Solving the Gmail "Sender" Problem…

…if you have enough patience and control.

There are some long standing threads on the Gmail Help Discussion group concerning the problem with unwanted “Sender:” headers. A lot of very strong opinion and with fair reason.

Google promises something will be done, but there’s no timescale.

For those of you who don’t want to wait, and who are willing to flex a bit, there is a possible alternative.

A Brief Recap

You use Google Applications For Your Domain (GAFYD).

You let it manage your domain, http://www.onemanband.co.uk, and you have the email address mrsean2k@onemanband.co.uk

You work for or on behalf of another company, http://www.muchbigger.co.uk

You want to “brand” all your email as mrsean2k@muchbigger.co.uk.

Much Bigger manages it’s own email with it’s own email servers but forwards any incoming email on to mrsean2k@onemanband.co.uk

You setup an email alias in GAFYD to allow your email to appear to come from mrsean2k@muchbigger.co.uk

GMail sets the “Sender:” header with a value of mrsean2k@onemanband.co.uk. Some clients will render this and the illusion is destroyed.

So if this isn’t pretty close to your situation, you’ll want to find something better to do with your time.

What Do I Need to Know?

First, this is a compromise:

You can’t have mrsean2k@muchbigger.co.uk, you have to make do with mrsean2k@m2.muchbigger.co.uk or your subdomain of choice.

Second, you need a friendly admin:

You need access to the DNS records for muchbigger.co.uk, or a friendly face at Much Bigger willing to access them for you.

If both these conditions are acceptable:

Create an A record for the subdomain m2.muchbigger.co.uk. It doesn’t matter what this A record resolves to, but you’ll need to go through the Google verification process to prove that you control it.

This may leave you with a further subdomain, googlesrandomid.m2.muchbigger.co.uk depending on how you elect to verify.

Follow the instructions from the Gmail dashboard and set up the full complement of MX records for the new subdomain.

Wait for the changes to filter through.

In “Domain Setting” -> “Domain Names” add a domain alias for m2.muchbigger.co.uk

That should be it.

You should now find that incoming mail is delivered directly to your GAFYD account, and if you respond using the mrsean2k@m2.muchbigger.co.uk identity, no Sender: header is sent – the email appears to originate seamlessly from Much Bigger.

Example DNS Entries

In trying this workaround, I implemented these steps using a sacrificial domain I own. These are the DNS entries I ended up with on my registrar of choice, www.register.it with some identities changed to protect the innocent.

Entries for the m2 subdomain below are typical of the changes you’d need Much Bigger to make on your behalf:

Name Type Value
muchbigger.co.uk MX 10 mail.register.it
m2.muchbigger.co.uk MX 10 ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM
m2.muchbigger.co.uk MX 20 ALT1.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM
m2.muchbigger.co.uk MX 20 ALT2.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM
m2.muchbigger.co.uk MX 30 ASPMX4.GOOGLEMAIL.COM
m2.muchbigger.co.uk MX 30 ASPMX3.GOOGLEMAIL.COM
m2.muchbigger.co.uk MX 30 ASPMX2.GOOGLEMAIL.COM
m2.muchbigger.co.uk MX 30 ASPMX5.GOOGLEMAIL.COM
m2.muchbigger.co.uk A 195.110.124.188
to-windows.muchbigger.co.uk A 195.110.125.55
muchbigger.co.uk A 195.110.124.188
to-linux.muchbigger.co.uk A 195.110.124.133
http://www.muchbigger.co.uk CNAME muchbigger.co.uk
ftp.muchbigger.co.uk CNAME muchbigger.co.uk
pop.muchbigger.co.uk CNAME mail.register.it
google7cd8065b1aa54390.m2.muchbigger.co.uk CNAME google.com

Conclusion

If you can live with the limitations, sending email with these setting eliminates any clues that you’re using an alias; the From: header is the only clue, and this is set correctly.

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