Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(May 1997)

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Subject: Re: rejected mail - RFC822 conflict ???
From: Brad Knowles <BKnowles @ aol . net>
Organization: America Online, Inc.
Date: Wed, 07 May 1997 19:12:52 -0400
To: Eric Thomas <ERIC @ VM . SE . LSOFT . COM>
Cc: LSTOWN-L @ PEACH . EASE . LSOFT . COM, LSTSRV-L @ PEACH . EASE . LSOFT . COM, Valdis Kletnieks <Valdis . Kletnieks @ VT . EDU>, Michael Ramundo <sysmrr @ CNSIBM . ALBANY . EDU>, Jeff Kell <jeff-kell @ UTC . EDU>, Pete Weiss <Pete-Weiss @ PSU . EDU>, list-managers @ GreatCircle . COM
In-reply-to: Your message of "Wed, 07 May 1997 23:54:11 +0200." <199705072239 . SAA08451 @ postman . ops . aol . com>
Reply-to: KnowlesB @ aol . net

Your message dated: Wed, 07 May 1997 23:54:11 +0200

> *sigh* All  right. How much SMTP  mail did AOL deliver  yesterday? L-Soft
> made 4,143,362 deliveries  yesterday (below average). I  imagine that AOL
> delivered well over  41,433,620 SMTP messages in that time  frame, or you
> would not have applied this remark to me.

    I've discovered over the years that it's not recipient deliveries
that are important, since large numbers of deliveries typically
get sent to the same MXes (so what you would need to count instead
would be number of separate envelopes delivered).  Instead, what
separates the wheat from the chaff is the total number of messages
*received*, or for which delivery attempts were made.

    We received over five million messages yesterday (and rejected
another seven million delivery attempts), to a total of almost 23
million recipients.  The Internet side is typically about half the
total volume of the AOL mail system as a whole.

    If you want to count individual recipients, then guess what
-- that's about 45 million, which is even slightly higher than the
number you'd quoted.

    Now, how many million messages did you receive yesterday?

> As  a matter  of  fact, yes,  I  do think  I could  do  better than  your
> sendmail-based setup!

    Then put your money where your mouth is.  Give up your day
job and come over here to learn how the big boys play the game.

    Until you think in terms like terabyte and petabyte the way
everyone else talks about kilobytes and megabytes, you won't be
thinking on the right kind of scale as to where we are today, much
less where we have to plan to be tomorrow.

    I know that sounds crass, and in a way it's supposed to.
However, it's been my experience that *no* one has been prepared
for the scale of the operation we run here, the first day they walk
in the door (heck, even three to six months later).

    Until you can think in the right scale, and invent solutions
out of wholecloth for the unique types of problems that presents,
there are just some things you can't talk intelligently about.

>                                                                   What is
> going to  happen though  is that  the spammers  will get  a clue,  if not
> tomorrow then  next week or next  month, and they will  stop sending mail
> with source routed  MAIL FROM:, since it does not  get there, and instead
> use a  % hack,  the hostname of  some random cisco  somewhere in  the net
> (that would work  wonders on your sendmail queues!), or  why bother, just

    If we see an excessive number of messages that threaten the
AOL mail system using the "% hack", then we'll turn that off too.
I'd really hate to have to do it (since I've used that myself to help
debug mail problems in the past), but we'll do what we have to do.

    As for null envelope senders, that actually doesn't do much to
threaten the AOL mail system, since we'd never attempt to generate
a bounce in that case anyway.

>                              I still don't  agree with the  approach, but
> this at  least makes  some measure  of sense.  Definitely more  than just
> stating  that  source  routes  are  intrinsically evil  and  need  to  be
> exterminated.

    You obviously don't understand.  This is not a discussion about
how things should be done, it's a simple statement of fact about
how the AOL mail system works.  Period.

    If you want to debate the technical issues with me in private,
I'll be willing to discuss them so long as there appears to be a
valid reason for continuing to do so.

> We do  this as well, and  frankly I don't  know where you got  the notion
> that I  do not have to  deal with spammers on  a daily basis and  have no
> idea how mean  they can be and so  on.

    I know quite well that you have to deal with junkmailers on a
daily basis, and from what I've seen, you've done a pretty good job.
However, no other site on the *planet* has to deal with them on
the scale that we do.  This is a case where a difference in size
has created a difference in kind.

>                                        I am only disputing  the wisdom of
> rejecting perfectly  legitimate messages  (which have 2-3  recipients and
> are thus clearly not  spam) on the basis that the  MAIL FROM: field looks
> like  what the  current  version  of a  popular  spam program  generates,
> especially since there will be a new  version of the spam program soon to
> correct this "problem".

    Unfortunately, we are required by law to take whatever technical
means are possible to prevent "abuse" of our systems, and only when
all possible avenues of technical methods are exhausted, will the
courts (or lawmakers) then listen to our complaints.

    Such is the legal system we have to live with.

Brad Knowles                                MIME/PGP: KnowlesB @
 aol .
    Senior Unix Administrator              <>

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