Email services used by users

Many users of Bandhan subscribe to weekly alerts features.  Our users receive weekly mails for new matches that meet their search criteria.

Out of curiosity, we did some analysis of email services used by our users. This data is generated from few tens of thousands of our users.  It is tad surprising to see Gmail leading with 50%.  Yahoo is next with 34% share and Rediff with 11% share. Together, the top 3 service account for a massive 95% share.

Facebook has announced messaging service.  Probably, all the Facebook users will have their own email address soon.  With more than 500 million users, it would be interesting to see how Facebook affects email services.


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Story of the rock-solid wobbly email

Email is one of the important building block of almost every web application.  Given its ubiquity, it should be commodity and easy to do.  Truth, as we came to know in a rather tough way, is it is not so.

Till a few weeks back, we hosted on Amazon’s EC2.  Since, most of the IP addresses on EC2 are dynamic, they figure in many email blacklists. Users of Bandhan can opt to receive mails for matching profiles every week. We wanted to ensure our users didn’t miss out on our mails. So, we signed up with a third-party SMTP service from DNS Made Easy.  We sent (and continue to send) mails only to the opt-in list.   The volume of mail is less than 4 mails per user per month.  We provide a single click unsubscribe and that link is present in every email that we send. If you think what’s so great about it, check out the Oatmeal on email etiquette (scroll down to “unsubscribe”).  Things went quite smoothly, till the point when they didn’t.

I renewed subscription of DNS Made Easy at the end of September 2010 and we were set for another year.

It was morning of the  Diwali festival in early November, when I saw the mail from DNS Made Easy with subject “SMTP account terminated.”  The mail said our account has been marked as spam.  We were sending mails to non-existent email addresses. That caused Yahoo to block mail server of DNS Made Easy. They in-turn blocked our account.

That robbed fun out of my Diwali celebration, to put it mildly.

When we send mails via DNS Made Easy, we don’t receive any reports about result.  So, we had no idea we were sending mails to non-existent addresses.  We sent 2 messages to Yahoo via a form meant for bulk senders.  There was one reply to our requests, but sadly, the response was unrelated to the issue raised. We tried to reason with DNS Made Easy. They agreed that we are not spamming, but they politely refused to reinstate the service.

So, we setup postfix on our own. We setup SPF to give a signal that we are not spammers.  We monitored postfix log to get list of bouncing mail addresses. We now ensure that we never send a mail to that address again.

The problem is users give their email address incorrectly.  Here are the invalid domain names that people enter.

Yahoo  :  yahoo.con  yahoo.coin  yahoo.mail  yahoo.inr  yahoo.i  yahoo.gom  yahoo.comh  yahoo.cin  yahoo.cfom  yahoo.ami   YAHOO.GO.COM  YAHOO.COM.IN

Gmail:  gmail.con  gmail.ocm  gmail.cpm  gmail.corr  gmail.comp  gmail.comm  gmail.cim  gmail.cdm

Rediffmail:  rediffmail.vcom  rediffmail.cpm  RIDIFFMAIL.COM

There are many more but Yahoo, Gmail and Rediffmail are the most popular ones. Plus there are cases where users have entered incorrect username (this probably includes deactivated accounts.)

In a country like India, where English is not the first language (in many cases, it is not even second),  email is quite brittle.  While it is extremely simple and powerful, it is not as simple as a phone number.  Sir Tim Berners-Lee would be surprised to know that some users think, like websites, email addresses need to start with “www.”

Some unsolicited advice (and request) to Yahoo. Yahoo carried a re-branding exercise few months back where they ran TV commercials and bought the entire front page of largest English daily.  Next time, they should allocate a small part of the budget to create ads about email awareness.  Ideally, these educational ads should be run in regional language news papers.  It will make a far-reaching impact on non-digital natives.

Well, a long post which is part reflective, part rant and part learning, but mostly desire to put this on record so that I can come back later to amuse myself.

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A quick hello

The blog has not been updated in a long time.  Generally, this is not taken as a good sign. But, we want to assure you that Bandhan is keeping us quite busy.  Supporting Lacs of users isn’t an easy task, you see.   Our users love us.  Here is one  mail we received recently.

Hi Shashikant, Sachin and team:
I was amazed by the words in your site, (not talking about the profiles). I mean, the content writing of the website.  It was a pleasant experience for me, browsing through.
Your words proved that you saw me as person; as a human. Thanx for that.
There is respect and empathy through out the site and in the emial that you sent. I was reading the – about bandhan- and I felt as if a friend was talking to me with kindness and respect for what I am.  Also, you have used a simple language, simple words that I can understand, easily. I liked it.
I just had to tell you this; because it was something new to me.
Thank you for the sophistication you have shown in doing business. I wish you all the best.
Many users like J drop us a note and say kind words about Bandhan.  This is a humbling experience.  Thank you for all the love.

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No drop in NRI Profiles

Today’s Business Standard carries an article about drop in paid subscription by NRIs. But the one line summary of the article – “NRIs desert these websites in large numbers after job losses in the west” – suggests there are no profiles of NRIs on matrimonial services.

While we don’t have any data on paid subscriptions of NRIs, we do have data about new profiles added in each month. Since it’s been barely two months that we are live, our data is limited to last 5 months including January. And the truth is, well, boring. The percentage on NRI profiles has been moving in a narrow range of 15-18%.  Here is the chart for the same.

NRI Profiles on

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Tell your friends about Bandhan by SMS

A quick update.

Now you can tell your friends in India about Bandhan by SMS.    You can also pass a word about Bandhan by email. You get the message text that you can send to your friends. Copy-paste that text of the message in email body and send it to your friends.

Go ahead and invite your friends who you think will find this service useful.

Oh, BTW, we are now on twitter.  Follow us at @Bandhan.

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Get the matches in RSS feed

coffeecup_feed_add_128x128A confession. I am a feed junkie. There are more than 300 subscriptions in Google Reader.  We wanted to provide Bandhan‘s search results via RSS for some time.

Here is how easy it is. You provide your match criteria once, and then add the feed in your Reader. You will keep on getting stream of profiles right in your feed reader. It can’t get any simpler than that.

We also added capability to browse profiles based on a certain criteria. For example, if you are looking for brides with management education, you can get it in one click.

You can browse profiles by education, location, language, religion and community.  Browse the profiles of brides and grooms.

Hope you like the progress in baby steps.

Coffee cup RSS icon courtesy: FastIcon (via Smashing Magazine)

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The search widens

We are happy to announce addition of 4 new matrimony services to our search.

These services are targeted at Maheshwari, Agarwal and Jain communities, respectively, especially in North India.

We are also adding a service from Kerala. I hope, this will bring smile to our Malayalee friends.

Together, these services have over 1,00,000 profiles. And growing.

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