Zombie email addresses: those email addresses that never really die, eat your brains and destroy your email delivery. To understand zombie addresses and why they’re just now becoming a problem, we really need to understand some of the history of email addresses.
In the early days of the net, people got an email address usually associated directly with their access to the Internet. Many of them ended with .edu or .gov. I even had one that ended in .BITNET for a while. The first ISPs followed this convention. Users signed up for an account at a local dialup and were assigned an email address, and that was their email address. It wasn’t until the late 1990′s where there was widespread access to multiple email addresses.
What this means is that when people left a job, or canceled their Internet access their email address went away. Addresses that were abandoned would, after a short period of time, start bouncing back with user unknown, giving everyone the opportunity to stop mailing that account.
Even with the advent of multiple addresses for a single account and the easy availability of free addresses from places like Hotmail addresses that had been abandoned would still bounce off a list. Why? Because accounts had limited storage. My first dialup account had, I think, 10MB of space. It may have been as much as 20MB, but it wasn’t very much. Accounts receiving a lot of mail that weren’t checked frequently would fill up and start bouncing mail. Senders would be able to remove abandoned accounts because they were full.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about two things happened in the early 2000′s that changed email and led to the rise of zombie email.