I am a bit of an email noob. My website is trying to send email from a contact form using the PHP mail function. This works fine when sending it to my Gmail account, but AOL rejects it. I have set up an RDNS record for the client ( fallsroadsunoco.com )

Macintosh:~ TAmoyal$ nslookup

Non-authoritative answer:    name = fallsroadsunoco.com.

Authoritative answers can be found from:

I have even set up an MX record (although I think this is irrelevant because that should only be needed for receiving email). I did some poking around and randomly saw this on my server...but 2 things to note with this output:

  1. i changed the receiving email address to blahblahblah@aol.com to keep it anonymous
  2. bandop.com was my RDNS host name at the time this email was sent. i changed it to the client's host name fallsroadsunoco.com to see if that would help...and it didn't
sudo more var/spool/postfix/deferred/0/0F902E4F7E
trace_flags=0SO^Lwww-data@comR^Lwww-data@comMN!Received: by bandop.com (Postfix)N5124671id 0F902E4F7E; Sat,ime=1246714223Alog_message_origin=localA
 4 Jul 2009 13:30:23 +0000 (UTC)N+Date: Sat,  4 Jul 2009 13:30:23 +0000 (UTC)N.From: MAILER-DAEMON@com (Mail Delivery System)N,Subject: Undelivered Mail Returned to SenderNTo: www-data@
comNAuto-Submitted: auto-repliedNMIME-Version: 1.0N<Content-Type: multipart/report; report-type=delivery-status;N,  boundary="B68D0E4F7D.1246714223/bandop.com"NContent-Transfer-Enco
ding: 8bitN2Message-Id: <20090704133023.0F902E4F7E@bandop.com>NN$This is a MIME-encapsulated message.NN"--B68D0E4F7D.1246714223/bandop.comN!Content-Description: NotificationN*Content-Ty
pe: text/plain; charset=us-asciiNN+This is the mail system at host bandop.com.NN;I'm sorry to have to inform you that your message could notN<be delivered to one or more recipients. It'
s attached below.NN7For further assistance, please send mail to postmaster.NN9If you do so, please include this problem report. You canN8delete your own text from the attached returned 
message.NN"                   The mail systemNNO<blahblahblah@aol.com>: host mailin-02.mx.aol.com[] said: 501 SYNTAXND    ERROR IN PARAMETERS OR ARGUMENTS (in reply to MAIL F
ROM command)NN"--B68D0E4F7D.1246714223/bandop.comN$Content-Description: Delivery reportN%Content-Type: message/delivery-statusNNReporting-MTA: dns; bandop.comNX-Postfix-Queue-ID: B68D0E
Status: 5.0.0N%Remote-MTA: dns; mailin-02.mx.aol.comNBDiagnostic-Code: smtp; 501 SYNTAX ERRO(UTC)NN,Final-Recipient: rfc822; blahblahblah@aol.comNAction: failedN
 IN PARAMETERS OR ARGUMENTSNN"--B68D0E4F7D.1246714223/bandop.comN(Content-Description: Undelivered MessageNContent-Type: message/rfc822NContent-Transfer-Encoding: 8bitNN1Received: by ba
ndop.com (Postfix, from userid 33)N5    id B68D0E4F7D; Sat,  4 Jul 2009 13:30:22 +0000 (UTC)NTo: blahblahblah@aol.comN!Subject: Your contact form works!N$Date: Sat, 4 Jul 2009 09:30:22 -
X-Priority: 3N?X-Mailer: PHPMailer (phpmailer.sourceforge.net) [version 2.0.4]NMIME-Version: 1.0NContent-Transfer-Enallsroadsunoco.com>N
oding: 8bitN)Content-Type: text/plain; charset="UTF-8"NNName: Tony AmoyalN
encoding=8bitE03@gmail.comMessage:NCan you see this?NNN$--B68D0E4F7D.1246714223/bandop.com--XA

Any idea why only AOL would be rejecting my messages? Also note that they are not making it to the SPAM folder.


I imagine that you are not correctly setting the FROM header on the PHP side. It would help to post the PHP code that was used to send the email.

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  • I am pretty sure the code just uses the php mail function which should work. I also imagine that if the problem is in the code, google would not accept the emails. Do you still think I should investigate this? – Tony Jul 9 '09 at 18:08
  • The parameters that you pass the to the PHP mail function can be tricky, and different service providers can be picky about what kinds of mail and what format of headers they accept. – Matt Bridges Jul 14 '09 at 12:30

A packet capture showing the SMTP conversation would be useful here, probably more so than the contents of your mail log. Also be advised that AOL's mail servers are pretty psycho about who they receive mail from. Check out their FAQ at http://postmaster.aol.com/guidelines/standards.html:

  • AOL's servers will not accept connections from unsecured systems. These include open relays, open proxies, open routers, or any other system that has been determined to be available for unauthorized use.

  • Ensure all forms on your web server are secure. If you use formmail scripts, ensure they cannot be used to send spam.

  • AOL's mail servers will not accept connections from systems that use dynamically assigned or residential IP addresses.

  • Organizations may not hard code AOL's MX records into their configuration files.

  • All e-mail must be compliant with RFCs 2821 and 2822.

  • AOL's mail servers will reject connections from any IP address that does not have reverse DNS (a PTR record). All e-mail servers connecting to AOL's mail servers must have valid and meaningful (not dynamic-looking) reverse DNS records. For example: Meaningful RDNS: mail.domain.com Generic RDNS:

  • AOL may reject connections from servers whose recipient lists consistently generate a higher than 10% bounce failure rate. (i.e. over 10% of a sender's mailing list is destined for users that do not exist on our system)

  • AOL may reject connections from senders who are unable to accept at least 90% of the bounce-return messages (mailer-daemon failure/error messages) destined for their systems.

  • Complaints submitted by AOL members may be used as a basis for refusing connections from any mail server.

  • Persons sending bulk mail from the whitelisted IP Address must immediately remove any e-mail address which causes a permanent failure "bounce" message to be generated with one of the following error codes: 550 "AOL username" Is Not Accepting Mail From This Sender 550 Mailbox not found 550 We would love to have gotten this email to example_user@aim.com. But, your recipient never logged onto their free AIM Mail account. Please contact them and let them know that they're missing out on all the super features offered by AIM Mail. And by the way, they're also missing out on your email.

  • AOL, LLC does not authorize the use of its proprietary computers and computer network to accept, transmit or distribute unsolicited bulk e-mail. AOL's unsolicited bulk e-mail policy can be found at our website.

I've bolded the points you may want to look into. I've had trouble with sending mail to them in the past, which turned out to be a misconfigured PTR record for the server that was sending the mail. I think you're OK there, but you should check the others out.

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  • 1
    This is an excellent response, RainyRat. I will add that even after you have done all these things and even if you setup a "feedback" address so AOl can report spam to you, they sometimes seem to reject email for no good reason. After checking all the above points, you may find you have to wait a few days before AOL starts accepting your email again. – andy Jul 9 '09 at 2:11
  • +1 as I was just about to point this user to AOL's technical standards for email delivery: postmaster.aol.com/guidelines/standards.html – KPWINC Jul 9 '09 at 4:02
  • Thanks for the great response, Rainy Rat. I will look into these items today. My RDNS seems cool because it is a domain name, and I am using a static IP address. Does the last bold item mean that I need to have an incoming mail server set up to receive bounced emails? – Tony Jul 9 '09 at 18:07
  • I think so, yes. I guess it's to stop spam sent with fake "from" addresses. – RainyRat Jul 9 '09 at 18:51

If you're doing email, you want to sign up for a feedback loop with AOL, and then to be on the AOL whitelist (which requires your server to be well behaved). It's worth it in the long run.

Post a capture of the SMTP conversation (anonymized as you like) so we can help more.

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  • Looks like the feedback loop and AOL whitelist are for people sending bulk mail. This question is for emails sent via a contact form. I don't think the whitelist should be necessary. – Tony Jul 9 '09 at 18:12
  • can you tell me how to capture an smtp conversation? i am using an ubuntu vps from slicehost – Tony Jul 9 '09 at 19:06
  • 1
    tcpdump -s 0 -i eth0 -w foo.pcap tcp port 25 would be a good place to start. That will make a file foo.pcap that you can read with wireshark or tcpdump later. – Bill Weiss Jul 9 '09 at 20:29

According to the error message the FROM syntax isn't correct.

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I've had the same problem but mostly it was with receiving e-mail notifications from forums in which I had placed a post. It wasn't until about two weeks ago when I opened up a new website that I found this problem to be much more serious.

My new website e-mail address was being rejected by AOL and would not show up in the spam folders. Of course my Yahoo and Gmail accounts would accept the e-mails. So I contacted AOL and received help from an upper-level technician.

After running some quick tests, he said that he knew the problem was that AOL was identifying my website and the forums as some kind of spam prone websites. He seriously suggested that I contact each and every one of these website's hosts and asked them to logon to postmaster.aol.com and then send AOL their IP connection address.

I told him that I doubted any of these large companies would do anything that he has suggested but I tried anyway. I contacted my websites host and relayed the information to him with instructions on how to go about sending AOL their IP connection address.

To no surprise, my website host replied with suggestions of what I can do because they had no intention of sending AOL anything. I had told the technician that his solution, (actually, AOL's solution), was unrealistic and that AOL should allow the paid user to adjust his or her own spam filters.

That is pretty much where it ends so now I have my new websites e-mail set up so that anyone who sends e-mail to that website will have it redirected to my Gmail account which will then redirected to AOL.

This is just making my life a little more complicated and I can see my future with AOL coming to a quick end shortly.

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