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I have bought a domain which should only be used for email addresses. The SMTP server has the name mail.mydomain.com. When checking the domain configuration using some web service like mxtoolbox.com, it complains that the website mydomain.com is not available. Is it really necessary to have a website if using a domain for mails only? If it is not necessary, could mails be rejected by recipients as spam if I do not have a working website in place? I.e. is it recommended to have a website? Is there a standard (like RFC) where this topic is discussed?

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    Wheteaboyt on MXToolbox did you see the warning?
    – davidgo
    Mar 5 at 8:08
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    Mail Transport Agent Strict Transport Security(MTA-STS) uses an SSL secured web site hosted by your domain to allow you to publish your MTA-STS policy which is used to enforce strict Transport Layer security. As far as I'm aware, Google and Microsoft make use of it.
    – StarCat
    Mar 5 at 18:25
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    I checked Email Health. And mxtoolbox gave me an error (not a warning). The error was: Category: http, Error message: The remote name could not be resolved: 'example.com' (example.com). No other errors. Just that one. Mails are working fine. Just this error message is annyoing. And I don't understand what it means exactly. What does http have to do with email?
    – TomS
    Mar 5 at 19:46
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    Looking at the email health check it appears to relate to a value add service they are providing - ie they provide web server monitoring, and it would relate to that feature - although (other then as a potential upsell) I don't know why they would check that there - and certainly don't know why a lack of a webserver would cause an error.
    – davidgo
    Mar 6 at 4:33
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    @StarCat: I don't think that's relevant as it's on a subdomain for mta-sts and not the apex. Mar 7 at 0:12

4 Answers 4

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No. You don't need a website for an email address and having one does very little if anything for your (email sending) reputation - certainly email won't be rejected just because you don't have a website.

The only thing I can think of that might be a bit relevant (again not very important at all) - if you dont have an MX record set, a mail server is supposed to fallback to trying to deliver email to the A record (i.e. a DNS entry that is now more commonly associated with websites). Again, this is little more than a relic of the early days of the net and not generally important.

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    There are a number of RFC's around smtp - probably theost relevant one is datatracker.ietf.org/doc/html/rfc5321#section-2.2. Question - are you maybe confusing a host with a web host?
    – davidgo
    Mar 5 at 8:14
  • Please note that I did not ask for general standards documents for SMTP (like RFC 822 or RFC 2822). What I meant was, if there's an RFC where there's mentioned why one needs an A record for a mail server.
    – TomS
    Mar 5 at 19:49
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    @TomS that would be in section 5.1, paragraph 2 of RFC5321, although the A record is implied rather then stated per my bolding for the relevant words - "...If an empty list of MXs is returned, the address is treated as if it was associated with an implicit MX RR, with a preference of 0, pointing to that host ..."
    – davidgo
    Mar 5 at 20:29
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    There is also datatracker.ietf.org/doc/html/rfc3974 which talks about SMTP in a dual IPV4/IPV6 stack - section 3(1) ...If NODATA (i.e., empty answer with NOERROR(0) RCODE) is returned, there is no MX record but the name is valid. Assume that there is a record like "name. IN MX 0 name." (implicit MX)..."
    – davidgo
    Mar 5 at 20:38
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    @AndrewSavinykh absolutely. That doesn't relate to web hosting though. If reverse and forward DNS don't have you have a problem. The idea being - historically - the people who controlled reverse DNS were knowledgeable and in a position of authority - a hacker compromising a rented box would not be able to change reverse DNS.
    – davidgo
    Mar 6 at 21:08
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The only requirement for an email server is to be reachable. In that sense the domain must be hosted somewhere, and there are only two options: Your computer email server or a web hosting service. In that respect, your own website is not strictly necessary.

It seems that in your case the vendor of your domain name does this service for you, by hosting your domain and supplying the required DNS records and services.

In that respect, you may ignore the warning messages from mxtoolbox.com, as long as your mail is functioning.

You should instead verify your email server by one of the free Email Checkers found on the internet. There are multiple authentication standards that your email server must obey if you wish your emails not to be branded as spam. For example DMARC. It is important that your email hosting service support all of them.

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    Why isn't DMARC sufficient? Or perhaps more actionable: Of the "multiple authentication standards that your email server must obey" what are all of them? (Or should this itself be another question?) (I ask because I set up my own domain name from google's domain product to point to protonmail and google's instructions said to get DMARC running (via DNS entries) but mentioned nothing else. Though this was a year ago.)
    – davidbak
    Mar 5 at 18:40
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    @davidbak: Others are SPF and DKIM, and DMARC includes both, so it's more than sufficient.
    – harrymc
    Mar 5 at 18:52
  • @harrymc I agree with everything you have said, save for the "only 2 options: your computer email server or a web hosting service". I don't think GMAIL or Office365 are either of these. I know that I also offer hosting of email without associated mail.
    – davidgo
    Mar 5 at 21:43
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As the others have pointed out, it is not technically neccessary to have a proper website attached to it.

However, some mail providers (like the German Telekom) may sort your mail into spam or outright reject it if they do not find something resembling an imprint or a link to one on your main domain. (Source, in German: https://postmaster.t-online.de/#t3.2)

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  • Thanks for the answer! There's nothing mentioned on any legal notices in 3.4 of the guidelines of Deutsche Telekom. What du you mean, exactly? They only refer to legal statements (Impressum) in business emails. But they seem not to talk about any websites which need do be in place, if I read that correctly.
    – TomS
    Mar 8 at 20:23
  • Sorry, I fixed the wrong anchor. They say mass-mail, which, at least in our case, did not only apply to a newsletter, but to an automatically generated response mail when the user contacted us via a form. This was a developement domain used for many different customers (think customer-a.domain.dev, customer-b.domain.dev) but the main one was unused. After we added an imprint to domain.dev the mails got through. Mar 9 at 9:42
  • This whole section only refers to commercial newsletters. I don’t see any indication OP is sending newsletters. Most mail system operators are also very forthcoming if you contact them (except Microsoft of course).
    – Daniel B
    Mar 9 at 9:44
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You do not need a webhosting attached to the domain, as the MX record can point to any mail provider by itself.

If the mail is hosted on the same server that normally the website would be hosted too, it is likely not possible to get a certificate running, and thus, you lack SSL/TLS support. With increasing blocking of insecure mail traffic, that is the only thing that could become an issue.

But again, its not mandatory to run email.

That said, although mxtoolbox in the name implies it is for email, mxtoolbox does far more. Its likely that you did a DNS check and that it complained about an A record, not the MX record.

Then again, many webhosting providers offer both mail and webspace. The mail is then stored on the webspace, and you can even choose to not make the domain point to the website, turning it into a mail-only solution. But technically, that is still a webhosting.

So if you really only have a domain, but no space behind it, you cannot expect mail to be working. You need a mailserver, either from a dedicated email hosting service or by getting webspace.

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    "Then again, if the server itself hosts the mail, it will need space to store the mail, which already turns it into a webserver." <= really?
    – davidbak
    Mar 5 at 18:38
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    It is very doable to get tls/ssl working without a web server. You either buy a cert or use DNS verification. Further, while a mail server neefs a cert, domains using that server dont. (ie 1 server supporting multiple domains only needs 1 cert) - Gmail and Outlook.com don't require you point an A record or cname at them to work.
    – davidgo
    Mar 5 at 19:19
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    My mail system is running very well. And I do not have any HTTP web server running on either port 80 or port 443.
    – TomS
    Mar 5 at 19:42
  • Based on the comments, I reread my answer and now see that it can be read in different ways and was not clear. I have rewritten that paragraph. Thanks all for pointing it out. :)
    – LPChip
    Mar 6 at 13:14

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