Monthly Archives: February 2011

Does ISIPP/Suretymail really work?

ISIPP ( the Institute for Social Internet Public Policy ) or SuretyMail is an accreditation program for email senders ( ESP's or not ). They run a DNS whitelist ( this was named IADB in the past ) and include the ips of their customers in it.

This whitelist can be used by any spam filter to lower the spam score of senders that are found in it. We know for sure that spamassassin comes with rules for checking the whitelist, but isipp doesn't disclose which other filters or ISPs use it.

On their homepage they claim their accreditation service works with all ISPs but is this really true?

The fact is that the big webmail providers ( yahoo, hotmail, gmail and aol ) don't use their whitelist. I know for sure that yahoo and hotmail use a different certification provider and that's the only one they use.

When Suretymail says their service works with all ISPs what they really mean is that they will try to help you get your email delivered to any ISP by trying to find the problems with your messages and tell you how to fix it. I know there's a lot of trying there :).

So let's see the pros and cons of ISIPP/Suretymail

Pro

  1. their whitelist is used by one of the most popular spam filters out there.

Cons

  1. Do you really need to be in spamassassin's whitelist? Most email service providers will have a "Spam check" feature that would check your message for known spam triggers including spamassassin's rules. So you can easily avoid most of spamassassin's rules or enough to get you under the 5 points of spam score anyway.

    Even if you don't use an email service provider that has such a feature you can always send a test message to an email account that has spamassassin on it and you'll see the rules your message triggers.

  2. Their whitelist is NOT used by any of the major ISPs ( yahoo, hotmail, gmail,aol ). Most email senders send between 35% and 90% of their messages to these ISPs so the accreditation doesn't work for a very big chunk of email addresses in your lists.
  3. Their "trying" to help you is really not so good.
    I was a customer for more then 1 year. Here's the stuff I had to put out with:
    • They didn't answer my messages, claiming it went to their spam folder. Isn't it ironic? :) I had to send some of the support messages twice and ask them to confirm they received it after each message
    • They avoided answering some of the questions in my messages. Like when I was inquiring if yahoo, or some spam filters use their whitelist, or when I was inquiring if they can escalate my problem with yahoo
    • Whenever there's a problem they require you to fill a long form with a lot of useless questions even if you have just described the problem in detail in the previous message
    • Whenever there's a deliverability problem the first thing they suggest is modifying your email message content. And of course that almost never works.
    • These support discussions take weeks or even months sometimes. They say they are working on it but then don't communicate anything for weeks. I one case after not answering anything for a few weeks I sent them a message asking about any progress on the issue. They answered like they thought the problem fixed itself. On some cases by the time they decide to answer the problem does fix itself or you find out how to fix it without their help.
    • They claim your bounce and/or complaint rates are too high even if you're at 0.01% or less. This is their last resort, when nothing works blame the customer. Some ESP's will have no problem with their customers having bounce and/or complaint rates as high as 0.1%.
    • They pick on the bounce and complaint rates you have at other ISPs even if the ones for the ISP you have troubles with are fine.
    • They claim your complaint and bounce rates are very high even if you provide them with clear evidence that it's not as they claim. When you ask how they calculated the rates they don't answer. This was just a pretext to drop the accreditation when they realized their were exposed for not being able to help with yahoo deliverability problems.

And now ISIPP is offereing 50% off their application fee to Goodmail customers since Goodmail is shutting down. The problem here is these senders were using goodmail because they guarantied to have their customer's messages delivered to inbox at some big ISPs ( even yahoo till a while ago ), something that ISIPP will never be able to do.

Anyway this was my experience with ISIPP/Suretymail. If you had a similar or different experience with them feel free to share in the comments.