Commentary

Verizon Dumps Email Users

The email world was shaken on Friday when Verizon announced it was deactivating its 4.5 million verizon.net email addresses, essentially abandoning its service. As reported by Jess Nelson for MediaPost, Verizon email users have three choices: They can “transfer their email account to AOL (which is owned by Verizon), transfer to another email provider, or leave their accounts untouched in favor of deletion.”


Is Verizon telling simply users to get lost? Maybe not, but at least one observer criticized the telecom for its clumsiness.

“I’m surprised about the whole way it was handled,” said Jay Schwedelson, CEO of Worldata, in an interview. “Verizon owns AOl, a nice infrastructure, and will ultimately be owning Yahoo, which has one of the  largest email infrastructures. It has many conduits to keep these email accounts viable and transferred in a more seamless way. It seems frankly bizarre that they would suggest people move onto other email platforms, as if not they were not aware of the other appendages they had.”

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Schwedelson added that other legacy transfers were handled in a more seamless way — like that of Bell South.

“I don’t believe you can still get a BellSouth account, but those accounts are now maintained by Yahoo, and they’re still viable,” he said. “Hotmail went to Outlook.com, and in much more of a customer-focused methodology, where it was, ‘Your account is going from this to this, be aware of that, do these things to transfer over.’ With Verizon, there was an odd finality to it — a strange way of doing things.”

Despite this, some experts think this switch will ultimately help consumers. For example Rob Pegoraro wrote in USA Today that “AOL isn’t a separate company. It's a Verizon property, having been bought in 2015. And not only should any mail, contacts and calendars saved on Verizon’s web-mail site transfer intact (note that although I use Verizon’s Fios Internet service myself, I have yet to get the e-mail announcing the move), you’ll get a better e-mail service.”

How so? “Verizon’s current mail system features the least effective spam filter I have seen in some 25 years of e-mail use,” Pegoraro wrote. “It also doesn’t support a standard feature called IMAP that will sync messages across multiple devices; download an e-mail from Verizon’s site to your laptop, and you can no longer see it on your phone.”

Ultimately, AOL email addresses may be more secure than they once were. “AOL reported a major breach of its email in 2014, which affected 2 percent of its customers, an estimated 500,000 users,” wrote Hayley Tsukayama in February when covering the Verizon plan for The Washington Post.

“AOL did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how it has improved its security since the breach. But the company learned from its mistakes, said John Levine, an email infrastructure consultant and author of ‘The Internet for Dummies.’

“AOL's mail program may not have a modern aesthetic, he said, but consumers can consider its capabilities and security on par with major competitors such as Outlook and Gmail. ‘If I were a Verizon user, going to AOL might be a pain,’ he said. ‘But, functionally, it will be fine.’"

And what should marketers do? Marketing Week spoke with Allen Nance, CMO of B2C marketing cloud Emarsys. “Even if there is no impact in your customer records from this migration, Nance predicted that ‘the same thing will happen in email domains that happened in site domains,’ where a relatively small number of domains account for the bulk of activity,” wrote Barry Levine. “And then, that small number could eventually dwindle to half a dozen big domains.

“Because of this trend, he recommended that marketers create segments of ‘fringe’ email domains, such as Verizon.net. If you segment users with fringe email addresses, he said, you can then work to find alternative addresses or other contact channels by making such requests when you find them at your website or in other encounters.’”

Sounds like good advice. For the record, Verizon noted that only 2.3 million of the above addresses are “active,” meaning they have been used in the last 30 days.  

 

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