Silverpop - Experiences with DomainKeys, Sender ID and SPF
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Experiences with DomainKeys, Sender ID and SPF

Bill Nussey, Silverpop
by: Bill Nussey (@bnussey)
14 September 2005

The world of authentication continues to roll forward. Recently, another email service provider announced it is supporting the latest authentication entrant, DomainKeys. I thought it might be worthwhile to share some of the experiences from our team on dealing with these emerging technology standards.

SPF: Silverpop was an early adopter of this standard. We rolled it out for all of our customers in March 2004. Supporting this standard is fairly easy as long as you use traditional DNS tools. (Some automated or specialty tools make this more difficult.) At this point, however, SPF is no big news, and most ESPs support it.

Sender ID: We rolled out our first customers in November 2004. The challenge with Sender ID is that many of our customers want their email delivered by Silverpop to show their company's domain name in the "from" field. This requires IT departments to modify their own DNS. In some companies, such as Silverpop, this is only a matter of a day or two. But in others, particularly larger companies, this may take months, or not be possible at all.

DomainKeys: Yahoo's authentication standard is among the most complex to deploy. Like Sender ID, it often requires our clients to get their IT departments involved. We host the "from" domains for many clients, and rolled out the first customers in July. As you may be aware, DomainKeys involves an encryption that has some concerned over the extra time it takes to compute. While it's too early to tell for certain, we believe this overhead is minimal.

I believe DomainKeys is still a work-in-progress. For instance, the format of a DomainKeys record in DNS calls for a seldom-used construct, which some DNS providers cannot support. And, not all the ISPs that claim to support it have worked out the kinks. Nonetheless, Yahoo's approach is solid, and I am hopeful it will be widely adopted.

The most important observation I can share is that none of these authentication solutions are a panacea. None guarantee deliverability or anything close. However, individually and collectively, they are a critical next step in the evolution of email as a truly effective communications medium.

P.S. And, for those other ESPs claiming to be first with this stuff, make sure to read the dates listed above before you put out your next press release <grin>.




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