AOL Phases Out Enhanced Whitelist

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America Online is phasing out its Enhanced Whitelist, replacing the bulk-mailing program with Goodmail’s CertifiedEmail program. The new system will carry a fraction of cent fee to commercial mailers for every email with images and hyperlinks.

A statement released by AOL Postmaster Chales Stiles revealed:

On April 3, 2006, AOL will change the qualification criteria for the Enhanced Whitelist by lowering the complaint threshold to an extent that will significantly reduce the number of IP addresses included in the program.

On June 30, 2006, AOL will terminate Enhanced Whitelist privileges. This change will disable links and images by default from all non-certified bulk email viewed from AOL 9.0, AOL webmail and all subsequent client releases. As always, links and images can be enabled by the end user on a message-by-message basis.

AOL cites increased security threats such as phishing attacks, image-based viruses and other email fraud as the reason to allow only Goodmail accredited email senders to display images and hyperlinks. Also, emails sent through Goodmail’s CertifiedEmail program will receive a “trust icon” in inboxes and message windows to denote that the sender has been qualified. CertifiedEmail messages will bypass spam filters automatically.

“The rigorous sender accountability enabled by the CertifiedEmail service is not feasible with the AOL Enhanced Whitelist program,” said Stiles.

Some bulk mailers are upset at the fees charged by the Goodmail system. Lyris Technologies’ Rob Wilson told DM News the fees were “astronomical” and a “step back.”

“They’re potentially going to spend more for getting through to AOL than they spend on their e-mail budget,” he said.

Jupiter Research’s David Daniels disagrees on his Jupiter weblog:

“The use of Goodmail’s certified mail is a positive step forward for several reasons.

It removes any perception of a conflict of interest for the ISP’s as it totally removes them from the certification process.

It standardizes the certification, accreditation and reputation process, which potentially can be used universally across ISPs and MTAs (to date AOL, Yahoo, Port25 and Strongmail are on board as well as a handful of ESPs).

Most importantly it will accelerate the rate at which marketers improve their level of sophistication. Adding an additional cost to email delivery will drive the industry as a whole to adopt better mailing practices, such as throttling down the frequency of mailing to the non-responding portion of a list. Marketers will have to be more judicious about what they are mailing, to whom, and how often.

Finally, it begins to restore confidence in the channel for consumers. ISPs will have a much better handle on separating the “good mail” from the bad, which will result in a cleaner, more intelligible inbox for consumers.”

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AOL Phases Out Enhanced Whitelist
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