AOL’s mail servers, a pain in the b…

As some of you know I host the UltraVNC forum for almost four years now. Of course some users happen to have their email account at AOL. Now whenever my mail server, which doesn’t have a dynamic IP, has a proper reverse DNS entry (although the domain name isn’t the same as for the account from which the email is being sent, but that is legal even according to them), is steadily monitored for strange email activity and has a few scripts that are all logging their activity when sending mail (which is only allowed to “local” addresses, i.e. of domains hosted on the server) AOL’s mail servers refuse communication with an error 554. Luckily AOL was so kind as to provide a more detailed explanation (a huge list) of the errors according to AOL’s flavor. The particular kind of 554 I receive is this one. Now that states I have an open relay script “somewhere”, which I don’t happen to have at offer just now. I checked and re-checked my logs for weeks now. I had one once in 2006 for one particular script for approx. 10 days, but figured it quickly after it started being abused by spammers and resolved the issue. Maybe the AOL block is still from back then? Well, who cares? And should I? So I am on the axis of aolall evil to them, so what?

Of course I didn’t receive one of their “Report Cards” back then or any time until now and the error page lacks any contact information. Luckily the contact page is only a few clicks away and is happily offering me to call them anytime during their office hours. How generous. Now, I suppose, everyone surely must feel a strong urge to get unblocked by AOL?! That calling may not always be an option doesn’t come to their mind, because the contact page states:

Remember: if you are blocked, you must call us to get the block removed!

Oh wait, does that mean you guys at AOL don’t stick to the RFC (2821) and offer the postmaster alias for this purpose? Well yeah, I guess you get a bit more spam through it than I through mine, but then why don’t you guys just call me? It’s your users who don’t get their notifications about new messages and forum posts, not me! And frankly, I don’t care about AOL otherwise. Postfix does of course – dutiful as it happens to be -, but I don’t.

Anyway … the permanent (5xx errors are permanent, according to the standard) block is now mutual. All old forum members with AOL email addresses will be notified by me via another email address and their accounts deactivated after a notice period if the email addresses don’t get changed. New registrations will not be possible with AOL email addresses anymore.

Sorry for the inconveniences,

// Oliver

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4 Responses to AOL’s mail servers, a pain in the b…

  1. Chris says:

    Who the heck is AOL, btw?

  2. Chris says:

    Just irony!

  3. Phil says:

    We’ve found the best way to get legitimate mail through to AOL subscribers is by signing up to the AOL Feedback Loop.

    This allows you to put the IP addresses of each server you maintain onto a list. When an AOL customer marks something as spam you get sent an email that contains the spam email.

    It’s a PITA (especially when AOL members mark totally legitimate personal mails as spam), but short of blocking AOL email accounts (as you have done), you have to play their game.

    Take solace in the fact that they are heamoraging 2,000,000 subscribers in the US alone per year.

  4. Oliver says:

    Hi Phil,

    thanks for the comment. It seems there may be one caveat in their rules. I cannot guarantee that there will be at least one mail every 90 days. The rest would probably match their requirements list.

    But I think the AOL customers have more power to change those policies through their wallets 😉

    // Oliver

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