In the ever-evolving landscape of digital communication, email remains a cornerstone of business and personal exchanges. However, this ubiquity also makes email a prime target for phishing attacks, spoofing, and other malicious activities. To combat these threats, DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) has emerged as a pivotal standard in email authentication, building on the foundations of SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail). This article delves into the nuances of DMARC, tracing its history, examining its dependencies on SPF and DKIM, exploring its operational modes, and highlighting recent developments such as Google's new DMARC requirements.

The Genesis of DMARC

DMARC's journey began in 2012 as a collaborative effort among leading tech companies, including Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, to mitigate the risk of email-based abuse. By allowing domain owners to publish policies in their DNS records that define how their email is authenticated, DMARC introduced a way for email receivers to handle unauthenticated messages according to the domain owners' specifications. This initiative marked a significant advancement in email security, offering transparency and control back to domain owners.

SPF and DKIM: The Pillars of DMARC

DMARC operates by leveraging the established protocols of SPF and DKIM, each serving a unique function in email authentication:

  • SPF allows domain owners to specify which mail servers are authorized to send emails on their behalf. An SPF record in the DNS might look like v=spf1 ~all for a domain using Google's mail servers. An SPF record for a domain using the services of ICDSoft could look like v=spf1 a mx That would be the case if the domain was hosted on You can learn more about SPF here:
    Unlock The Power of SPF: Safeguard Your Email Reputation and Improve Delivery Rates
  • DKIM adds a digital signature to outgoing emails, verifying that the content has not been altered in transit. A DKIM record in the DNS would include a public key used to validate this signature. You can learn more about DKIM here:
    DKIM and SPF Email Authentication

DMARC unifies these two protocols by requiring that an email pass either SPF or DKIM authentication and that the authenticated domain aligns with the domain found in the email's "From" address. This dual-layer approach significantly enhances the integrity and reliability of email communication.

Operational Modes of DMARC

DMARC policies direct how email receivers should treat emails that do not pass DMARC checks. These policies are published in the DNS as TXT records. For example, a baseline DMARC entry for might be v=DMARC1; p=none; rua=mailto:[email protected], which sets the policy to monitoring mode (none) and specifies an email address to receive aggregate reports.

Operational modes:

  • None (Monitoring Mode): The policy of p=none is recommended as the starting point. It allows domain owners to collect data on their email flow without affecting delivery. This mode is crucial for identifying unauthorized use of the domain in email without impacting legitimate email traffic.
  • Quarantine: After analyzing the reports collected during the monitoring phase, domain owners may choose to move to a p=quarantine policy. This policy directs receiving servers to place emails that fail DMARC checks into the spam or junk folder. An example entry might be v=DMARC1; p=quarantine; pct=100; rua=mailto:[email protected], applying the policy to 100% of emails.
  • Reject: The final step in DMARC implementation is p=reject, where emails failing DMARC checks are outright rejected. This policy ensures that only authenticated emails are delivered, significantly reducing the risk of phishing and spoofing attacks.

Additional DMARC Record Options

DMARC offers several options for fine-tuning policies:

  • rua (Aggregate Reports): Specifies where aggregate reports of DMARC passes and failures should be sent.
  • ruf (Forensic Reports): Specifies where individual failure reports should be sent, offering insights into specific issues.
  • pct (Percentage): Allows the domain owner to apply the DMARC policy to only a percentage of their email traffic, facilitating a gradual rollout.

Google and Yahoo's Stance on Bulk Senders

In a significant policy overhaul initiated in February 2024, Google announced stringent measures for entities dispatching over 5,000 emails daily. Such bulk senders are mandated to adhere to enhanced authentication and formatting standards, including SPF, DKIM, and DMARC compliance, to fortify email security and diminish spam. Yahoo aligns with this directive, emphasizing the necessity of efficient unsubscribe mechanisms and adherence to spam rate thresholds. These measures are designed to refine email reliability and user experience by ensuring that only authenticated and solicited emails reach inboxes.

Gradual DMARC Implementation

Google emphasizes a gradual rollout of DMARC to mitigate the risk of legitimate messages being rejected or marked as spam. Starting with a none policy allows organizations to monitor email flow without immediate enforcement, enabling a controlled adjustment based on the insights gathered from DMARC reports. This approach ensures that organizations can refine their email authentication processes without disrupting legitimate email communication.

Criteria for Bulk Senders

A bulk sender is defined by Google as any entity sending close to or more than 5,000 messages to Gmail accounts within a 24-hour period. This includes emails sent from all addresses under the same primary domain. Once a sender reaches this threshold even once, they are permanently classified as a bulk sender. This permanent classification underscores the importance of maintaining compliant email practices consistently.

Google's Enforcement Timeline

Enforcement for bulk senders not meeting Google's Email sender guidelines will be gradual, starting with temporary errors for a small portion of non-compliant messages. This phased approach aids senders in identifying and rectifying issues without immediate full-scale rejection of emails. Bulk senders are encouraged to utilize Google's Postmaster Tools to monitor their compliance status and adjust their practices accordingly. You can find the official Google guidelines here:
Email sender guidelines
Email sender guidelines FAQ
New Gmail protections for a safer, less spammy inbox
Tutorial: Recommended DMARC rollout

DMARC Alignment and Authentication

For direct messages to Gmail accounts, the domain in the sender's From header must align with either the SPF or DKIM domain. Although bulk senders are required to set up both SPF and DKIM, alignment with just one of these is needed to meet Google's alignment requirements. However, for forwarded or mailing list messages, ARC (Authenticated Received Chain) headers are required, highlighting the nuanced approach Google takes towards different types of email flows. To avoid any issues with email forwarding, ICDSoft has implemented SRS (Sender Rewriting Scheme). By doing so, ICDSoft ensures that all emails forwarded through its servers maintain their integrity and deliverability. You can learn more about our SRS implementation at:
Sender Rewriting Scheme (SRS) – Improved Email Forwarding

DMARC Report Analysis

Several free DMARC report analyzers available on the internet help domain owners interpret DMARC reports, which can be complex and voluminous. These tools parse the XML reports sent by email receivers and present the data in a more understandable format, making it easier to identify issues and improve email authentication practices. Here are some of the most popular free DMARC report analyzers:

Bulk Sender Support and Technical Escalation

Bulk senders adhering to all of Google's Email sender guidelines, including DMARC authentication, low spam rates, and one-click unsubscribe features for marketing emails, are eligible for technical support and escalation for email delivery issues. This eligibility for support underscores the importance of comprehensive compliance with Google's guidelines to ensure reliable email delivery.


The evolution of DMARC represents a significant advancement in the battle against email fraud and abuse. By effectively implementing DMARC, along with SPF and DKIM, domain owners can dramatically improve the security of their email communications. As digital threats continue to evolve, adhering to these standards is paramount for maintaining a secure and trusted email environment.


A web hosting provider since 2001. We host over 58,000 websites for customers in over 140 countries around the globe.