Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Mystery of Email Pinging - Solved

The Secrets of Email Verification Exposed

Have you ever wondered how email verification / validation is done? Here's how.
email ping


Why I've Published "The Secret"

I've been developing online email validation services, technology and software since 2009. It's this technology that powered the worlds first online, self service bulk email verification launched back in 2010 branded as email-checker.com. Since 2010, email-checker.com has forged forward with delivering an ever increasing range of online email verification services. Email-checker.com in 2015 cleanses email lists and removes millions of dirty / bad email addresses on a daily basis.

Having been at the very sharp end of developing the software and infrastructure from the ground up, I can state with a certain level of direct knowledge that email address verification, pinging or whatever you choose to call it is not an easy thing to do particularly in scale (i.e. large volumes) whilst maintaining a good level of accuracy. Getting email-checker.com to the point where it is today has taken an almost herculean effort in terms of research and development, finding and hiring the right technical and business teams to grow the product and business.

On a fairly frequent basis, I get asked the question

"How hard can email verification really be, it can be done in a few dozen lines of PHP script?"

The answer of course is that at a basic level the process is simple. The secret in doing it effectively at scale is however a completely different proposition. It's the "difficult doing it at scale" bit that attracts the doubters. I have to confess to historically being somewhat frustrated by the doubters but today I accept it as a fact of life in growing our business.

In my time with email-checker.com, many former doubters who have tried (unsuccessfully) to do "their own thing" with scripts have gone on to be loyal, appreciative customers. I have yet to encounter anyone who has had great success with self hosted, script based solutions. The scenario usually plays out as follows:

  • Programmer does brief amount of research and believes email validation is "easy".
  • Creates script in about 30 minutes, deploys to server.
  • Email validation works of a fashion (although it can't do some domains such as Yahoo) with low volume, user based testing.
  • The business fires medium to large data volumes at the script. 
  • It breaks under load (for many reasons that I'm not getting into here).
  • Realization that email verification is not easy after all.
This scenario is oh, so common. I get how it happens but watching it never gets any easier. So, I've decided perhaps it's time to create a resource to speed things up a little.

The "Secret"

I can state, with 100% conviction (having done the nuts and bolts of infrastructure and system development for more than 5 years) that doing email verification at scale is not as simple as writing a few lines of PHP. I am so convinced of this, I'm even giving away a free script that can be used as a jump start to deploying and testing self hosted email verification.

But wait, there's more. I'm publishing the detailed nuts and bolts of how to do email verification specifically using a PHP script.

In the resources section below, is everything to get a self hosted email verification script up and running fast.

So what's been your experience with setting up these or other email validation scripts? Comments welcome below.

The Resources

Saturday, 13 December 2014

And We're Back!

Finally back online

my domain name

It's been a while since my last blog post to say the least. My old blog went offline in 2011. Why? Good question!

To cut a very long story short(er), here's what happened.

My domain (rowlandoconnor.com) was up for renewal. The renewal fee at the time was a little higher than fees available elsewhere so my "master plan" to save a few pound notes was to let the domain lapse in the old domain registration service and then renew in the new, cheaper registrar. What could possibly go wrong?

Within minutes of the domain lapsing and coming up for public availability, someone else registered it! I had not anticipated the speed at which this could take place. I'm guessing that some automated process must have registered the domain.

The effect of this was that my domain was pulled out from under my feet and in the hands of a new owner. There was nothing I could do. Very frustrating!

The new owner of rowlandoconnor.com put up a single page site with some paid listings presumably hoping to make a few bucks from the organic traffic to my old blog. I guess that this would have made a some small change initially until search engines caught up and de-indexed all of my old content and the organic traffic would have dried up.

At the time, I did consider contacting the new owner but decided against it as I suspected that a buy back arrangement would probably have been expensive. Instead, I decided to say nothing and simply wait it out to see what happens. Unsurprisingly, with an inevitable combination of dwindling click revenues and no offer to buy back the domain, the new owner decided to let the domain lapse again as it was probably unprofitable to pay the domain renewal fees.

So, what's my learning experience from this story? Firstly, I don't blame the person or system that popped up and registered the domain and took it from under my nose. I took my eye off the ball and allowed it to happen. What I didn't know at the time (but do now) is that there are automated systems trawling domains up for renewal. It's important to keep your renewals going even if you don't intend to stay with your existing domain registrar. For me, what happened was not too serious - just some lost content on SCUBA and other random thoughts at the time. It could have been a very different story if the domain were business critical (e.g. making a living from it).

As far as the content on the old blog goes, I'm not intending to re-publish any of this. Old content is, well, old and a lot has changed in my personal and professional world years since 2011. Let's stick to the present;)

It's good to be back..