Do you know if your emails reach your users' inbox? You may see clicks and opens, but are you sure all your emails arrived? SparkPost offers this certainty to developers for free or at low cost, all via an API.
SparkPost's technology is used to send 25% of the world's legitimate emails. SparkPost's parent company, Message Systems, provides on-premise email solutions to the world's top email senders like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and PayPal – sending a billion emails a day for some clients.
SparkPost launched a cloud email service designed for developers in November 2014. The service uses the company's proven email infrastructure and has grown exponentially since adding big clients like Pinterest and Zillow. Developers of any scale can access the same infrastructure to send emails with the same delivery rate as the biggest companies on the Internet.
SparkPost provides developers with a free tier of service. Developers can send up to 10,000 transactional emails a month for free. The higher tiers of service are low cost as well – the first paid level of service allows you to send over a million transactional emails a year for less than $1,000.
“Transactional emails” are emails sent in response to specific user events – like signing up, making a purchase, or notifications about a friend's activity on your app. Transactional emails are not the same as “marketing campaign” emails - ones that users might not expect or want. Think of them as the emails that users “should” be getting.
SparkPost can almost guarantee that transactional emails will be received by your users. SparkPost knows what ISPs and web email companies (Gmail, Yahoo!, etc.) want to see about an incoming email to evaluate whether it should be delivered to their users. SparkPost's Adaptive Email Network collects intelligence from 90% of the worlds email traffic, and uses this data to optimize delivery. SparkPost's IP addresses are trusted to send legitimate emails, and the emails they send are formatted to adhere to the policies receivers. SparkPost has teams of compliance and deliverability experts who are experts in making sure emails actually get there.
Email deliverability is a difficult topic to learn and to master. It is increasingly hard to send emails correctly, as ISPs change their rules to fight against spam. Developers might not know that 20% of their emails aren't getting there. It may take a crisis – like most of your emails getting rejected suddenly – for you to realize that you are sending emails in a way that gets you blacklisted.
SparkPost just launched new resources to help developers gain API access to their expertise, email infrastructure and scale.
SparkPost Developer Hub
SparkPost's developer hub provides all the resources needed to get started quickly.
SparkPost's Chief Technology Officer Alec Peterson explained to ProgrammableWeb:
Our developer hub is a one stop shop for programmers to get up and running using the SparkPost API and SDKs. You have client libraries in most popular languages. We have Heroku and other integrations. Our blog explains email technology and how to get the most out of transactional email. There is a lot of specialized knowledge related to email, and we try and make that information as accessible as possible.
Email is our lives. For most of our customers, email is an important part of their business – but it is not their life. We have a whole team of developer advocates whose whole job is to help other developer solve their email problems, get out of the email world, and get back to their businesses which can leverage email to grow further.
We want developers to be able to focus on adding their own unique value to their applications – and not having to learn about email server authentication like SPF and DKIM, formating headers correctly and all that. You wouldn't think something people use so much would be this complicated, but email is a 30 year old technology that is hard to get right.
SparkPost says their goal is to be the most developer friendly email delivery platform.
Use an API to Send Your Emails
The new way to send emails is to call the API of a trusted email delivering platform.
Many developers think that email is as simple as setting up connecting via SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) to their hosting provider – maybe after setting up a Postfix server – and then providing “To”, “From”, “Subject” and “Body” parameters for the email. This just sends the email, not ensures it gets there.
Sending via SMTP is the old way to do email. Their is nothing intrinsically necessary about using SMTP to send emails. You can now make simple API calls to email delivery platforms. These platforms only require the same simple email paramaters – but they then worry about how to correctly render the complex email header information required to make sure an ISP will accept and deliver an email.
You can still use SMTP to send email via SparkPost. You can even send from your personal email client (Outlook, Thuderbird, etc.). You will get all the email deliverability and events data they they provide.
SparkPost's API adheres to RESTful principals for easy integration. Individual emails and batches of emails can be sent using simple API calls. You can create, retrieve, update and delete recipient lists. Requests and responses are made using JSON.
SparkPost created a templating language for emails that can be dynamically populated with your data – the platform then renders emails that will be correctly displayed by email clients and delivered by ISPs. You can prepare the templates on their site in advance, or send them with your API calls. Once an email address is provided to the API, you can get feedback about whether that email can be delivered. After an email is sent, you can see whether it was delivered, whether it was opened, and whether links were clicked. These are many other events are available is all available both on the dashboard on their site and via the “Message Events" API endpoint.
SparkPost provides webhooks – pushing real time email event data to a callback URL on your server. You can deeply integrate email into your application that way – not only receiving granular feedback on email activity – but creating new forms of user engagement based on whether someone is interacting with your email.
SparkPost has both a basic API and an “Elite API” for its premium service – which offers more support and guaranteed burst rates for sending high volumes of email.
SparkPost hopes to make solving the complex world of email delivery as easy as making an API call.