MailChimp Announces Mandrill is No Longer Free for Users

Mandrill (owned by MailChimp) is currently one of the tools preferred by many developers to send automated email responses through websites - for example, form submission notifications or sending replacement login information. 

Mandrill MailchimpYou've most likely encountered Mandrill in some form on the sites you visit, although you may not have known it.  Its ease of use and zero-cost investment have helped Mandrill grow a significant user base - 88 billion messages sent and nearly 800,000 unique users, according to latest stats released.

But MailChimp recently delivered some surprising news: Mandrill will become a paid service only available to users with a MailChimp account.  Existing users have a choice: a) become a member starting at $20 per month and pay for each individual email, or b) find something else.

It's an interesting choice for a company to almost completely walk away from one of its largest use cases, but in any case, those of us using Mandrill must now determine the next steps. In this blog installment, we dissect this complex issue and offer some advice for how to move forward.

Why the Move to Make Mandrill a Paid Service?

Mandrill's creators didn't originally intend on it reaching the current usage levels, let alone it becoming a fixture in web development.

As MailChimp's brand has grown, the company found itself catering to what they consider two different user groups: email marketing clients wanting highly customizable templates and those sending one-off "transactional" emails.

MailChimp ultimately gave preference to the former, stating: "no matter how compelling or strategic it may seem to conquer the utility transactional space, MailChimp's cultural DNA compels us to innovate on e-commerce personalization."

What Do the Changes to Mandrill Mean For Me?

For MailChimp's existing customers, the process is fairly straightforward. Mandrill can now be easily integrated into your existing web platforms without any change, so long as you agree to the increased monthly fee.

Those of us looking to move elsewhere, however, have a condensed timeline to find a new mail hosting provider. MailChimp is giving Mandrill users until April 27th to complete this search, with its cancellation following immediately thereafter.

For larger hosting companies using Mandrill (such as Top Floor), this presents a very short window of opportunity. Nonetheless, here are a few options to consider in this migration:

1.      Amazon Simple Email Service (SES): a pay-as-you go model using Amazon's existing web hosting environments

2.      SparkPost: an email delivery agent that will honor Mandrill's pricing agreement

3.      SendGrid: a large-scale competitor of the aforementioned companies

What's Next for Those Migrating Away from Mandrill?

Migrating away from Mandrill's interface is rather simple, as it only requires a change in two DNS items: SPF and DKIM. These two records work in conjunction to verify domains and enhance security in the mailing process, meaning the end user receives mail from an authentic source.

Your new mail account should indicate how and where to make those changes through your DNS manager. If you're unsure on how to do this, contact the company handling your website's DNS for further instruction.

While this change shouldn't have any effect on your live site, it's a best practice to do a thorough quality assurance test to ensure nothing changed. Click through higher level page categories and make note of any noticeable changes, following up with your website hosting administrator for further edits.

Any Further Questions about the Mandrill Changes?

Top Floor will be working through next steps with existing customers affected by this change.  For our other readers - please share any questions in the comments!  

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