Fergal Cunningham

Enhancing Email Delivery at the RIPE NCC

Fergal Cunningham
Contributors: Ed Shryane

11 min read


New requirements for bulk email senders are changing the way we do email. In this article, we give an update on what those changes look like and how we'll be implementing them.

Since February 2024, we have been making changes to the way we deliver email to our members and community. Two of the large email providers, Google and Yahoo, have new requirements for bulk email senders that we need to comply with so we can be sure that our email is delivered to members by these companies.

With nearly 900,000 email addresses in the RIPE Database and an average daily outgoing mail volume exceeding 30,000, the RIPE NCC qualifies as a bulk email sender under Google's criteria (sending more than 5,000 emails per day). And while Google’s requirements are clearly laid out, we can expect that other big providers such as Microsoft will have similar requirements, even if they are not publicly available.

Our email communications cover a wide range of information, including network updates, policy announcements, event invitations, billing notifications and operational alerts. While these emails serve critical functions within the Internet community, they collectively contribute to our status as a bulk email sender. And while this article talks about changes we are making to email, the regular business mails that we use in our daily work with our members (relating to tickets, resource requests, transfers, meeting registrations, invoicing, etc.) will remain unaffected.

The new requirements

The new requirements from Google and Yahoo aim to reduce spam and ensure that legitimate emails are received. These are goals that we fully support. We also need to ensure that our important email is delivered to intended recipients, which is why we have taken steps to meet the new requirements.

In short, there are three areas where we need to be compliant:

1. Setting up SPF and DKIM email authentication for our domain

In this area, we have worked for some time to ensure that we meet the requirements. We also work with trusted partners who use ripe.net as the sending domain for ticketing, invoicing and similar purposes, so we have carried out checks with all these parties to make sure their SPF, DKIM and DMARC setups are compliant. If you receive any email from a ripe.net domain that you see is not compliant in this regard, please let me know so we can address it quickly.

2. Keeping spam rates below a threshold of 0.1%

The aim here is to send emails that are relevant and only to people who have signed up to receive them. Until now, we have been able to email all addresses submitted by members in the LIR Portal. While this approach allows us to email all LIR accounts easily, we know that many members would prefer not to receive all the communications we send there. We will be relying more heavily on the open community and membership lists that people have actively subscribed to, and we have given News a more prominent place on our website so that people can easily find important information relevant to our activities.

See an overview of important RIPE NCC sources of information and channels we use to communicate at the bottom of this email.

3. Enabling easy unsubscription

All of the member and community mailing lists that we manage can be easily unsubscribed from. The only exception to this has been the NCC Announce mailing list. Since it started in 2006, all members have been required to have an email address subscribed to NCC Announce in order to receive important emails from the RIPE NCC. While this might have been appropriate in 2006 when we had fewer than 5,000 members, this is no longer the case and probably hasn’t been for some time. So, we have taken the NCC Announce list out of the LIR Portal and set it up as a normal mailman list to which members and non-members can subscribe to (or unsubscribe from). We will still use the list to send important information, so we hope you will remain subscribed, but we are also conscious that you might not want to receive your updates in this way.

One feature of NCC Announce that we think is important is the archive of emails sent there since 2006. This provides an excellent overview of everything the RIPE NCC has done for nearly two decades. We will continue to maintain this archive and ensure it is updated with the latest important information so it is available to the entire membership and community.

Cleaning up our recipient lists

Email providers can also downgrade the reputation of domains that repeatedly send email to addresses that are failing. In order to ensure we are following best practices in this regard, we have scrubbed the NCC Announce and Members Discuss mailing lists of email addresses that are repeatedly bouncing and we will continue to remove addresses that are not receiving our mail.

The RIPE Database and automated emails

Whois sends a lot of outgoing mail, on average over 30,000 a day. There are nearly 900,000 email addresses in the RIPE Database. 65,000 are hosted by Google and 5,000 by Yahoo, so these addresses are directly affected by the new requirements, but it's important that we make improvements for all our users.

We already authenticate all outgoing mail (so you can be sure it's from the RIPE NCC), but in addition we plan to stop re-sending mail to undeliverable addresses, and support easy unsubscription in Whois with one-click unsubscribe. These are good practices for any bulk mail sender, so we are less likely to be marked as spam, and our users choose what mail they want to receive.

It’s important to note that unsubscribing from Whois emails will only stop Whois update notifications and not operational mail such as abuse-c validation, object cleanup, etc., which are still important for our users to be aware of (some are also required by RIPE policy).

Also, unsubscribing an address will override the notification attributes in the RIPE Database, such as "notify:", "upd-to:", "mnt-nfy:" etc. We plan to discuss with the RIPE Database Working Group on the best way to accommodate these.

The RIPE NCC also sends automated emails from several of its applications, such as RIPE Atlas. Although these are sent to people who have actively set their preferences to receive them, we will also be ensuring that these mails contain information and links that make it easy for people to stop receiving them if they want.

Transitioning smoothly

Google has stated that it will apply the new requirements gradually from 1 February to the end of March and then become stricter about enforcing them.

During this transition period, we're continuing to use the Brevo platform for more effective email delivery and monitoring. Brevo provides valuable insights into unsubscribe requests and spam reports, enabling us to refine our mailing lists and maintain compliance with provider requirements.

We are also using Google’s Postmaster tools to check our spam and reputation ratings so we can adjust our practices if we see we are not complying with the requirements. So far, we have seen positive reports and we believe the changes we are making will help us to maintain our domain’s good reputation.

Maintaining essential communication channels

Although we're refining our email practices, certain critical communications will still be sent through the NCC Announce mailing list. These include:

  1. General Meeting Notices: Essential updates regarding General Meetings, including agendas and proposed resolutions
  2. Activity Plan and Budget: Notifications regarding the release of draft Activity Plans and Budgets for member review
  3. Charging Scheme Updates: Information on changes to the RIPE NCC's Charging Scheme
  4. Executive Board Minutes: Publications of minutes from Executive Board meetings.
  5. Policy Announcements: Updates on new policy implementations that will affect RIPE NCC members.
  6. Service Outage Alerts: If there is an outage affecting any of our important services such as the LIR Portal or the RIPE Database, we will let members know on NCC Announce.
  7. Member Update: The monthly Member Update is sent to NCC Announce and contains all the latest news on what’s happening at the RIPE NCC and in the RIPE community.

And here's a comprehensive overview of the strategies we'll be adopting to facilitate effective communication going forward:

  1. Using the News Section: We'll rely more heavily on the News section of the www.ripe.net website to provide updates, announcements and insights related to our activities and the broader Internet community. We encourage you to sign up to RSS feeds from our News section if you want to stay abreast of everything that’s happening with the RIPE NCC and in the community.
  2. Monthly Member Update: The monthly Member Update will continue to be sent via the NCC Announce mailing list, ensuring that members and community stay informed about important developments and initiatives.
  3. Mailing Lists with Easy Unsubscribe Options: We'll prioritise the use of mailing lists with easy unsubscribe options, such as working group mailing lists and the Members Discuss mailing list, to ensure that recipients have full control over their email preferences.
  4. Encouraging Engagement on the RIPE NCC Forum: The RIPE NCC Forum will be promoted as a platform for members and stakeholders to engage with us and with each other, fostering dialogue and collaboration within the community.
  5. Revising Event and Training Communication Strategies: We'll revise our strategies for sending information about events, training sessions, and other activities, ensuring that relevant information reaches the right audience without the need to rely heavily on email.
  6. Monitoring Spam Ratings: We'll closely monitor our spam ratings and adjust our practices accordingly to maintain compliance with email provider requirements and enhance deliverability.
  7. Ensuring Compliance of Third Parties: We'll ensure that third parties sending email from our domain (e.g., Zendesk, AFAS) are compliant with all requirements.
  8. Improving Unsubscribe Options for Automated Emails: All automated emails sent from our system, including Whois emails, will feature one-click unsubscribe options and/or clear information on why recipients are receiving them and how to opt out.
  9. Maintaining Social Media Presence: We'll continue to post relevant news and updates on social media platforms.

Finally, there are also a range of member and community lists where we regularly post information for specific audiences:

  1. Members Discuss: The mailing list where members can discuss matters relevant to the membership. If we think there is information that members might want to discuss among themselves or with us, we will post information here. Subscription is restricted to RIPE NCC members and preferences can only be set up in the LIR Portal.
  2. RIPE List: This mailing list is intended for RIPE community-related general announcements and discussions.
  3. RIPE NCC Services Working Group: Discusses the tools and services provided by the RIPE NCC.
  4. RIPE Database Working Group: Discusses changes to existing database objects, the creation of new objects and features, distribution of databases and security issues.
  5. Address Policy Working Group: Develops policies relating to the allocation and registration of Internet number resources (IPv4 and IPv6 addresses and ASNs) by the RIPE NCC and its members.
  6. Routing Working Group: Exchanges information about the various Routing Registries and the RIPE NCC often posts here about matters related to RPKI.
  7. DNS Working Group: The Domain Name System (DNS) Working Group discusses current DNS-related issues in technology and operations. The WG encourages deployment of DNS and related protocol components by collecting experience and documenting current practice and recommendations.
  8. MAT Working Group: A forum for the RIPE NCC and the RIPE community to collaborate in the areas of data, tools and analysis relating to the Internet and its infrastructure, with a loose focus on monitoring, diagnosis, analysis and forecasting.
  9. Cooperation Working Group: An open forum for discussion focusing on collaboration between the private and public sectors on Internet matters.
  10. RACI List: The RIPE Academic Cooperation Initiative aims to connect members of the academic community with the RIPE community. The goal of RACI is to strengthen those connections while promoting the work of talented researchers and academics in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.
  11. RIPE Atlas List: RIPE Atlas is building the largest Internet measurement network ever made. This mailing list is open to anyone with an interest in sharing experiences and information about the project.


The new email requirements have a worthy goal and we think the outcome of implementing them at the RIPE NCC is that members and community alike will have a much better experience and have greater control of the information they receive or choose not to receive. As we make changes to how we do things with email, we ask for your patience as we adjust and also your feedback on our email practices. If you get an email from us that you think does not meet technical requirements, or you get an email that you have difficulty unsubscribing from, please let us know in the comments below or on the RIPE NCC Forum so we can work to further improve on our communication via email.


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About the author

Head of Membership Engagement at the RIPE NCC

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