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SHOTS FIRED: MailChannels vs MailBaby War Erupts on LowEndTalk

These days, if you want your email delivered, you need pros.

Back in the day – and the day was about 20 years ago – you could setup a mail server and expect that if you emailed someone@yahoo.com, it would end up in the recipient’s mailbox.  Then came antispam, DKIM, SPF, and soon the big mail providers were putting up hurdle after hurdle to accepting mail.

I know when I setup a new VPS and I want its mail to forward (for alerts, etc.) I have to make sure reverse DNS is setup, then go into Gmail and make a special rule so it isn’t spammed, etc.  And that’s coming from a server sending from my Gmail-hosted domain.  In a lot of cases on Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook/O365, etc., a poorly-authenticated email is simply binned and the recipient never sees it.

Enter companies like Mailchannels and MailBaby.  They offer email delivery, but what they really offer is “very high percentage email deliverability”.  You don’t need a service to send an email.  You need a service to make sure it’s delivered.

We’ve also covered MangoMail and MailCheap.

If you visit either MailChannels or MailBaby’s web site, you’ll see a lot of language about delivery, guaranteed delivery, very high percentage of delivery, etc. because that’s what these companies offer.  If you’re a business and email is important to you, deliverability is the difference between getting whatever normal % of response you get to your newsletter and getting virtually zero response because most of it went was nuked by mail providers’ spam defenses.

There are certainly numerous other competitors, but both of these companies have been very involved in our community.

MailChannels was founded 20 years ago by some folks from ActiveState, later bought by security giant Sophos.  They’re a pretty big gorilla in the mail delivery market.  There was a bit of kerfuffle last year based on a DEF CON presentation, which ended up in MC partnering with CloudFlare to create a new feature that defeated the problem.

I mean, when the second Google hit for your name is “MailChannels alternatives” you know you’re entrenched in the market.

MailBaby is a bit different.  It’s a service from LowEnd community provider InterServer with an interesting history:

Interserver provides the developers, rack full of servers, /19 of ip, abuse department staff, and everything else needed to run a business. Stand alone the baby would cost 10’s of thousands to run. It is and would be totally unprofitable.

We originally started it to reduce our mail channels bill that was in the thousands. Then John suggested that we should sell it to customers. It was a joke at first. We said let’s spin it off and call it something stupid. I typed mail into domain search. First result mail.baby. Nine months later Baby was born.

And as of today, MailChannels and MailBaby are at war.

Going Negative

It started yesterday with the thread “Special Offer for MailBaby Customers” on LowEndTalk:

Attention MailBaby Customers,

Have you noticed MailBaby’s service quality declining recently? That’s because they stopped using MailChannels to send emails their own platform couldn’t handle.

It’s time to switch to the real thing. MailChannels has invested over $15 million and 12 years into developing the most sophisticated email delivery technology stack in the industry. Our automated abuse detection and delivery optimization is unmatched. That’s why the largest web hosts and household names trust MailChannels for their critical email needs.

MailBaby simply can’t demonstrate the same track record of reliability and scalability for the most demanding customers. And the gap is only going to widen.

Now, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with comparing your service to your competitors’.  That’s the way a market works.  But direct comparisons are always fraught with peril.

It’s one thing to say “in this industry, we’re the best” or even “in this industry, we’re better than any of our competition” but to say “that Other Brand sucks” is a gamble.  Odds are, you’re going to give the consumer a twinge of cringe with your broadside.

There are all kinds of sly ways to do it.  You can do it visually.  Years ago, Pringles potato chips boasted that their chips didn’t leave a greasy residue on your hands like some brands, and in the video they’d show a guy with a plain yellow bag of potato chips disgustingly wiping his hands on his jeans.  The yellow bag didn’t say Lay’s but you knew that was who they were referring to.

In this industry, some web sites have charts with features.  In that provider’s category, everything is checked green but the cells for competitors might have a red X.  That comes across as an honest presentation of facts (and it usually is, if sometimes shaded based on how the row title is chosen).  Because it’s just data, it doesn’t hit the ear quite as negatively.

If you think back over the last 10,000 commercials you saw, heard, or read, how many involved a company even mentioning a competitor?  Some of that is legal, and therefore some of it is bureaucratic.  By this I mean that companies don’t want to get sued by other companies, and hence any commercial like that would have to go through the slow-and-ponderous legal department, which the quick-and-nimble marketing department would like to avoid.

But if it worked, companies would do it.  Yet you hear a lot about how the advertiser is the “best”, the “leading brand”, or “the one your trust”, compared to “other brands” and “some brands” and “other choices.”  Practical politeness is the established norm.

If I Wanted to Bash…

The phrase “going negative” originates in politics.  It’s the point in the campaign where a candidate switches from platitudes about their own exemplary qualities and all wonderful things they’re going to do for their potential constituents to telling people what a crummy slimeball the other candidate is.

In 2024, there is a wonderful avenue for tearing down competitors: social media influencers.

If I ran a mail delivery company and wanted to slam my competitors, I’d hook up with a couple relevant influencers and have them do a comparison.  If a competitor really is performing poorly, then why not have a third party document it.  The message may not be quite as clean as the influencer might bring up something positive about a competitor or negative about you, but overall this can be a powerful message.

That’s how I’d do it.  Not how MailChannels did it.

I’d also observe that community forums tend to be very partisan over providers, brands, and services.  Show the community some love and they’ll defend you.  Participate in the community and you’re a member of the tribe.  So when you throw chum into a pond of piranhas…

Walking that Back

If I was MC, I might have phrased it this way:

Hey LowEnd community!

Is your mail provider’s service quality declining?  Some have switched off our industry-leading platform and are struggling to build a performant alternative on the cheap.  This service isn’t easy, and our battle scars over the last 20 years tell the story.

If your provider is struggling, it’s time to switch to the gold standard.  Watch your deliverability problems instantly vanish with MailChannels’ sophisticated platform.  We’ve invested over $15 million and 12 years into developing the most sophisticated email delivery technology stack in the industry. Our automated abuse detection and delivery optimization is unmatched. That’s why the largest web hosts and household names trust MailChannels for their critical email needs.

Other providers simply can’t demonstrate the same track record of reliability and scalability for the most demanding customers. And the gap is only going to widen.  If you and your customers are serious about mail deliverability, there is only one name to consider: MailChannels.  Anything else is taking a chance.

MailChannels seems to have seen the light, and posted a followup:

I sincerely apologize for criticizing MailBaby in my original post. I should have stuck to describing our offer, which is aggressive enough by its nature. @interservermike, calling MailBaby out for the false positive downtime on May 15th was a bad call on my part. I’m sorry about this.

It’s entirely plausible that someone had “post an offer on LowEndTalk” on his todo list for a bit, had a spare 15 minute, and dashed off something a bit too hastily.  As someone who’s embarrassed himself on the Internet numerous times, it happens.  And when it does, it provides a valuable lesson on managing your message for others.




  1. I sent several spam complains to Mailchannels in the last days. First they answered my emails, said that they “have taken necessary action against the reported abuse activity”. But no action was taken. Then no more answers from them. So I first increase spam-core then blocked one of their IP classes that spammed me.

    As for mail delivery in 2024, things are not that complicated as you said. Afterall, most of the providers with cPanel send mails from their own servers with good delivery rates (if they don’t accept spammers and take care of their IPs)

    May 24, 2024 @ 1:46 pm | Reply
  2. The battle between MailChannels and MailBaby is heating up on LowEndTalk, just like the competitive spirit in Papa’s Games. It’s interesting to see the different approaches each platform takes to email hosting. Perhaps a friendly competition, similar to Papa Louie’s rivalry with his various food-themed rivals, will lead to improvements for everyone.

    June 2, 2024 @ 6:36 pm | Reply

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