A number of our clients have reported that they have not received email messages from one or two specific senders. All their other messages are arriving normally. Our clients think we’re blocking those sender’s messages, and they want us to troubleshoot the problem and unblock those senders. We don’t block any sender, so we were eager to find out what was causing the problem. Troubleshooting this issue wasn’t easy, but we finally figured out what the problem is.

Every email message has a unique ID number and includes information that lets us trace the time it was sent, the route it took through the internet to get to its destination (you), and the time you received it. As long as the message has actually been received at your mail server, we can use the information to track problems with that message. But if a message never even arrives at your mail server, we have no information at all…so where do we start? Here’s how we’ve determined what the problem is.

Email works like U.S. Postal Service mail. When somebody sends you an email message, it first travels from their computer to their outgoing mail server. (Just like a letter first goes from the mailbox at their house to their local post office.)

Their outgoing mail server attempts to make a direct connection to your incoming mail server to transfer the message. If the connection is successful, the message is transferred to your incoming mail server. It waits on your incoming mail server until you receive new messages, at which point it’s delivered to you. (Just like USPS trucks carry letters from senders’ post offices to your local post office, where the letter waits before you either pick it up or your letter carrier delivers it.)

If a sender’s outgoing mail server can’t establish a direct connection to your incoming mail server (because of excessive internet traffic or a problem in the internet’s infrastructure that prevents a direct connection), it tries to find a more indirect route that will allow it to deliver the message. (Just as USPS trucks sometimes have to detour in Winter to get around a heavy snow storm.)

If their mail server is unable to find a way to get the message to you, a “bounce” message is sent to the sender letting saying that their message could not be delivered, along with numerical and english explanation of why. (Just like your letter being returned to you with a rubber stamp or handwritten note explaining why it couldn’t be delivered).

Email route through the internet


We’ve examined the bounce messages from senders who were unable to successfully send messages to our clients and found a common thread. The error in every message was, “Unable to establish a connection,” and in every case, the problem was that the sender’s email was hosted by GoDaddy. We wondered why GoDaddy’s outgoing mail servers wouldn’t be able to establish a connection to our client’s incoming mail servers, since we use web standard POP3, IMAP, and SMTP mail servers.

We attempted to contact GoDaddy’s technical department to resolve the issue, but they were unwilling to speak with us because we’re not “GoDaddy email hosting customers.” So we began to do some web research to see whether anyone else was experiencing similar problems.

What we found is that GoDaddy’s outgoing email servers arbitrarily refuse to communicate with whole ranges of internet addresses for a period of time. Any mail server whose address falls within that range will not receive messages from any GoDaddy customer. The problem has been going on for years, and GoDaddy customers have been complaining to GoDaddy…but the problem hasn’t stopped. We’ve included pictures of a number of the posts we found of various forums and blogs about this issue.

We don’t understand why GoDaddy would allow their mail servers to prevent their own email customers from sending messages to whoever they choose. After all, that’s precisely the service their customers are paying the monthly fee for, isn’t it?

Unfortunately GoDaddy is the only one who can resolve this problem. They are the only one with control over their mail servers. GoDaddy customers who find themselves unable to get messages through to one or a few other people should immediately insist that GoDaddy fix the problem.

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