without changes. I still had to confirm an unsubscribe email but luckily this was sent within a few seconds of the initial email. It has meant jumping through a few hoops but the mailing list is no longer sending me any more mail.

One Reply to “The Legacy Email Problem”

  1. For some points I agree, we need to build smarter SMTP servers, well.. need of @ and MX should be avoided with unique identification – For Human and Machine.

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