Time to Shut AOL Down

This is an unusual topic for this blog. And a bold statement: It’s time for AOL to go out of business.

Why? Because they are an irresponsible participant in the internet community. They are damaging the internet.

I run several mailing lists hosted on DreamHost. I’ve been having problems the last couple years with bounces from AOL for subscribers who have AOL (or CompuServe or Netscape) email addresses. The reason? AOL customers have complained about spam being sent via DreamHost mail servers, so AOL frequently (and randomly, it seems) bounces all mail from a particular mail server. Now, I don’t know how many domains are hosted on DreamHost, but it’s a lot. It’s no surprise that some of them might send some spam, or have their accounts compromised and spam sent in their name. Spam, phishing, and malware emails are the scourge of the internet, but a very hard problem to solve. Blocking thousands of legitimate email senders will not address the problem. It’s gotten so bad that I had to notify my AOL subscribers (via a GMail account, since I couldn’t otherwise reach them) that it was unlikely they would receive their emails if they continued to use AOL email. The DreamHost customer support has worked on this issue numerous times, just on my behalf. It’s a losing battle. AOL is not listening. I’ve thrown in the towel at trying to keep them connected.

An event today added insult to injury. I received a couple of malware links from one of those AOL addresses, sent to me and a number of other addresses. I replied to let the owner of that account know that it was compromised. What happened? You guessed it; AOL bounced the email. It’s OK for AOL to send malware emails, but not possible for me to report it.

I don’t seem to have any way to get AOL’s attention. I’ve tried sending mail to postmaster@aol.com before, but that seems to go nowhere. I’ve tried to get their attention via DreamHost’s support department. I’ve tried to get their attention by asking their customers, whom they are inconveniencing by blocking legitimate email, to contact AOL’s support department. It all seems a dead end.

So, I’d like to see AOL come to a dead end. I’d like it if all ISPs would start bouncing all email from AOL, just as they do with DreamHost. If AOL cannot play nicely in the internet sandbox, I’d like for the rest of the internet to shun them as a pariah. I’m very tired of their pushing work on those of us trying to be good citizens of the net. Let them now become just a painful memory.


P.S. DreamHost isn’t perfect. For the price they charge, I certainly don’t expect them to be. They’re an excellent value, though, and I’ve been mostly happy with them for a number of years. If you’d like to sign up with them, use the code GD60DOLLAR and you’ll save $60, subject to their terms for the discount.

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Comments (2) to “Time to Shut AOL Down”

  1. Nice rant :)

  2. That’s typical.

    One Saturday afternoon in 1996 while I was running the trouble ticket system at UUNET, AOL decided that instead of dropping us a line, they were just going to start bouncing mail from budding spammer Sanford Wallace back to his postmaster, which was us. All of those bounces ended up in our system, the database behind it filled up and threw a fit and I ended up having to interrupt an out-of-town trip to come back and fix it. “Spamford” got the boot first thing Monday morning.

    AOL is probably using one or more of the spam blacklists, and your host’s mail exchanger is probably on it. I have a system hosted at ServerPronto, and they get around that problem by providing an outbound MX on a known inbound IP and a known-clean outbound IP. When someone runs spam through it, they get rid of the spammer and change the address. I’ve been with them for seven years and the arrangement works well.

    But yeah, I shake my head and wonder why AOL is still in business every time I drive through their campus in Ashburn.

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