Apr 112005

You Heard It Here First, Part II

You Heard It Here First, Part II

Tomorrow, Return Path is going to announce that we have acquired the Bonded Sender Program from IronPort Systems (the release is here).  As usual, I’m happy to pre-announce M&A activity on my blog in exchange for a moment of self-promotion.

Bonded Sender is the industry’s oldest, best known, and most effective whitelist/accreditation program.  In a nutshell, it’s a bitch for mailers to qualify for it — they have to demonstrate that they’re a super high quality mailer and get certified by our partner TrustE — but once they do, they have relatively guaranteed safe passage and default images into the inbox at Microsoft (Hotmail and MSN), Roadrunner, and a number of smaller ISPs plus over 35,000 corporate domains who use SpamAssassin or who have Ironport’s email appliances installed at their gateway.  BUT — and this is a big but — they have to keep clean in order to stay on the list, and if they receive more than a tiny number of spam complaints against them, they get fined (hence, the Bond) and ultimately kicked out of the program.

Why is this big news for us and for our customers?  We pioneered the delivery assurance business starting back in 2003.  That business is really hitting its stride now.  The things we already do for clients — monitor their deliverability, analyze and resolve their most pressing problems, and manage their reputations — are critical and raise companies’ deliverability rates from 78% to 95% on average, after six months.  Bonded Sender will automate much of this process for the best clients at the biggest ISPs, and raise that number to 100% in the process.  Look for other announcements in the coming weeks about the expansion of the program in terms of major ISPs who use it.

Why is the Bonded Sender program so great?  Well, ultimately, I think it’s a big part of the solution to spam.  Legislation will do its piece, as will authentication technologies.  But reputation/accreditation systems are a critical component to solving spam as well, and what we love about Bonded Sender is that it attacks one of spam’s biggest root causes, which is that sending an email is free.  The world can’t continue to operate on the principle of exclusion (e.g., I’ll filter out everyone I don’t like), because exclusion leads to too many errors when carried out at an extreme level.  Whitelists like Bonded Sender operate on an inclusion basis, meaning that mailers who are squeaky clean and who are willing to put their money where their mouth is are allowed in.  Those mailers SHOULD BE allowed in and don’t mind paying a modest fee to guarantee or virtually guarantee inclusion.  So the program does exactly what it’s supposed to do.

I blogged about Bonded Sender last May when they came out with their initial announcement that Microsoft had decided to use the Bonded Sender whitelist (well before our deal was in the works with IronPort).  That posting still holds today, although there’s a fourth misconception as well, which is that it’s too expensive for smaller or non-profit or educational institutions (not true – it’s actually free for non-profits and extremely affordable for small companies, relative to what they pay to send their email in the first place).

Anyway, we’re excited to partner with IronPort and to add Bonded Sender to our Delivery Assurance product portfolio…and a big welcome to Scott Weiss and his team from IronPort (especially Peter Macdonald and Josh Barrack, who will be joining us full-time) to the Return Path family.

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