Email deliverability improved

by michal frackowiak on 21 Feb 2012 12:24

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One of the ways we communicate with our users is email. There are situations we rely on emails being quickly and reliably received by our users. If emails are lost, users are often prevented from completing actions — like creating a new account, recovering a forgotten password or changing an email address. We also use emails to notify about activities related to watched pages or sites and send important information related to user accounts.

But sending tens of thousands emails each day is not an easy task. There are various factors we need to adjust to. We need to find a way to send emails that are not recognized as spam (so that they are not blocked or placed in a spam folder). We need to play nice with large email providers like Hotmail, GMail or Yahoo so that Wikidot is considered a credible origin of emails. Somewhere in between there is domain authentication, SPF records, email bounces etc. At the number of emails we are dealing with daily we need to do our best to minimize number of failures — which is an ongoing process of constant improvements.

One of the examples of neverending efforts is making reliable deliveries to @hotmail.com addresses. Despite our efforts — there have been numerous records of lost emails. Even now we do not send any "watching notifications" to Hotmail addresses because of high failure ratio.

Yesterday we made a huge improvement in email deliverability. We started migrating email services off-Wikidot to an external provider. After long research and discussion we decided to use Amazon Simple Email Service. We could immediately see a significant improvement in reliability, not to mention that all emails to Hotmail are accepted without issues!

Three things actually convinced us: simple pricing model, promise of deliverability and simple integration. We are already an Amazon Web Services customer, actively using CloudFront, S3, Route53. Having experience working with AWS, adding yet another service did not raise much technical difficulties.

Right now we use SES to send all emails except "watching notifications". This will be the next step and we should complete the switch within a week or two from now, once we gather more hands-on experience with SES and make sure we fully control the new email sending process.

Although there is nothing that changes in the user interface nor any new feature you can play with, we believe this will help in "lost email" cases that have been causing unnecesarry frustration, both for us and for our users.

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