worst bounce message ever

AOL bounce message:

<joshuadukes11@aol.com>: host mailin-02.mx.aol.com[] said: 550 We
    would love to have gotten this email to joshuadukes11@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. Thanks. (in reply to RCPT TO command)

What the heck? The message wasn’t sent to joshuadukes11@aim.com, so why are you telling me I should contact this non-existent person and tell them to use your stuff? (It’s even better when you get these as a result of a joe job, as I did here.) Of course, the 550 is enough for me to know what’s up, but how many typical users are going to understand that this means “Address does not exist”?

It’s disappointing — email used to be one thing that AOL did pretty well, as big ISPs go, but apparently the AIM marketing team has got its nose in now.

Hrm, actually, it’s even stranger than that:

RCPT TO:<there_is_no_way_this_exists@aol.com>

So there’s some sort of special attribute in the above example that makes it undeliverable in a different way than a completely-nonexistent user — and knowing what the special attribute is requires some knowledge of AOL mail internals. Lovely.

4 responses to “worst bounce message ever”

  1. It makes sense to me, actually. AOL is probably expecting some people to forget whether the person they’re e-mailing is aol.com or aim.com, so if the there isn’t a user johndoe@aol.com, it checks to see if there’s a registered screenname with aim for johndoe, and if there is, it checks to see if they signed up for that annoying aim.com e-mail thing, and if they didn’t, they assume that you were trying to e-mail one of the people on your buddylist because you knew their screenname, not their e-mail address. So it tells you that when your buddy is online next, tell him that he missed your e-mail because he didn’t sign up for their annoying service.

  2. on the other hand, if there’s no such aol account and no such aim screenname, it makes sense that it’s 550 mailbox not found, no special error message.

  3. Sounds like they have an autocreate-inbox-on-login mechanism. Somebody can signup for the account, but they have to login before it will work. I’m doing something similar to this on my personal mail system. It’s cleaner to add the entries to the user database and use an autocreate-on-login mechanism than to make the user database transaction dependent on the imap server.