The quiet death of postmaster@anywhere

June 6, 2010

I like following RFCs, by and large, and I like being a good Internet neighbour, and I have been behind one or another postmaster@ address for a very long time. But I have to face reality and admit something; regardless of what the RFCs say, the postmaster address is dead and has been for years, and basically no one would notice if we quietly turned off ours.

It would be one thing if postmaster addresses didn't get any email at all, but of course this isn't the case. Postmaster addresses may not get email from people any more, but they get plenty of spam and a decent amount of bounce messages. The people behind postmaster addresses have been noticing this for years, so for years more and more of them have been going dark; either there's no postmaster address at all, or email to it is never seen by a human (at least in practice). Of course this compounds upon itself; as more and more postmaster addresses have been turned into the equivalent of /dev/null, fewer and fewer people email any postmaster address any more so the spam piles higher and higher.

(One of the problems with any address that gets a large pile of spam and very little real email is that it's easy to miss the rare exception, ie the real mail. Humans very quickly come to expect the routine case and automatically assume it, and when the real case is spam you start deleting mail on reflex without really looking at it. When a real person emails you, it's easy to not actually notice.)

This may be different for large or popular domains, but it's certainly the truth here; I think it's been years since our postmaster alias got anything but spam or bounces. And these days I'd have to be pretty desperate before I bothered to email a postmaster address somewhere else (and I wouldn't really expect any results). So the reality is that postmaster addresses are dead and have been for years, however sad I find it that another bit of the old Internet has quietly come to an end.

(Despite having said this, we're not likely to turn off our postmaster address any time soon because right now, the spam filtering on it keeps the noise almost entirely away. But if that ever changed, I suspect that our postmaster alias might get axed fairly fast.)

Written on 06 June 2010.
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Last modified: Sun Jun 6 02:46:52 2010
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