2006-09-27: 18:24 UTC     Hotmail

Accoriding to MSN's Smart Network Data Services reports, mail that our customers are forwarding to their Hotmail accounts is being reported as spam to Hotmail at rates reaching 5% on some days. The effect of our customers reporting spam that they have forwarded to their Hotmail accounts is that now Hotmail thinks most if not all mail sent from our customer SMTP servers and our forwarding SMTP servers is spam.

Effective immediately mail scoring 1.0 and higher that is forwared to Hotmail and MSN is being discarded. If the complaint rates improve considerably we will increase the discard threshold. If complaint rates do not improve we will be forced to discard all mail forwarded to Hotmail and MSN.

We have already taken several steps to improve the Hotmail situation and to date none have made any difference.

For over 6 months mail that is forwarded to Hotmail scoring 6.0 and higher has been discarded.
We joined the Smart Network Data Services program to have access to MSNs's complaint rate data.
We signed and snail mailed the documents necessary to join MSN's Junk Mail Reporting Partner Program which seems another exercise in frustration since the program is for bulk mailers and no bulk mail is sent from our servers, period.
We routed forwarded mail via SMTP servers that do nothing but forward mail.

The root of the problem is probably Hotmail's busted spam system and the fact that many people have decided that mail they no longer want is spam.

We see it every day in the spam reports we get from AOL. Messages containing conversations with several to dozens of replies by each party is reported as spam by the AOL customer. Shipping information for online purchases is reported as spam by the AOL customer. Responses to requests for information is reported as spam by the AOL customer. Why would a typical Hotmail user see things any differently that a typical AOL customer? We suspect there is no difference and what is reported as spam to Hotmail is in fact not spam but is just mail that is no longer wanted.

And just like AOL, Hotmail places the Junk button right next to the Delete button where mistakes are sure to happen.

Update: Hotmail spam samples.

Its a new feature or it has not been very obvious but some samples of reported spam are available from the MSN SNDS reports.

Two forwarded samples were newsletters forwarded by a company we host email for that is in the same business space as the newsletter senders. The newsletters scored less than 1.0 and at the old and new thresholds were forwarded and would be forwarded to Hotmail. Both sender domains are now in our block lists.

The more interesting samples were not bulk but rather personal mail sent via our customer SMTP servers to Hotmail accounts.

I won't be able to attend...out of town...again! Thanks for taking such good minutes, Kxxxx, I guess that's the only way I know what's going on. Only another month or so of craziness, then things will slow down for me.

hi friends Yes, I made it to Turkey and I've been having a wonderful time here at Kaya Village art camp. It's like a workcamp, but there's no work.

Those two messages may have been mis-addressed since most any random character combination will be a vaild email address at Hotmail. Or the Hotmail email address no longer belongs to who the sender thinks it does. Or the Hotmail recipient is a moron. Those messages may be unwanted but they are not spam.

In any case, we think Hotmail has a pretty broken spam system when one person's notion of spam can affect all other users of the system. There is absolutely nothing we can do to prevent a Hotmail user from pushing the 'spam' button whenever they feel like it resulting in email delivery problems from our servers to Hotmail. Hotmail users can change the accepted definition of spam from "Unsolicited Bulk Mail" to "Mail I don't want".

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