honet.com is the Internet domain owned by Home Office Networks, a tiny network service and consulting company located in Frisco, Texas. For various reasons that seem good to its owners, its mail server accepts any and all email sent to addresses at honet.com, whether or not the accounts exist1. There are many other organizations, both small and large, for which this is true. (For example, the domain honet.be also accepts mail for invalid accounts and later issues a "delivery failure" notice.)
Because there are quite a few similar domains scattered all over the Earth, honet.com gets a steady trickle of misdirected email -- contracts, confidential product marketing plans, shipping manifests, students' homework, embarrassingly intimate personal notes, family holiday photos... and mailing list spam.
Mailing list spam happens when somebody gives an email address that they don't actually own to the owner of a mailing list. This may occur by accident (a typing error, perhaps) or intentionally (for example, giving a false address to avoid receiving unwanted email). If the mailing list is properly administered, this is not really a problem -- when the "please confirm that you have signed up" message arrives, nobody exists to respond to it, and the address drops off the list.
Unfortunately, there are still a great many lists that are not managed responsibly. As a result, quite a few bogus honet.com accounts regularly receive email that is being sent to a nonexisting person. If the mailings persist I eventually toss the sending domain into the local mail server's deny list. Alas, the list owners often will continue sending email no matter how many "No Such User" bounce messages they receive, and no matter how long all attempts at communication from their domain to this one are rejected.
This is a serious problem for the Internet's email system, and it will become even more serious as time goes on, if nothing is done to awaken the many thousands of owners of legitimate (but unconfirmed) email lists.
This web page recounts the ongoing story of one undead and undying bogus account, created by mistake but gathering ever more and more useless advertising traffic. I offer it in the hope that some of those who are laboring to preserve the Internet email system as a tool of business and personal communication may find its lessons useful.
1Note: In the spring of 2003 the honet.com domain was converted from a "wildcard" configuration as described above to a strict user list configuration. The ever-growing burden of traffic generated by mistaken East Asian users of such domains as honet.com.hk, honet.com.cn and hnonet.com eventually rendered the original domain configuration impractical.
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