Email Tools in an API World Laptop w Gears

Modern Email Tools Available To You

Email has a long heritage of standards and specifications, many of them are truly great and some are even followed. Implementing these standards requires considerable knowledge. Tools ease our work by encompassing that knowledge, packaging it up and making it available to all. One strong measure of a tool’s worth is its effectiveness at embodying knowledge and reducing cognitive load on the wielder.

The world of email tools is almost as rich as its body of standards. We have myriad services, applications, libraries and commands for configuring, testing, orchestrating and tracking our various messaging activities. The email industry is hugely advanced in the orchestration, delivery and tracking spaces, since those are where the broadest commercial interest lies. Unfortunately, tooling for email service configuration and testing is less advanced, possibly since those tools would merely improve engineers’ lives.

Suffice to say, there is still considerable knowledge required to configure, verify and troubleshoot one’s email estate.

Let’s look at a typical setup task that most email senders have grappled with: configuring DKIM signing for an email sending domain. DKIM allows you to take responsibility for the messages you send by associating your sending domain with your mail. Don’t worry too much if you don’t 100% follow all these steps. The intent is to show level of effort.

DKIM Setup: The Old School Way

Here are some outline steps we might follow to start signing our email.

  1. Generate an RSA key pair:

2. Extract just the public key:

3. Form our DKIM DNS record from public key:

4. Have our DNS provider publish the DKIM record under

5. Configure our email service to sign using your private key.

With that done, these ancillary points are left as an exercise for the reader:

DKIM Setup: The SparkPost Way

Ok, let’s try that again, this time using the SparkPost API.

  1. Ask SparkPost to create our sending domain and a matching DKIM key pair
    (we can also do this in the app):

2. Form our DKIM DNS record using API result
(Hint: SparkPost will show us the fully-formed record here):

3. Have our DNS provider publish the DKIM record

4. Verify our setup by clicking the DKIM record test button for your sending domain in SparkPost

Side note: Here are all the tasty the details on using SparkPost to manage and verify sending domains and also using the SparkPost API sending domains endpoint itself.

Much Better…

Now we’re a tiny bit biased but we do love our email API and it certainly reduces the user’s cognitive load here. Questions we no longer need to worry about:

  • What size should the RSA key be?
  • What even is an RSA key pair?
  • How do we invoke the openSSL toolkit correctly?
  • How do we handle our private key material safely?
  • How do we format our DKIM DNS record?

That single API call executes sending domain configuration, creates our DKIM keys and formats our DNS record all at once. There’s less to do, less to understand and fewer places to stub our toes along the way.

…But Not Perfect (Yet)

…and yet there are further submerged rocks to run aground on here. The DNS record could be fat fingered during publication, the DNS provider may truncate the record and what do you do if there’s an existing DKIM DNS record for your domain? How do we diagnose each of these and how do we verify the end-to-end DKIM signing and verification process?

These are all issues and questions we’ve seen in production use. Clearly, there’s more we could do, as a tool-loving developer community, to help each other be more reliably successful, faster and just plain happier in our work. Just as SparkPost has an email API, DNS services have record management APIs. Combine these with the modern web and we could build far better experiences for each other. For starters, how about:

  • A DKIM verification tool explicitly designed for diagnostic and remedial use (stay tuned for next week’s post!)
  • A modern validating SPF record editor
  • Open DMARC as a service

Against a background of modern API-driven workflows, email tooling looks a generation or so out of date. In the SaaS email infrastructure community, we can do better. Isn’t it about time for a new generation of messaging tools?

If you liked, hated, agreed, disagreed or just want to chat about email infrastructure, tooling, APIs or anything else, come join our burgeoning Slack Community. We’d love to hear from you.

—Ewan

we love developers

EmailAgeAPIsSMTP, the standard that defines email, is 30+ years old. Since the first email was sent the technologies used to implement, personalize, optimize, test, target, segment and deliver highly relevant messages from companies to consumers have dramatically evolved in terms of sophistication and potency.

What may have started as a single isolated email platform within a company’s technology stack has had to keep pace with the market’s evolution and the increased importance placed the digital marketer’s ability to drive revenue. As such, email systems and infrastructure have had to evolve to be leaner, more flexible and infinitely scalable, and to handle traffic from multiple stakeholders within an organization. In order to minimize the overhead of complex systems, multiple ESPs and external agencies, programmatic sending, targeting, template generation and deployment have become critical to ensuring that email deployment systems are as internally relevant as the content they’re sending.

The emphasis, naturally, is on cloud-based technologies—the migration of infrastructure, platforms and software to the cloud have been made possible through the standardization of APIs to link disparate systems. More importantly, business processes are being modeled through flexible REST frameworks that allow the customization of cloud-born technologies and infrastructures to meet a company’s unique and proprietary needs.

However golden the future may appear, there exists a reality that has to be understood: not all APIs are built alike. Not only do APIs differ, but platforms and infrastructure have vast differences in how they can be modeled, adapted and used to service the numerous outbound email needs of any company. Our new white paper, Email in the Age of APIs, was written to help technology buyers, and marketers, understand the nuances of API-driven email, how the technology can be transformative to an organization, the benefits and the pitfalls associated with the build-out of monolithic stacks. To learn more download Email in the Age of APIs.

Shared vs Dedicated Email Environments: A Practical Guide

 

 

We are excited to announce the availability of Momentum 4, the latest breakthrough in digital messaging technology.  With this latest release of our flagship messaging platform, Message Systems further cements its lead as the industry-leader in digital messaging.  These new capabilities in Momentum 4.0 will further enhance our customers’ email programs and drive even better customer engagement.

“With the release of Momentum 4, Message Systems is keeping its edge as the top-tier platform for enterprise-class senders,” said Jack Hogan, chief technology officer at Lifescript. “The analytical and data integration capabilities in the new platform will help email senders become more effective than ever before in creating compelling campaigns, reaching the inbox and engaging customers.”

The new features in Momentum 4 now provide real-time access to messaging and engagement data, new message generation and templating capabilities and new cloud-enabled APIs. Here’s what you can expect when you upgrade to Momentum 4.

1. Critical messaging and engagement data

  • Email analytics Momentum’s revamped architecture now allows for real-time capture and reporting of messaging events as they happen – from message transmission to customer conversion.
  • New user interface (UI) – With the new user interface, customers will be able to easily discern the success of transmissions and campaigns and quickly identify potential delivery problems or performance issues for resolution.

MomentumAnalytics1_600px

2. New message generation and templating capabilities

  • Message Generation: Lists, content and templates can be brought together to generate messages within the Momentum 4 platform to enable high-volume campaign-driven messages, as well as transactional messages, all in one unified messaging solution.
  • Template Management: Powerful, but easy-to-use template management allows data to be incorporated from external business intelligence solutions and other sources, as well as supports both in-line and stored templates.

3. New cloud-enabled APIs

  • Enhanced APIs: As the industry’s most extensible email software, Momentum 4 supports many new application programming interfaces, including new Injection APIs, Stored Template APIs and Aggregate Reporting APIs.
  • Industry Leading Performance: All new enhancements fully embrace Supercharger, allowing for unparalleled server density and messaging logic complexity.

The release of Momentum 4 further cements Message System’s position as the industry leader of digital messaging by turbocharging performance and helping customers to identify and quickly resolve issues in real-time. If you are interested in learning more about Momentum, we’ve got you covered. Read the full press release for more details or register for an online group training session by Message Systems University – Introduction to Momentum 4 for Senders.

 

Message Systems solutions power a global network of the largest, most complex messaging operations, such as Internet businesses Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and top email marketing companies like Yesmail and Marketo, which collectively send over 2.5 trillion messages a year — 20% of the world’s legitimate email. Find out why these top senders choose Momentum in the What Sets Momentum Apart white paper.

What Sets Momentum Apart