Fusemail, OnlyMyEmail and Mailshell

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2003-12-29 Print this article Print

..."> I looked at Mailshell Spamcatcher early this year. The review examined the companys Outlook plug-in, but it also has an end-user service. You likely wont find it on Mailshells Web site even if you look, because the service isnt a part of the companys core business anymore. Mailshell appears more interested in pushing its business-oriented service that filters entire mail domains. One reason is that the mail account service for individuals isnt based on the companys core Mailshell SDK engine, so its not a product with much future for them. When I tested the Outlook plug-in I also looked at the service. I considered it complicated but a great idea; so its worth consideration, even though Mailshells lack of commitment will give potential customers pause (and since its competitors appear more interested in the segment).
FuseMail is a free service. I havent had a chance to test it, but the site gives a pretty clear idea of what its about. Customers can use it as a centralized service to consolidate multiple mail accounts and from there read the mail from multiple devices. It too creates an IMAP account. While I see nothing about antivirus support, FuseMail claims to support Yahoo, Hotmail and even AOL mail accounts in addition to POP3 and IMAP accounts. FuseMail goes several steps further, creating essentially a server-side Outlook-type product. The service includes a server-side address book, calendar, notes, tasks list and journal (it sure sounds like Outlook). Theres a full Web interface to all these features in addition to the IMAP version. It looks pretty nice (check out the online demo.) In addition, the Journal and Tasks interfaces arent useless like the ones in Outlook. If there were a interface to synch them with Outlook, the service that would be truly impressive. In fact, the company said that an Outlook plug-in for FuseMails services is "coming soon." (Hot dog, the FuseMail product looks really interesting! Ill be coming back to take a deeper look at it in the future.) FuseMails spam filtering has a Bayesian look to it; you can execute rules on mail depending on whether the filter thinks its likely or very likely to be spam. Its rules engine is also used to consolidate mail from multiple accounts.) The filters also uses whitelists and blacklists. Is FuseMail one of those nutty dotcom ideas that cant survive because it makes no money? For the moment yes, but they say that "coming soon" they will have versions of their software for multi-user organizations and a service provider version for ISPs to buy in order to provide to their customers as a service, and it would appear an extra-cost one. Presumably these other two versions will cost money. I truly hope they offer antivirus protection at least as an extra-cost option, because its a major hole in their virtual offering at this point. Unlike FuseMail, OnlyMyEmail is a mail-only system. While it does provide antivirus scanning in addition to spam filtering, it provides only a POP3 account for the user, and both of those only at higher levels of service. It also has consolidation for up to three outside accounts and can read AOL and Web-based mail. There are three levels of monthly service: the $3 Basic, $4 Plus and $5 Pro versions. The Basic account is bare bones, lacking antivirus, Web mail access, or even a OnlyMyEmail address. Instead, with the Basic account, the service periodically scans your mail account and deletes messages it determines to be spam. This approach means theres a reasonable chance youll get spam when you check your mail, because some message will have come in since the last time the service came around. For this reason, OnlyMyEmail asks that Basic customers only check for mail infrequently, and for this reason, two users cant check an account at the same time. Basic is clearly a bad deal; for only $1 or $2 more per month you can get many more capabilities, including an OnlyMyEmail address and the ability to send mail through their SMTP servers. However, this makes it more expensive than the competition. OnlyMyEmails site touts its spam filtering capabilities. In places, the company comes close to saying that customers wont find any false positives, period. This is quite a claim. At the same time, they provide little information about their techniques, so its impossible to judge their credibility. The closest the company comes with an explanation is to say that it doesnt try to identify spam, instead it tries to identify legitimate mail. This is an interesting idea and one Ive heard discussed in the past as a different approach for Bayesian filtering. Still, theres a long stretch (and plenty of details) from a discussion to an actual implementation in a product or service. This particular market presents end-users with an interesting variety of options for services, and as a general matter they have advantages when compared to desktop anti-spam software in terms of both performance and features. Services is the anti-spam model of the future. Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. More from Larry Seltzer

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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