SMTP for free users

Free users are restricted to HTTP/HTTPS only, to a whitelist of sites. Because most email services work over SMTP, which is not HTTP or HTTPS, that means you cannot normally use SMTP on Free accounts.

If you want to send email, you have two options:

Use an HTTP/HTTPS-based email service

Services like Mailgun or sendgrid allow you to send email using HTTP(S) requests, and their API endpoint are on our whitelist. This is the most reliable option, and works well so long as your code isn't limited to using SMTP.

Use Gmail's SMTP servers

We have added a special exception to our firewall rules for Gmail's SMTP servers. If you use them, it should work.

However, we have to hard-code the IP addresses of Google's servers into our firewall, and these sometimes change, which means that, on occasion, Google may switch to a new Gmail server which we don't know about, and that would temporarily block email until we are able to update the firewall.

One other thing that's quite important: we highly recommend you use an app-specific password instead of your normal Google login password for this. This has two advantages:

  • Google's security systems sometimes block your first attempt to use their SMTP servers from a new IP address, which can be a pain if you're running code on different servers (which happens a lot on PythonAnywhere as we change our systems). They don't seem to do this for app-specific passwords.
  • It's much better not having a copy of your main Google password on a third-party service like PythonAnywhere, because you can always revoke the password from the Google site if necessary, without having to log in here.

For Django, you can use the settings:

EMAIL_HOST = "smtp.gmail.com"
EMAIL_HOST_USER = "yourusername@gmail.com"
EMAIL_HOST_PASSWORD = 'yourpassword'
EMAIL_PORT = 587
EMAIL_USE_TLS = True

Google security blocking and setting up an App-Specific password

Google sometimes blocks SMTP requests from IP addresses it doesn't recognise. If you're finding emails aren't getting sent, try visiting the security page on your Google account, and have a look for security notifications. You may need to approve some requests, or generate an application-specific password. This page is often a good starting point. (Some people have reported that they can't access the correct security settings on that page from the normal web interface and have to use a mobile device to see them there. Thanks, Google! ;-)