In this article we give an overview of many of the terms used around disposable email. So that you can better understand temporary email and what to do about it. You feel something is missing or needs an update? Let us know.
A disposable email is an email address that is created for a particular use and used and is discarded after a short period of time. These email addresses are typically provided by specialized services. These services generate temporary addresses at the click of a button without requiring users to sign-up. Disposable email is often referred to using the following terms:
- Disposable email – used because these emails are not users’ primary addresses that have value because they are connected to important services
- Throwaway email – yep, same as disposable email
- Trash email – well, at least not lying about its intentions
- Temporary email – hints to the short lived nature of an email address
- Fake email – denotes the intentions of people using the address to fake an identity
- Burner email – derived from burner phone, a cheap phone that can be discarded without losing much
- 10 minute email – named after the lifetime of the email inbox
- One-time email – could live even shorter than a 10 minute email
- Anonymous email – sometimes disposable email is used for privacy reasons, so there is a privacy related term as well
- Email cloaking – email addresses that forward their email to a user’s actual primary email, but only until they are deleted
- Email aliasing – same a s cloaking, the created address is an alias of the actual address
- Email hiding – same as cloaking, just like the next
- Email masking – again same as cloaking, every service provider gives this a slightly different name
Disposable email providers typically make an address available for a limited period of time. Usually you will have a simple web page that displays new incoming messages. Sending email is not supported by most providers.
Free account abuse
Many businesses, especially SaaS companies offer their service in a freemium model. This gives users with free accounts access to a limited part of the service. This works because in exchange for the free usage users leave their email address – and the company can contact them later to promote paid offers and turn free users into paying customers.
Users sometimes create multiple free accounts to bypass limitations of the free plan. This is enabled by disposable email providers that make it really easy to create new addresses.
Using disposable email to signup for free accounts is widely regarded as unfair use – because the business does not have a way to contact to the user. This makes it hard to try and upgrade them to paid customers from free plans.
Free trial abuse
Many if not most SaaS companies offer a free trial for their products. This gives users the chance to try all features to see if the product fits their expectations. This works because users who like the product are expected to convert to paid users after the trial ends. During this time the company can contact them to educate about the product or promote paid offers.
Users that signed up via disposable email cannot be contacted. Some will create a new account with a different disposable address when the free trial ends – to continue using the service without paying for it.
Repeated signups by the same person or organisation are regarded as unfair use. They bypass the trial limitations and hurt businesses: they have to spend on staff, infrastructure and 3rd party tools to offer their product – but are not compensated for it.
Content creators, individuals and larger businesses alike, often give away freebies like info products or other resources. Usually these are given in exchange for a user’s email address.
Making these resources available for free is possible because it allows the creator to build relationships, drive sales, or increase their own visibility. So, while free, these products can play a crucial role in a creator’s overall strategy and business model.
Using throwaway email addresses to gain access to these products is considered unfair use. If creators are unable to send messages to the inboxes of people who got the freebies – it means they are not getting their fair share of the deal.
There are many reasons why disposable email exists. One of them is privacy.
A temporary email lost in a data breach causes less harm. Evil companies engaging in user profiling from activities in multiple places can’t match a temporary email with other temporary addresses of the same user. Less evil (but still evil) companies selling email address data do limited harm when they sell a temporary email.
In a nutshell: disposable email can help hide your identity from unethical email usage. The types of email addresses used for privacy reasons are rather cloaking addresses, but also so much the throwaway type addresses.
Dealing with disposable email
Different services exist that help individuals and organisations deal with disposable email. These services exist:
Static disposable email block lists
These are lists of domain names used by temporary email service providers. These lists are created by people unhappy with people using temporary email services. Soemtimes they are crowdsourced. Some are hosted and maintained on github, others are available for purchase.
Before using static lists to identify and block disposable email is important to know one thing: New disposable email providers pop up every day and the existing providers start using new domain names every day. The more frequently a list is updated the better the chances you’ll be blocking effectively. Better yet use an API:
Disposable email APIs
APIs are essentially block lists that can be used by software developers to build blocking of disposable email into their own apps. These services are typically paid. Because of that they usually offer the largest data sets of domains and the highest quality. At IsTempMail we offer such an API to block temporary email.
The benefit over static lists is that an API can give you real time information. As soon as a new domain is detected it will be marked as blocked by an API. No need for your software to update anything.
CMS Plugins to block temporary email
The majority of sites on the web are built using content management systems like WordPress, Webflow, Wix, Weebly (trust me, they don’t all start with the same letter) and many many other systems exist, each tailored to a smaller or bigger niche of content publishers. For many of these CMS plugins exist that can let site admins and marketers block disposable email addresses from being used to sign up on their site. This can prevent content free-riding, free trial abuse (see above).
Email validation services exist to check if an address formally looks like a legit email address. Usually also bulk checks are available to ‘clean’ lists of email addresses.
The act of checking the existence of an inbox at a given email address is called email verification. A couple of different methods are used. It is important to note that none of these checks are 100% reliable.
Sometimes the term is used interchangeably with email validation.
Email confirmation is the process of making sure a user has access to an email address they provided. To confirm an address, an email message is sent to that address. It contains a unique link. Once that link is clicked the sender can know, that the email message was received, read and opened. This however only verifies the email exists at the time of the check. The party trying to confirming the address will not be able to tell if the address has become invalid at a later point in time. Unless they send another email and get feedback that it was opened.
Technical email terms
Deliverability is a technical email marketing term. It is a measure of how successful a sender is in reaching user’s inboxes without getting rejected or marked as spam.
Deliverability is connected to many factors. One of the more important one’s is sender reputation. A sender’s reputation is good if messages sent in the past did not get marked as spam. This makes the email infrastructure trust that particular sender. The number of emails sent also influences reputation. If a relatively unknown sender starts sending en masse the messages are more likely to be treated as spam than when they are coming from a high reputation sender.
In order to improve deliverability marketer’s clean their email lists and block disposable emails to reduce bounces.
Email list cleaning
List cleaning uses a combination of the above methods confirmation, validation, and verification to improve the quality of a list of emails. It is typically done when the quality is unknown, for example for a list of emails generated through a promotional campaign. During cleaning emails addresses that do not survive validation and verification checks are removed from the list. The resulting list has a higher quality and comes with a couple of benefits: are improved deliverability, lower cost due to lower volume, improved open rates and click rates.