Back when I co-founded Habeas, we came up with the at-that-time novel idea to have our accredited senders insert special headers in their outbound email. Those headers were a signal to the receiving email servers that our senders had been accredited and the email was promised to be “not spam.”
In the case of the Habeas headers, they included unique text which was licensed to the customer, and the presence of that header text was the signal to the ISP or other receiving mail server that the sender was a Habeas accredited sender. Oh sure, we knew that spammers would spoof the headers, but then we would nail the spammers with copyright and trademark infringement (that’s why they brought me in as CEO – because at the time I was one of the few lawyers in the world with an email and anti-spam background).
Of course, Habeas and I parted ways many years ago. And when I came to the Institute, and then we were asked to create an accreditation program here, we realized that while the “haiku in the header” model was not particularly compelling, putting useful information in a sender’s headers did have some merit.
And so we came up with our own unique set of headers, which we felt were (and we still believe are) more practical and useful to receivers. And these headers allow our customers and the ISPs and spam filters to take advantage of our own unique flavour of unbreakable authentication, as well.
All that said, unique headers are optional. They always have been, and practically speaking they always must be. That is because many senders don’t have the technical ability to include unique headers in their outbound email. In fact, in some systems it’s not possible for them to do so.
Even where it’s possible to insert unique headers in your outbound email, it’s not always easy. There are so many different email sending systems, and then so many custom installs, that there is simply no one-size-fits-all solution for how to get those headers embedded in your outgoing mail.
If you are trying to figure out how to insert these headers – known as x-headers – into your outbound email, a good place to start is with this search for how to insert x-headers. Look for your particular email sending application, and be aware that usually it needs to be done on the server level (i.e. by your server’s mail sending application, not the one on your desktop).
Now, don’t get me wrong. If you can include the unique headers, by all means you should.
But if adding them is beyond your ability – or impossible – don’t stress it. The headers, while nice to have, are not required – they are optional. They are the belt to accreditation’s suspenders.