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Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

After self-hosting my email for twenty-three years I have thrown in the towel

Email is now an oligopoly, a service gate kept by a few big companies which does not follow the principles of net neutrality.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

I have seen this slow decline in real time. Nevertheless, I have been fighting back out of pure spite, obstinacy, and activism.

Because it was the right thing to do.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

But my emails are just not delivered anymore. I might as well not have an email server.

So, starting today, the MX records of my personal domain no longer point to the IP of my personal server.

They now point to one of the Big Email Providers. I lost. We lost.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

This is a huge, invisible problem Google has half a billion results for "my email goes directly to spam". What's the usual answer from experienced sysadmins? "Stop self-hosting your email and pay [provider]."

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

You can no longer set up postfix to manage transactional emails for your business. The emails just go to spam or disappear. It doesn't matter who you are: a doctor, a bank, an e-commerce, a university, an individual.

Your email server doesn't reach their recipients.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

Why does this happen?

Email servers run algorithms so most spam doesn't appear on your inbox. Unfortunately, the computing power required to filter millions of emails per minute is huge.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

The email industry has chosen a shortcut to reduce that cost: deleting it as it is received.

This is called blackholing or hellbanning.

Big email servers permanently blacklist whole IP blocks and delete their emails without processing or without notice.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

What are we left with?

• You cannot set up a home email server.

• You cannot set it up on a VPS.

• You cannot set it up on your own datacenter.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

At some point your IP range is bound to be banned, either by one asshole IP neighbor sending spam, one of your users being pwned, due to arbitrary reasons, by mistake, it doesn't matter. It's not "if", it's "when".

Say goodbye to your email. Game over. No recourse.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

The era of distributed, independent email servers is over

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

This has an anti-competitive impact

Hellbanning everybody except for other big email providers is lazy, dishonest... and convenient.

It uses spam as a scapegoat to nerf deliverability and stifle competition.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

Nowadays, if you want to build services on top of email, you have to pay an email sending API which has been blessed by others in the industry. One of "them". This concept may sound familiar to you.

It's called a racket.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

It's only a matter of time that regulators realize that email is a for-profit oligopoly. And we should avoid that.

The industry must self-establish clear rules which are harsh on spammers but give everybody a fair chance.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

The email industry must lead its regeneration

We already have the technology in place but the industry has no incentives to move in this direction.

Nobody is making a great fuss when small servers are being discriminated against, so they don't care.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

I'm not asking for a revolution. Please hear my simple proposal out:

1. Let's keep antispam filters, of course.

2. Change blacklisting protocols so they are not permanent and use an exponential cooldown penalty.

3. Blacklists should not cover whole IP blocks.

4. Stop blackholing and send a daily notification to postmaster alerting them of deliverability issues.

5. Provide a recourse for legitimate servers, even if it has an associated cost.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

We cannot leave this to the politicians Big Tech companies are under serious scrutiny and being asked to provide interoperability between closed silos such as instant messaging and social networks.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

Well, email usage is fifteen points above social networking. Talk about missing the forest for the trees!

I guess nobody noticed the irony of regulating things that matter *less* than email.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

Right now institutions don't talk about regulating email simply because they take it for granted, but it's not.

We only need one politician's emails not delivered due to poorly implemented or arbitrary hellbans and this will be a hot button issue.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

We are all experiencing what happened when politicians regulated the web. I hope you are enjoying your cookie modals; browsing the web in 2022 is an absolute hell.

The industry should fix email interoperability before politicians do.

We will all win.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

You can find the full article with more details on this link.

cfenollosa.comAfter self-hosting my email for twenty-three years I have thrown in the towel. The oligopoly has...Many companies have been trying to disrupt email by making it proprietary. So far, they have failed. Email keeps being an open protocol. Hurray? No hurray. Email is not distributed anymore. You just...

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

If you agree, I would appreciate that you helped raise awareness of this invisible but serious topic.

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

Many people are asking me to name and shame, so I will do it:

Microsoft. I have been unable to deliver a single email to a Microsoft server in the past five years. live-dot-com, outlook-dot-com, and any organization using Office 365 as their email server. It goes to /dev/null

Carlos Fenollosa@cfenollosa

Insightful counterpoint.

This is why I love HN discussions, polite counterarguments by knowledgeable people!

PS: I'm not exaggerating and my IPs have never sent spam in ten years ;)

Carlos Fenollosa (@cfenollosa)
After self-hosting my email for twenty-three years I have thrown in the towel 😩 Email is now an oligopoly, a service gatekept by a few big companies which does not follow the principles of net neutrality.

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