Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mailinator for Testing

Recently I implemented a captcha system in Mailinator.

If you're a normal user - you've probably never seen it. That's because it doesn't get activated until emails with the same subject get read more than like 10 times in a minute. Needless to say, if you're using Mailinator to sign-up for something here and there, that's not a normal use case.

But if you're a script - or a person signing up for some website over and over and over (and over) - you hit this pretty fast. It has done a fantastic job of stopping scripts pretty succinctly and slowing down humans zealously working over some site. The main problem with the latter is that many of those sites don't like that and may then ban Mailinator. That's not good for anyone.

What surprised me about the captcha system is how many people emailed me that I broke their test scripts. That is, they had email system tests (i.e. "Thanks for registering!") that use Mailinator as an end point. Their test then (with variation per user of course) checks the Mailinator inbox that their system correctly sent the email.

ManyBrain, Inc. (the company that owns Mailinator) has offered for a long time testing packages that completely bypass Mailinator's abuse system for high-volume testing or other emailing.

I'd be interested in however in improving this service and making it more mainstream. If you use Mailinator for testing - or would like to - I'd like to hear from you.

How would you use it? What kind of volume? I can't believe anyone is excited about scraping HTML (that wasn't particularly designed to be scraped) to get test results. Mailinator already has a (secret, shhh) JSON interface thats not public. That would seem to be the way to go.

My thoughts is a JSON-based SOAP/REST/whatever API that allows testing scripts to read emails. Whats a reasonable method and threshold of use to start charging? Possibly a sister site to Mailinator itself would be a better home for the testing service.

If there's enough interest to support the development, I'd be excited to get this up and running.

Email me at


ycc2106 said...

First of all thanks for creating mailinator AND maintaining it for so long.
Where can I find THE mailinator alternate domains list?

mcraig88 said...

I use mailinator in our test environment, but not in the 'scraping' method you describe. Basically, we take a production database, anonymize user identifiable information, and then change email addresses to use Basically, this just helps us take a 'production account', without knowledge of the actual user, and test with live data. Hope that helps.

Will Entriken said...

could you please provide a link for "ManyBrain, Inc. (the company that owns Mailinator) has offered for a long time testing packages that completely bypass Mailinator's abuse system for high-volume testing or other emailing."

even as a casual user, I would be interested in paying a modest (read: modest) annual fee for access to a version of mailinator that has a longer retention time. i dont know how you would implement it, because i'd still want to have a few mailboxes to use.

maybe I could login to your premium site and choose up to 10 mailboxes to enable premium service. then when I (or anyone) uses mailinator with that mailbox, the longer retention + any other features are enabled.

faithislove said...

You know your mailinator idea was one of the reason I started my own business (what btw has nothing to do with this).
I also had a unique idea which was an online web based application but unfortunately by I finished coding it there were more than 5 older competitiors already who just didn't like that mine exist.
So my app ended up being non-free and with the competitors its a constant battle, but not really about whose software is better but who can kill the others better.

Well I guess this is just luck for you that the others like dodgit don't try to smash you in. Can you imagine a commercial mailinator service?:)

Anonymous said...

I'd love it if you could do domain shadowing (i.e. have fake emails sent to real email addresses but caught by mailinator) probably not possibly but it would be nice, i.e. so you wouldn't have to create different email domains.

I noticed that a few sites have banned mailinator now because they can't track users like they do, IMHO I think you should create a legimimate mail site for throw away accounts (i.e. so when people sign up on forums, etc)

The whole reason why I use mailinator is because email I like my privacy and companies use emails to track people, who they are, where they live, what their income is in a database it's scary what other companies know about you these days and I want to make these companies job as painful and miserable as possible.

Anonymous said...

I like this, but you might have to change it...

Your email generator would give people a unused email address (or people can choose temporary name) with a code generated only once, and the address will be reserved for a temporary period - say, one month + entensions. this way, no duplicate address's and no hacking. : Anatomy of a Spammy Campaign

Mailinator is a popular disposable email service. It's also become a great tool for QA Teams to test email receipt, acknowledgment, au...