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Global Email true read status

We are Exchange 2013 on premises ONLY, we may go 365 but not at this time. Our marketing team sends a weekly email globally to internal users only. They're requesting metrics around at least a true read status for the email. Did they read it, delete it immediately etc...

Blue sky option would be to be able to tell difference between an email opened in full outlook client and webmail or smartphone. We have tried various scripts found online with no success.

What are you using for this purpose? If you went with a third party app to deliver, please let us know which. Would listserv option be a better solution?

Thanks in advance!!!
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Fractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2019
This is very complex + will likely never provide exactly the data you're after.

1) Usual open email indicator is to embed a 1x1 pixel in the email.

2) When a person reads an email, the 1x1 image file is accessed you'll have the User Agent string of the device, which provides some info.

3) Problem: This only works if someone accepts allowing the 1x1 pixel file being accessed. Most people these days simply deny pixel opens.

4) Problem: Content scanners will open all pixels by default, so you have to determine the difference between human + scanner message opens.

Generally humans rarely accept pixels + scanners accept all pixels, so derived data tends to be nearly 100% wrong.

Solution: The only way to determine 100% if a message was opened by a human is to embed one or more reply to email links.

Very few bots/scanners are smart enough to click a reply address + send some message back to the sender.

The way I handle this in MTA code is to embed unique reply to addresses of the form...

loopback-RandomKey-verb, like...



Open in new window

Verbs can be anything. The keys log when the message sends, so very low overhead (no databases) to correlate keys to recipients.

A simple approach is to accept all loopback-key-verb addresses, then correlate the key to recipient, then record the verb associated with the correct recipient.

This is pretty much the only way to guarantee a human opens a message, reads to the bottom, takes some action.


Thanks for the reply David!

Regarding your proposed solution, I want to make sure i'm understanding. The loopback-key-verb addition to the email would require the recipient to click? If we put this at bottom of the email, the user would have had to read the entire email "probably" at that point.

Also, have you run into any 3rd party applications that might be able to help? The scripts I have tried so far are as you say not returning reliable data and/or are too invasive (EWS).
Cannot be done.

Any attempt to do this would be intrusive, and client software that allowed it would become very unpopular.

Usual method is to embed a link to a picture that has a GUID in the path, so that when a user opens the email and pulls down the pic, it uniquely identifies them. Pretty much ALL email clients will warn a user and ask for permission before downloading such a pic.