Technical and Policy Requirements for Sending Email to AOL

Failure to meet these requirements will result in reduced delivery of your mail. We also have a best practices document for email senders.

Technical Requirements

  • All email must be RFC compliant. (Refer to RFC 2821 & RFC 2822)
  • All email servers connecting to AOL's mail servers must have valid, meaningful, non-generic reverse DNS records.
Examples:
  • Good RDNS: mail.domain.com
  • Generic RDNS: 1.2.3.3.domain.isp.com
  • All e-mail servers connecting to AOL's mail servers must be secured to prevent unauthorized or anonymous use. Ensure your mail server is not an open proxy or an open relay.
  • Ensure all forms on your web server are secure. If you use formmail scripts, ensure they cannot be used to send spam.
  • Direct connections from dynamically assigned/residential customer IP addresses to AOL's mail servers may not be accepted.
  • Organizations may not hard code AOL's mx records into their configuration files.

Policy Requirements

  • Any email sent to AOL members must conform to AOL Legal's Community Guidelines.
  • All commercial email must be CAN-SPAM compliant.
  • All subscription based e-mail must have valid, non-electronic, contact information for the sending organization in the text of each e-mail including phone number and a physical mailing address.
  • Bulk mailings should contain simple and obvious unsubscribe mechanisms. We recommend that this be in the form of a working link to a one-click unsubscribe system.
  • Email senders must not do anything that tries to hide, forge or misrepresent the sender of the e-mail and sending site of the e-mail.
  • Opt-in information, including how an email address was obtained, the date/time of opt-in, and the IP address the user opted in from must be made available on request.
  • Entities sending subscription-based mail must remove any email address which generates any of the following error codes:
    • 550 "username" Is Not Accepting Mail From This Sender
    • 550 Mailbox not found
    • 550 We would love to have gotten this email to example_user@aim.com. But, your recipient never logged onto their free AIM Mail account. Please contact them and let them know that they're missing out on all the super features offered by AIM Mail. And by the way, they're also missing out on your email.
A complete list of AOL error codes can be found here.
  • Member complaints, bounces, invalid recipients, failure to accept bounces, and spam trap hits all contribute to a sender's reputation. Any sender with a poor reputation may be automatically removed from the AOL whitelist. A pattern of such abuses common to a single organization may result in the revocation of whitelist status for some or all of that organization's IP Addresses. For tips on improving your reputation, check out our best practices document for email senders.
  • AOL may remove an IP from the whitelist without notice for violation of any of these technical or policy requirements.

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HTML In Email

HTML e-mail is used to bring life to e-mail communications. Originally, e-mails were restricted to plain text; now, new e-mail programs allow users to see more vibrant and dynamic content. These e-mails can now include colors, links, and images, making them as attractive and visually stimulating as web pages.

HTML e-mails are created by including HTML tags into the body of the e-mail and then inserting a special MIME type that tells the program to render the content according to HTML rules. It's important to include the MIME type; without it, the e-mail is displayed in plain text only, and the HTML tags become visible to the reader.

MIME stands for Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions. MIME types are used to send non-ASCII information, and this is what allows e-mail programs to realize that it's an image instead of a garbled series of characters.

MIME types are specified in the header of the e-mail, which is where the program also finds the "To", "From", and other display or encoding information. Typically, when an e-mail is sent, it includes the line

Content-Type: text/plain

This notifies the program that a plain text e-mail has been received. To send HTML e-mail, the Content-Type should be modified. Depending on the situation, one of the following will be used:

Content-Type: text/html
Content-Type: text/x-aol

Most HTML e-mail capable programs understand the first Content-Type, including AOL 6.0. Older versions of AOL, however, require the second Content-Type to be used.

Does an e-mail program support everything? Not at all. These e-mail programs are often only able to do a simplified amount of rendering. They certainly are not able to perform on the level of your average Internet Explorer or Netscape browser.

One reason is because of the security hazards involved with sending HTML e-mails. These e-mails can expose the unwary user to hostile viruses or other intrusive programs. Starting with the AOL 6.0 client, the e-mail program will render nearly all HTML tags but will exclude several pieces of functionality typically found on websites.

  • Scripts (e.g.. JavaScript, VBScript)
  • Java
  • Frames and IFrames
  • Tooltips
  • Active X
  • Video
  • Audio
  • External Style Sheets
  • Meta Refresh

The common theme here is end-user security. Malicious e-mailers can bury a wide variety of harmful actions within the HTML e-mail, including programs that activate upon download. Also, as is the case with Meta Refresh, a user can be sent to another web site automatically. It is important to AOL that the end-user be protected from these potential security hazards.

On AOL clients older than 6.0, the MIME header should be MIME/X-AOL. This allows the e-mail to be translated using AOL's Rich Text Format. RTF is not as full featured as what is available from AOL 6. HTML tags that are not supported by RTF will be displayed as plain text. Additionally, no tables are supported. Users should be careful to only use the following tags when sending HTML e-mail to clients older than AOL 6.

BREAK:   BR
FONT: 	 FONT
BOLD: 	 B
ITALICS:   I
UNDERLINE:   U
SUBSCRIPT:   SUB
SUPERSCRIPT:   SUP
BIG:   BIG
SMALL:   SMALL
HEADER:   H1, H2, H3
PARAGRAPH:   P
BODY:   BODY
HYPERLINK:   A
CENTER:   CENTER
STRONG:   STRONG

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AOL Unsolicited Bulk E-mail Policy

America Online, Inc. ("AOL") does not authorize the use of its proprietary computers and computer network (the AOL Network") to accept, transmit or distribute unsolicited bulk e-mail sent from the Internet to AOL members. In addition, Internet e-mail sent, or caused to be sent, to or through the AOL Network that makes use of or contains invalid or forged headers, invalid or non-existent domain names or other means of deceptive addressing will be deemed to be counterfeit. Any attempt to send or cause such counterfeit e-mail to be sent to or through the AOL Network is unauthorized. Similarly, e-mail that is relayed from any third party's mail servers without the permission of that third party, or which employs similar techniques to hide or obscure the source of the e-mail, is also an unauthorized use of the AOL Network. AOL does not authorize anyone to send e-mail or cause e-mail to be sent to the AOL Network that violates AOL's Terms of Service. AOL does not authorize the harvesting or collection of screen names from the AOL service for the purpose of sending unsolicited e-mail. AOL reserves the right to take all legal and technical steps available to prevent unsolicited bulk e-mail or other unauthorized e-mail from entering, utilizing or remaining within the AOL Network. Nothing in this policy is intended to grant any right to transmit or send e-mail to, or through, the AOL Network. AOL's failure to enforce this policy in every instance in which it might have application does not amount to a waiver of AOL's rights.

Unauthorized use of the AOL Network in connection with the transmission of unsolicited bulk e-mail, including the transmission of counterfeit e-mail, may result in civil and criminal penalties against the sender, including those provided by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. 1030 et seq.) Civil and criminal penalties may also apply to e-mail transmitted to the AOL Network in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.