I used to find it a bit of a bore to have to confirm that I really wanted to receive some communication I had just signed up for. This is the requirement for what is variously called ‘verified opt-in’ or ‘double opt-in’.

The argument for verified opt-in is that it is a necessary insurance against people being inappropriately emailed, i.e. subjected to spam.

The Spamhaus Project, a non-profit body dedicated to fighting the spam scourge, explains the basic distinction between legitimate bulk mailing and spam bulk mailing:

The difference between senders of legitimate bulk email and spammers couldn’t be clearer, the legitimate bulk email sender has verifiable permission from the recipients before sending, the spammer does not.

Then yesterday I came across some traces of a problem 1shoppingcart users seem to have been experiencing as a result of an alleged blacklisting. by The Spamhaus Project, of at least some emails being sent out via 1shoppingcart. See for example Graham Jones’s post 1shoppingcart has serious problems.

I’ve always been concerned not to spam people, even inadvertently, not just because it goes against my principles, but because it is increasingly becoming a very risky thing to do from a business point of view. Having tried out a few ‘autoresponder‘ email distribution and response services, I finally signed up for the AWeber service, partly because I felt it provided an excellent risk management system in terms of verifiable opt-in. When I configured my setup with AWeber, I had to choose whether to use ‘single opt-in’ or ‘verified opt-in’ and it was made clear that if I chose the latter, there was no scope to ‘downgrade’ to single, or unconfirmed, opt-in at a later date. I chose the verified opt-in.

I was aware that the very popular and elaborately featured 1shoppingcart service, which seemed to be used by a lot of people I knew, provided a double opt-in service that could be turned on or off. A few times I have wondered whether I should switch to 1shoppingcart and have more flexibility on the opt-in front.

This is how AWeber defines and explains ‘verified opt-in’, which they promote as a better option:

Frequently called confirmed opt-in or double opt-in, it is generally defined as sending an email to a new subscriber request to verify that they are the person who made the request before adding them to a mailing list. This is usually accomplished by means of an email message sent to the subscriber to which they must reply, or containing a URL which they must visit, in order to complete the subscription. This prevents others from accidentally or maliciously adding an email address to a mailing list that does not belong to them.

There’s little doubt in my mind that some people will not complete the process, perhaps because the ‘please confirm’ email gets caught in a spam trap (that has happened for things I have subscribed to) or perhaps because the person has had second thoughts or just can’t be bothered. On the other hand, it’s a reasonable assumption that people who go to the extra trouble of confirming do actually want to be on your list and more likely, on balance, to stay subscribed.

Overall, in terms of long-term risk management and business continuity, I am comfortable with having selected the verified opt-in option with AWeber.

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