I woke up at 6 AM and decided to send out a couple of E-mails. Outlook 2003 kept spitting them back at me with messages from "System Administrator" that my messages were undeliverable with the cryptic error "503 No recipient(s)." Well, clearly there were recipients; Outlook won't let me click "Send" without at least one recipient. I had this problem once before, and the solution was to close and reopen Outlook. No such luck this time. So I went to Microsoft's online support. I searched for "undeliverable 503," and they directed me to a page that didn't even mention "503" anywhere in the text. It was about sending E-mail from work and other stuff that didn't seem to apply. So Microsoft wins their award for this confusing and unhelpful "solution," even though ultimately it wasn't their fault my E-mail was broken.
After much resending, cursing (restrained to avoid waking up my wife, which just made me more frustrated), and banging my head against the wall (only figuratively, so I wouldn't wake up my wife), I went to EarthLink's online support center. There under "Email: Troubleshooting Problems," I clicked hopefully on "Sending email from a hotel, office, or other network (relay denied, 500 errors)." I had a 503, which is close to 500, and although I am at home, my DSL is a network, though it's the same network I've been using with EarthLink for years. But there was my solution:
EarthLink's outgoing mail servers are now using authenticated SMTP (ASMTP) to help fight spam. As a result, you must update your email settings to continue sending mail from our servers. ASMTP requires you to enter your email password before sending email. This simple step blocks unauthorized outgoing messages and helps reduce the distribution of spam.Well, that's nice. They even had a handy applet I could download to change my Outlook 2003 settings for me. Okay, so why is EarthLink a bastard? Because they never told me they were switching to ASMTP! They just did it sometime between the last E-mail I sent (about a week ago) and today, leaving me to figure out what had changed. A simple, pre-emptive message from them would have prevented all these problems, and I could have gone back to bed for an hour or so this morning. Instead, I spent an hour trying to figure out why my E-mail was undeliverable.
I hope they will learn their lesson after taking thousands of phone calls from befuddled users who aren't willing or knowledgeable enough to hunt for a solution on their own. There was only one thing that would have made this story any more ridiculous. Alas, it appears that they did not send a message that was intercepted by their own spam filter. That would have been funny.