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How can I tell when a message has been opened? - 11/20/06

From: Email Guy
Subject:       How can I tell when a message has been opened?
Date: November 20, 2006 7:34 PM
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We are often asked by users if there is a way to tell when the recipient of a message has opened or read the message. There isn't any way for EarthLink to know if a remote recipient has read your message, but there are third-party applications you can install on your own computer that work with some popular email applications like Outlook. These will not work with Web Mail, and I'm not recommending any of them here, only mentioning that they exist. You can find them on Google.

These applications work by embedding some HTML code in the outgoing message so that when viewed by the recipient, it will send a ping back to the application on your computer and tell you when the message was opened. The reliability isn't 100%, as the recipient could be using a plain-text email reader that doesn't activate the embedded HTML, or various security tools on their own computer that will block this mechanism without the user even knowing it was there in the first place. It can also be blocked by your own security software or firewall on your end.

The concept of "read confirmations" or "read receipts" originated in the old days with closed email systems that hosted both the sender and recipient (like pre-Internet online services), so the system could "know" when the recipient opened the message. This isn't possible with messages sent over the Internet except by using software like that described above. There isn't any accepted standard for mail transport systems to support such a feature between remote systems, and privacy concerns would mandate that any such mechanism be voluntary for the recipient.

Some email applications (including Outlook) give you the option to request a receipt confirmation when you send a message, but these require the recipient to be using email software that supports this feature, and the recipient must also approve the confirmation to be sent back to you. This is basically just a reply from the recipient telling you they got the message, it isn't automatic. For techies, Outlook and some other applications implement the Disposition-Notification-To header suggested in RFC 2298. This is not generally supported by Internet mail systems, only by particular end-user applications.

So the short answer is that EarthLink can't tell when a message has been read (and neither can any other ISP), and any other method is only totally reliable with cooperation between the sender and recipient. Asking for a good old-fashioned Reply is the only surefire way to know your message has been read.

Discussion

Posted by: Robert Greene   |   November 27, 2006 2:30 PM    |   (1)

I had asked:
>2. Could you include a check for whether or not a user wishes a delivery confirmation?
The answer:
That isn't possible in Web Mail.
-----------
When I subscribed to Citlink with Frontiernet in NY, that was a feature of their version of webmail.

I had also asked:
1. Could your signin page eliminate the need for entering "@earthlink.net" ?
The answer
Since Web Mail supports many different domains, not just earthlink.net, that entry is required.

Similarly, that was the case with Frontiernet and Citlink, and their domain listing allowed you to enter the first letter of the domain name, Fontier, Citlink or Northsomthing, and the remainder would be filled in automatically. Fewer errors.

I had also asked:
3. Please include a button for "signout" at the top of the page in
addition to the "signout" on the bottom of the left banner. such a button
will save users time moving to the bottom of the page to signout.
The answer:
Yes, this helpful feature will be added soon.

Thanks.

Robert

Posted by: Email Guy   |   November 28, 2006 12:02 AM    |   (2)

Hi Robert - I provided those answers to you by email, so let me elaborate on them here for everyone's benefit. For delivery confirmations, you can learn more about that subject here. For automatically entering login information, virtually all browsers have that feature built-in. It wouldn't be practical for us to attempt to do it as we support literally hundreds of different domains in Web Mail. It would also conflict with the autocomplete feature in your browser. In Internet Explorer and Firefox, you simply use your down arrow key in a form entry box, then hit enter, and it fills in your last entry. Other browsers will have a key to do this as well.

Posted by: sandy   |   March 1, 2007 10:36 AM    |   (3)

If someone on your block list sends an email, do they get it returned to them with a message that their emails are blocked and will not be accepted?

Sandy:

No, they do not get any indication that the message was not delivered. We just delete it automatically upon reciept.

Email Guy

Posted by: Tony   |   June 20, 2007 12:06 AM    |   (4)

I am having problems getting emails through to the UK. At first the problem was when I was using Outlook. The emails were not received and there was no indication that they had bounced. So I started using webmail. That worked for a while, but now even that does not deliver emails reliably. Other friends here in the US are not having the same problems. And I don't have problems sending emails within the US. An ideas? Has my email address been blacklisted?

The program you use to send the email won't make any difference. In either case, if you do not get back a bounce message, it means that our mail server was able to successfully hand off your message to the recipient's mail server. Otherwise our server would send you a bounce with whatever error it received during that process.

So something is happening after that. It could be that your message is being considered spam on the other end, for whatever reason. I suggest sending a message to the administrator on the other end and see what happens. Try postmaster@domain, or maybe they have an address published on their web site. Maybe they will respond.

Another test you can do is send email to an obviously non-existent address at that domain, like madeup-totally-bogus-address@domain and you should get a bounce message telling you "user unknown". If you do get the bounce, you know there is not a general delivery problem to that location.

If you give me the domain, I'll do the tests, to see if you are being specifically blocked by the remote site.

Email Guy


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