Yahoo Groups slides further down the spam source slope

November 11, 2016

I've written about Yahoo Groups' spam problem before and the situation has not gotten any better since 2014. Instead it's gotten worse, as I tweeted:

Yahoo Groups is now refusing to accept bounce messages for their messages, if you had any remaining doubt that it was a spam operation now.

You can pretend to be a legitimate mailing list operation even if you spew tons of spam with individualized MAIL FROM origin addresses (which real mailing list software does too). But this pretense falls apart when your theoretical legitimate mailing list operation stops accepting bounces, because the entire reason to individualize your MAIL FROM addresses is so that you can automatically track bounces of your messages and do sensible mailing list things like automatically remove addresses that don't work any more.

(This particular bounce only exists because for some reason this Yahoo Groups email wasn't scored as spam by our commercial anti-spam system. It was recognized as spam by the place the local recipient forwards their email to, so now we have a bad bounce we have to sit on.)

Of course I'm not so cynical (yet) that I think Yahoo is deliberately turning Groups into a spam operation, or at least I don't think that outside of angry moods when I'm especially grumpy. Instead I expect that it is a combination of two factors. First, Yahoo is just not bothering to spend resources on keeping 'unimportant' bits of Yahoo Groups in operation, and that includes the systems that do or don't accept return bounces. Second, I rather expect that Yahoo has no interest in reducing nominal usage of Yahoo Groups by throwing people off of it. Spammers are probably a very major source of remaining Yahoo Groups volume, which means that throwing them off would cause usage to shrink drastically very fast. That doesn't look good. So Yahoo looks the other way; users are users, right? Never mind what they're sending.

(I believe that Yahoo also attaches ads to every Yahoo Groups email message. More email volume, more ads attached, more revenue coming in, the better that Groups and Yahoo looks, and so on. An aggressive indifference to the consequences of revenue-generating activity is not exactly new, in Yahoo or elsewhere.)

There are parts of Yahoo that I will genuinely miss when the whole thing eventually collapses, like Flickr. But I loath Yahoo Groups with a dull passion these days and will be quite happy to see it die, whenever that comes to pass. Hopefully soon. When it happens, it will be good riddance to bad rubbish.

Comments on this page:

By Aneurin Price at 2016-11-11 15:09:38:

I have complicated feelings on the topic of rejecting bounces, but your situation appears to be that you've generated backscatter and are upset that it's not being accepted?

I have rather less complicated feelings on the topic of generating bouces to send to an MTA that you don't control, and those feelings are not positive.

By cks at 2016-11-11 15:50:34:

By the definitions I know, this isn't backscatter. Backscatter is specifically for forged MAIL FROMs, and these are entirely legitimate ones; this email really came from Yahoo Groups (and has eg the DKIM signatures to prove it). If Yahoo didn't want any bounces at all they should be emailing with eg a null sender.

My views on bounces are very simple: if you send email using anything but a null sender, you have a responsibility to accept bounces of it back.

(You don't have a responsibility to accept bounces for email that you didn't send, even for addresses that exist. There are a variety of ways to enforce this, but modern mailing lists have this especially easy as they tend to use essentially unforgeable and unique MAIL FROMs.)

Written on 11 November 2016.
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Last modified: Fri Nov 11 00:08:54 2016
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