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Knowledgebase: Mailing Lists/ezmlm
Confirmed Opt-In Subscription Process Explained
Posted on 25 November 2003 07:41 AM
The FutureQuest Terms of Service require that all mailing lists be operated under a Confirmed Opt-In subscription process.

Confirmed Opt-In is a process by which email addresses are subscribed to a mailing list only after careful measures have been taken to ensure that the owner of the email address wishes to be added to the mailing list. Confirmed Opt-In is sometimes also referred to by other names, such as Double-Opt-In and Verified-Opt-In.

Mailing List owners may collect email addresses of potential subscribers in a variety of ways. Some examples:

  • By email - someone may provide an email address by sending you an email.
  • By web form - a form on a web site may be used to collect potential subscriber email addresses.
  • In writing - at face-to-face meetings or presentations email addresses may be written on a list or form.
  • Printed materials - you may receive a business card or other printed publication with an email address printed on it.

Before adding the subscriber to the mailing list, regardless of the means by which the email address was obtained, it is important to verify that:

  1. The email address has been provided with the consent of the actual owner of the email address.
  2. The owner of the email address has explicitly requested to receive your mailings.

It is possible that a third party may have provided the email address without the permission or knowledge of the email address owner. This can be intentional and malicious, or completely unintentional. Therefore, the list owner must verify the request in order to prevent persons from being subscribed without their knowledge or permission. Additionally, one cannot assume that merely because a person purchased a product from your company, or provided their business card, that this indicates they would like to receive your mailings. It is important to obtain explicit permission to add the email address to the mailing list.

In order to meet both of these requirements, a Confirmed Opt-In process should be used.

The primary benefit of Confirmed Opt-In is to protect your list and site against "spam" complaints, which can ultimately lead to account termination. As an added benefit of the Confirmed Opt-In process, only valid, functioning email addresses are added to the mailing list, foiling accidental typos by the submitter or list owner. By confirming that the address is valid and functioning, you ensure that your mailings reach your intended audience and also protect against elevated loads from the mail server dealing with a large numbers of bounce messages.

To implement a Confirmed Opt-In process, as required by the FutureQuest Terms of Service, you will need to send a confirmation email to each email address before it is subscribed to the mailing list.

The confirmation email must have the following characteristics:

  • Sent to the potential subscriber's email address.
  • Contains a unique, non-guessable token, which must be used in the reply to ensure that the response to the confirmation request does come from the owner of the email address.
  • An auto-response, vacation message, or bounce will not be able to serve as a verified response/request to the confirmation notice.
  • The confirmation notice may contain no advertising or promotional material, but only an appeal to complete the subscription process for the list.
  • It should clearly indicate that a response is required to add the subscriber to the mailing list and that this is the purpose of the confirmation email.

Additionally, for a better presentation and relationship with potential subscribers, you may also wish to include the following in the confirmation notice:

  • A note as to the origin of the subscription request. This may be a copy of the original subscription request email received if the request was received by email, or the IP address and timestamp when the request was received if made from a web form. Otherwise, if received from a face-to-face meeting, conference, or the like, a brief reminder of the circumstances under which the request was received may be helpful.
  • The list name and a brief reminder of the topic of the list.
  • A statement that, in the case that the email address owner did not originate the request and does not wish to be added to the mailing list, they may simply ignore the confirmation notice; that by taking no action, the email address will NOT be subscribed to the mailing list.

Please note that the ezmlm mailing list software, which is pre-installed on all FutureQuest® servers, provides a built-in Confirmed Opt-In process when an email is sent from the potential subscriber to the list subscription address, handling all of the requirements above transparently and automatically for the list owner. Additionally, FutureQuest® provides a subscribe/unsubscribe form for your website, which also uses the same automatic Confirmed Opt-In process. Should you wish to implement your own script to use this automatic Confirmed Opt-In process with FutureQuest's ezmlm/idx mailing list software, simply have your script send a request notice to

[mailing list]-subscribe-[username]=[example.com]@lists.[my domain]

where you replace all of the bracketed items above with the actual information.

[mailing list] should be replaced with your actual list name.
[username] and [example.com] should be replaced with parts of the potential subscriber's email address, assuming the email address to be confirmed is username@example.com.
[my domain] should be replaced with your actual domain, where you are hosting the list.

Note that the FutureQuest® Service Desk cannot provide direct support for implementing third party scripts, so we recommend seeking assistance for such implementation from the script vendor or from FutureQuest's Site Owner Community Forums.

For additional details about the Confirmed Opt-In processes, including how and why they should be used, as well as additional Mail List Prectices you may find this site helpful:
Spamhaus Project FAQ