check if email address exists

Allen Prince
Allen Prince used Ask the Experts™
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Email experts:

I have an old class list of emails for a reunion
I want to ensure that the addresses are current before sending out a notice for upcoming events
how could I check the servers to see if these emails still exist and to who they are registered?

Thanks
AJP
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Terry WoodsIT Guru
Most Valuable Expert 2011
Commented:
I'm pretty sure that the most you can do without actually sending an email to the address is to check the status of the domain and its DNS records. eg some domains may be no longer registered, others may be obviously parked if you visited the website for them (though a domain with a "parked" website doesn't actually indicate that email's not working).

You could check the MX records for the domain to see if they are defined, and if so if the specified server is responding. Bear in mind though that servers can go down temporarily, so a server not responding isn't necessarily an indication the address won't work at some point in the near future.

I suppose you could approach it from a non-technical angle and look up each person in Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ etc to try to find their current contact details, but that's very labour intensive.

If it was me, I'd probably just try sending the emails, and then deal with the bounced messages.
Terry WoodsIT Guru
Most Valuable Expert 2011

Commented:
You could try googling the email address too to see if any recent results come up (eg blog sites), but email addresses are commonly kept private so you won't get a good hit rate even for addresses that are still in use.
Allen PrinceTraining Developer

Author

Commented:
https://www.experts-exchange.com/questions/20254748/Ping-an-email-server-To-validate-email-acct-before-its-sent.html

....from 14 years ago hints at ways that this can be done....
either we have advanced to make it more difficult or easier!
Somebody knows something :)
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Can't really do that.

There IS a RFC documented SMTP command that is supposed to verify an email address. (VRFY). Most contemporary email servers are set up to process this command, but tell lies, or give a useless response.

Probably all you can do is request delivery and read receipts. Analysis of these and bouncebacks will give you SOME useful info.
Allen PrinceTraining Developer

Author

Commented:
Not the answers I was hoping for.
I looked around and found that it may be possible to eliminate/confirm a subset of the list through a mufti -step process with the right scripts...
Since this is a friendly undertaking we will simply send out a request to reply and hope that the interested folks check their email regularly.  
Thanks People
Terry WoodsIT Guru
Most Valuable Expert 2011

Commented:
I'd suggest posting that request as a separate question.
Yeah, the big problem is spammers. If it is possible to verify an email address, then it makes harvesting and compiling lists a LOT easier. In 2016, this would be problematic.

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