Sending emails on behalf of users

Our application, much like many others, uses email as a means of communication between users. We recently made a design goal to send these emails from the users themselves as opposed to from our application. The decision itself seems to have been easier than the spam filters, spf records, domainkeys, and ActionMailer patch implementation details that ensued.

I’ll publish a list of articles that articulate the necessary technical steps to not only send email out on behalf of users (this is the easy part), but to get beyond spam filters, but for now I’m concentrating on motivations for sending out said emails as users.

The scenario that I’m considering is one familiar with users and developers of social networking sites. User John Doe invites Jane to use “My Application.” At this point, Jane will either receive an email from Accounts@MyApplication.com or else an email from John@hisdomain.com. I think it’s fairly obvious that a barrier of trust exists when users receive an invitation from some arbitrary domain owner …. such as “My Application,”regardless of how convincing the message is. Therefore I’m convinced that for virality, it’s ideal to invite users by using their email addresses, ie. John@hisdomain.com.

Before I begin to expand on implementation details in getting beyond spam filters, I must admit that at certain points, I began to question the nature of what we were doing. Part of me at times felt as though spam, and spoofing in particular, was exactly what we were trying to accomplish. I

In the end however, I am comforted and assured that what we are doing does not infringe on any privacy issues. Ultimately, users are intending on inviting others to collaborate with them. They intend to send a message to their friends or colleagues that they’d like to work with them; we enable these messages to be delivered in a natural way using the email addresses the users are working with.

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