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Interview of Dimitri Perret, VadeRetro : "the user does not care about the clinical definition of spam

vade-retro-logoA few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit VadeRetro, one of the main French anti-spam specialists. During more than two hours I discussed about the evolution of anti-spam and VadeRetro products with Dimitri Perret who is Business Developer in the company.

Dimitri Perret holds a Master's degree in Marketing from the Institute of Administration and Enterprise in Lille. Globetrotter, passionate about music and technology, he started his career at IBM, in the sales department serving hosting companies and software publishers. He then joined Vade Retro Technology as international marketing manager to support the company's worldwide development.

The interview

dimitri-perretMany email marketers know VadeRetro as one of the tools used by the main French ISPs to filter spam. What are the main principles behind this filtering in your tool?

VadeRetro is mainly based on a heuristic technology, and we are the only ones to use this type of technology on the market. It is based on the analysis of the structure of the email, header, subject, structure of the redirections, presence of an unsubscribe link, ... It is very different from what our competitors use, which are based on lists of IP addresses or words to ban. This is a historical approach that was chosen ten years ago.

The main advantage of heuristic technology is its total independence from language. Another advantage is that we will build scores that will allow us to identify the type of email we are facing. This is materialized by several types of status, such as Spam (DCE, Dirty Commercial Email) or different types of commercial emails (MCE, Miscelanous Commercial Email). On this basis we create a list that will identify the goodsenders and badsenders. Obviously, thanks to this categorization, we are able to detect senders that we will be able to directly classify as Badsenders in the future.

At the level of French ISPs, VadeRetro is mainly present for spam filtering in order to make the difference between what is strictly commercial and what is pure and hard spam. On the other hand, totally legitimate, interpersonal emails have a special score to show their importance.

Statistically, we recently analyzed that 16% of the emails analyzed by VadeRetro were categorized as "Dirty Commercial Email", 73% as "Miscelanous Commercial Email" and the rest are categorized as priority. In the DCE stream, we have about 49% of emails that are priority (transactional emails mainly), 45% of ads and 5% of notifications or emails from social networks.

Beyond the big French ISPs, who are VadeRetro's customers ?

In Europe, two types of companies can be customers in addition to ISPs. On the one hand, there are corporate customers, from large accounts to SMEs. And on the other hand, wholesalers/resellers and OEM integrators.

We even have an offer for individuals called "LoveYourEmail".

You have just opened an office in the United States, what is the objective? What is the profile of the new clients you are targeting?

We have indeed opened an office in San Francisco. In the US, we focus on large organizations, mainly ISPs and hosting companies, but also OEMs.

When we talk about the U.S. market, we talk less about anti-spam. What we want to offer in this market is our offer related to email classification, which is a real differentiator in this market. It's also a good way to open discussions without competing with anti-spam solutions already present in the company. On the American market, what is really different is the volume of email that is much higher than with our European customers.

Most advertisers are not happy with the evolution of spam filtering technologies that are responsible for the decrease in performance of "legitimate" emailing programs. Are you ever pressured by advertisers (or spammers)?

Yes, we are under pressure from some people who would like to get better deliverability. We have a dedicated team that manages the relationship and we try to listen to them in order to have a constructive and beneficial relationship. But most of the time it's still the hosting company or the ISP that has the hand to help them. So yes, they call us, but there's not much we can do for them.

Otherwise, we haven't really had any complaints to the courts or anything, it wouldn't have much effect anyway. We can always find a rational explanation for how our filter works. If the advertisers respect the rules, there is no reason for them to go to spam.

What recourse is available to an advertiser who believes they are the victim of a false positive or who is blocked by your internal blacklist?

There's not really an internal blacklist. It's more complicated than that. If we decide to totally block an actor, it means that he abused several times or that he tried to bypass the filtering. The most important thing is to contact the ISP before contacting VadeRetro. In some extreme cases, very rare, the senders can be put in contact with VadeRetro but always via the ISP.

If there is ever a legitimate blockage, a release is only possible after a commitment to good practices.

Today, we see a significant movement towards categorizing different types of emails. Do you think that this categorization will become widespread in the next few years?

Yes, this really is the future of email. Ranking is a key element. For us, it's reassuring to see that Google is on board, even though we deployed it before them. We think it's the future of email because it keeps it simple and efficient to use.

For example, SFR, since several years, adds a visual tag in its webmail to show that it is an advertisement. This service is offered through VadeRetro.

We were pleasantly surprised to see that in the US, there is a great interest in this topic. According to Gartner, 82% of users are not satisfied with their filtering solution (Magic Quadrant 2013). VadeRetro has been cited by Gartner as the only player allowing to do Graymail management.

On the individual side, 82% of the emails received are graymails, which makes less than 20% of emails classified as interpersonal or priority.
In the enterprise, 51% of emails are graymails, so it is a real challenge for the company to improve its productivity. Categorization makes the use of email in companies more pleasant and efficient.

Our goal is to display the most important messages so that they are available and visible instantly.

Phishing is probably the biggest problem that email users are currently experiencing. Do you have any figures to share with us on the extent of the problem in France? Do you help routers to detect spammers using their platforms so that they can block them?

We are very involved in the fight against phishing, for example we participate in MAAWG conferences to contribute to the fight for better email security.

We also publish public and collaborative lists to fight against phishing via the isitphishing.org website. This VadeRetro initiative includes several partnerships allowing us to feed a database that can be used by any organization "receiving" emails. In the same way, we also share a lot of data with SignalSpam.

The idea of VadeRetro was born in the head of the creator of Goto Software who was tired of receiving spam. So even if we are a commercial company, we really want to make email safe and fight against spam.

Finally, what advice would you give to an advertiser who feels that he is a victim of overly aggressive spam filters? (but who thinks he is "legitimate")

Our view is that yes, you will probably get classified, but not necessarily as spam. Email users always filter the advertising emails manually in their inboxes. Advertisers have no control over this anyway. Today, users will no longer have to do this work since they will be classified automatically. The user will eventually have the possibility to go back to these commercial emails. This is an opportunity, rather than being deleted, the email can eventually be re-read later.

The recipe remains mainly marketing, personalize the message well, have a more punchy title, respect the permission, ...

We are also increasingly implementing one-click unsubscribe. This technique scares advertisers who are afraid of massive unsubscribe waves coming in, and yes, it will probably happen. But is this bad? Not necessarily. The bases will be more valuable and responsive, so don't be afraid.

Besides, advertisers need to be careful. If they want to play bad guy by trying to be incompatible with instant unsubscribe, it will backfire. Trying to circumvent VadeRetro's rules may get them into more trouble than they're worth.

VadeRetro focuses on the benefits for the user, we are not against the routers or the advertisers. It's the quality of the email experience and the security that counts above all.

With graymail management, we say to ourselves that anti-spam is no longer enough. Gartner in its latest report clearly states that the user does not care about the clinical definition of spam, but finds that he receives too many advertising emails in his inbox.

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2 réponses

  1. Thank you Jonathan for this interview. It's always very interesting to get a view from the other side of the filter 🙂

    I have a question about the 1-click unsubscribe system. Normally it's possible by just pinging the list-unsubscribe address in the header, but does their tool also generate other clicks on the other links in the mail? I've noticed this kind of disturbing behavior from people who had just unsubscribed via LU.

  2. Hello Charles, that's a good question!
    The secure unsubscribe function does not click on all links. If your unsubscribe method is via mailto, there will just be the unsubscribe email sent. If the link is in the header, there will just be a click on that link. Finally, if it is in the footer, there will be just one click there. However, if the first method does not work, the following method will be used.

    However, the Safe Unsubscribe does not generate clicks on the links of the email (access to an article, promotion...).

    Dimitri
    @VR_Technology

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