Foliovision are long time users of SendGrid, with an enterprise account for about a decade now. Twilio acquired SendGrid in February 2019. Not too much changed right away (happily). Nothing has particularly improved.1
The Twilio CEO has been known to fly his political colours on his sleeve. Jeff Lawson’s latest stunt was race-based layoffs at Twilio last week. This in 2022. We’ve all fought long and hard against discrimination. Lawson is determined to take us back decades in terms of progress towards colour-blind.
What should worry SendGrid users is how these Lawson’s repressive activist politics could affect their business. Today we were sent the new terms of service from Twilio and they worry me. Here’s the key paragraph from the Acceptable Use Policy:
No Inappropriate Content or Users. Do not use the Services to transmit or store any content or communications (commercial or otherwise) that is illegal, harmful, unwanted, inappropriate, or objectionable, including, but not limited to, content or communications which Twilio determines (a) is false or inaccurate; (b) is hateful or encourages hatred or violence against individuals or groups; or (c) could endanger public safety. This prohibition includes use of the Services by a hate group. Customer and its End Users are also prohibited from using the Services to promote, or enable the transmission of or access to, any prohibited content or communications described in this paragraph.
In my opinion, internet and technology service providers should not have political opinions at work. It’s our job to provide tools to people and organisations. It’s up to those people and organisations to use those tools as they choose. What about harassment, hate speech, violence? you ask. That’s very simple. Every country has its own laws against those actions.
In terms of acceptable use, every technology provider’s definition of acceptable content could and should be a lot simpler:
Do not use the Services to transmit or store any content or communications (commercial or otherwise) that is illegal.
Every country has its own legislature, its own politicians and its own elections to determine its laws. As a service provider, Twilio should not put itself above the laws of the lands in which it operates.
As SendGrid is an email provider and would not want to participate in spam, another short clause to prohibit the use of SendGrid to send unsolicited emails would be fine. But again even spam is covered by the law, CAN-SPAM (USA, 2003), Bill C-28 (Canada, 2014) and COM (EU, 2004).
What no end user should seek from its service provider is language banning “content or communications which Twilio determines (a) is false or inaccurate”. Twilio, and no other internet service provider, should ever be in the position to be the arbiter of what is true and accurate. Even more worrying is the final sentence:
Customer and its End Users are also prohibited….[to] enable…access to, any prohibited content or communications.
This means that even resources which are not on a Twilio service are subject to censure. Effectively Twilio’s acceptable use policy is a Red Queen policy. Whatever Jeff Lawson finds acceptable that day is what Twilio customers are allowed.
Anyone in the political arena or even in business should flee SendGrid for a more customer friendly provider. There’s very few reputable mass-mailing SMTP providers. Most SMTP providers want to provide very expensive newsletter services which include some kind of posting tool, which cost hundreds of dollars per month even to a small business with just 5000 to 20000 email addresses on their lists.
Commercial SendGrid Alternatives
There’s Mailgun and Amazon SES come to mind. I know first hand AWS support is no great shakes (nor is SendGrid’s for that matter). Mailgun does not have a reputation for great support either (no experience). Postmark does have a reputation for expert support but was originally only for transactional emails. Apparently Postmark allows newsletter communication now and not just transactional emails.
Open-Source SendGrid Alternative
If you would like to roll your own, there’s now Postal, an open-source alternative to SendGrid and Mailgun. Maintaining an application of this complexity and properly handling spam reports from big US email service providers Hotmail/Office365, Gmail, Yahoo and AOL is very challenging. Postal is probably not a good alternative for a smaller sender.
It’s hard to move email providers as an agency (one has dozens of accounts to adjust in multiple places, basic DNS, SPF, DKIM, DMARC). If you are a single company or just setting up, I’d highly recommend avoiding setting up on SendGrid. I’ve also heard SendGrid does not like small publishers, despite a price list which does allow $20/month accounts with up to 50,000 emails.
Be very careful where you set up, as moving will be no fun.
The confusing and excessively complicated interface remains confusing and excessively complicated. Some of the features have been moved around, which just makes matters worse as one has to spend more time figuring out where the new owners have hidden existing features. But nothing too overwhelming.] ↩
Alec has been helping businesses succeed online since 2000. Alec is an SEM expert with a background in advertising, as a former Head of Television for Grey Moscow and Senior Television Producer for Bates, Saatchi and Saatchi Russia.