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Penny for your Email

Spam is a problem, right? Everybody hates it except for the people making money on it.

Penny Email

Currently, spam is a cost to the service providers (it uses large amounts of network and disk space - fortunately, both of those are fairly cheap) and it's a problem for people who don't have unlimited time in their lives.

A while ago I subscribed to Computer Power User and read an article by Rob Malda (cmdrTaco to you /. folks) about charging a penny per email.

Now, AOL and Yahoo are testing out a similar plan and peoople are getting their undies in a bundle over it. Folks, this is a good idea. I have frequently desired to have this feature when my shared email server goes into an AOL blacklist because of some idiot. Of course I'll pay a penny to send an email to my friends and family who are stuck using AOL. Especially if, like under cmdrTaco's plan, it gets returned to me when they agree that the content is not unsolicited.

"Punisher" style email

There's also a company called Blue Security which has a relatively interesting idea to block spam. Basically, users sign up with Blue Security and use their software inside of your existing email client. If you get a spam, Blue Security will add that to their list of spammers and will ask that spammer to stop sending emails to users on their registered list. If the spammer keeps sending the emails, Blue Security will basically initiate a ddos on the server. This is a controversial move, but it would work and it's an idea that was also proposed by Paul Graham. My only problem with the Blue Security system is that they provide a Mailing List Cleaner tool to the spammers which is supposed to help the spammers to get addresses out of their lists and not get in trouble with BlueSecurity.

They have a FAQ that shows how it works but this cleaner tool poses a major problem: it identifies the valid email addresses of users of the Blue Security system. Even if the tool itself doesn't expose them, a spammer could make two lists of all their harvested emails, clean one of them, and find the emails that were removed. They can no longer send emails with links to these addresses because Blue Security will punish the URL in the email, but they could use the emails in other marketing schemes. or, if a spammer were really pissed off at Blue Security users they could just mailbomb all of those accounts. It's not a pretty picture to try to do battle with spammers.

My Anti-Spam System

There are some benefits to having your own domain (or sub domain). All email sent to a non-existant address at goes to me. When I sign up for something I use the format {unique identifier} @ {example}.com. The interesting thing has been watching which companies sell my address or have their email list security compromised and have the address get out to spammers - one of my favorite sources of 50% of the spame is the address I gave when I registered for Microsoft Security Bulletins. Thanks, Redmond.

I also use Thunderbird and have trained the filters in there. It gets the spam down to a level where I only have to fix maybe 5 emails per day. Totally not a problem.

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