In my recent post about watching the Internet “grow up,” I noted True was a driving force in setting the “best practices” around email publishing — I pushed the first true Email Service Provider to add features I wanted, and one of those features was “double opt-in.” I don’t claim to have come up with the idea for verifying subscribers, but the first distribution package I used not only broke when there were more than 10,000 addresses on the list, it had no option to require that new subscribers did anything to confirm or “verify” they really want to subscribe.
It was a good idea in the 1990s, and it’s critical today. As the ESP Mailchimp used to say on their web site:
Double opt-in adds a layer of confirmation to your signup process before adding new subscribed contacts to your list, and it has three main benefits compared to single opt-in.
- Protection against spambots, email scams, and fake subscribers, which could increase your monthly benefit rates.
- Assurance of valid email addresses, confirmation that your subscribed contacts want to hear from you, and an archived record of the subscriber’s consent.
- Higher campaign open rates, and lower bounce and unsubscribe rates.
With just one week of notice to Mailchimp list owners, the company announced that unless owners take specific action, all of their existing lists, and any newly created lists, would have double opt-in turned off. What’s going to happen? Well, it probably already is happening: Mailchimp subscription forms hosted on thousands of web sites are almost surely going to get bombarded by “spambots, email scams, and fake subscribers” — and millions of addresses are likely to get subscribed to mailing lists without “the subscriber’s consent.”
Quite simply, this is obliviocy in action. The only reason I can think of for them to go against what is clearly Best Practices is there’s a financial reason for them to do so. The “best” financial reason I can think of for them to do this is to greatly inflate their subscriber numbers so they can inflate their company value to sell it or to offer stock (an IPO, or Initial Public Offering of stock). And I suspect this even though MailChimp co-founder Ben Chestnut is on record as saying he planned to remain independent, and “The only reason any sane entrepreneur would go public is if the investors needed an exit.”
In my opinion, assuming my supposition is true, the value will truly be “inflated” in that I would expect it to collapse when they fall on their faces with unhappy list owners complaining about all the garbage addresses on their lists, and the resulting lower “open rates” and significantly higher “bounce and unsubscribe rates” — not to mention the “increase in [their] monthly fees.”
I Know You Don’t Particularly Care about anonymous list owners, but consider that spammers already have your email address, and send you tons of junk. How easy it would be to add your address to lists so you get more and more mail. Why? Good question, but even with double opt-in on my lists (which I’ll never allow my lists to be switched to non-verified subscriptions!), I do sometimes get a rash of clearly fake addresses subscribed. I go to the trouble of watching all subscribes come in, and when I see them I take the time to go in and delete them (and no, I won’t say how I know they’re fake: just attribute it to 24 years of experience in email publishing!)
As a legitimate email publisher who makes it much easier to unsubscribe from my lists than to subscribe, I’m irritated at Mailchimp’s irresponsible action because it harms legitimate email publishers — and anyone with an email address who is victimized by scammers and pranksters taking advantage of setups that don’t follow well-established best practices.
For the record, no: I don’t use, and have never recommended, Mailchimp. I think the ESP I use, AWeber, is currently the best in the business, and that’s who I’d recommend if you’re fleeing Mailchimp now.
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