ZoEmail Locks Out Spam

By Neil J. Rubenking  |  Posted 2004-04-20 Print this article Print

This e-mail service actually works effectively against spam.

ZoEmail is a Web-based e-mail service that makes two ambitious promises: Youll never get spam, and youll never miss valid mail. It accomplishes this feat using a mature and thorough implementation of the disposable e-mail address (DEA) concept. The service offers just about everything youd expect in a stand-alone e-mail client: address book, spell-checking, user-defined folders, message rules, and even an option to insert foreign characters. But unlike other e-mail clients, ZoEmail really does keep spam out.

Where an ordinary e-mail address consists of a name and a domain, a ZoEmail address is built from a name, a key, and a domain. Each one of your correspondents automatically gets a different key, which can be generated at random or entered manually. Your friend might send messages to yourname.bandana5264@zoemail.net, while your spouse might message you at yourname.darling @zoemail.net. If you ever get unwanted mail, the key that was used reveals exactly where it came from. Key-management features let you close the tainted key or lock it so that it receives messages only from the original correspondent.

You can also create easy-to-remember general-purpose keys for distribution. For example, before a conference, make the conference name into a key and give out the keyed e-mail address. Every contact from that conference will initially arrive through that key.

Anyone sending to your e-mail address with no key, an invalid key, or a closed key will get a delivery failed message that includes a link to the ZoEmail directory. From the directory, the sender can get a personal key by entering a bot-defeating, hard-to-read password. This key is good for only two uses, and the sender is placed in a list of pending requests rather than directly in your address book. If you dont respond or upgrade that key, the unknown source can send you two messages, tops. You can also turn off the feature that lets others request a key through the directory.

At present, ZoEmail is strictly Web-based. The additional functionality needed for generating and managing the keys isnt easily integrated into other e-mail clients. The interface is as much like those of popular stand-alone clients as a Web-based service can be. In only a few places does it become awkward; for example, to enter your time zone, you must scan an alphabetical list. And every out-going e-mail carries a small text advertisement for ZoEmail at the bottom.

ZoEmails approach to blocking spam through DEAs is both effective and easy to use. It never, ever misfiles valid mail as spam. The few very minor problems with the interface are considerably outweighed by the appeal of a spam-free in-box.

Neil J. Rubenking Neil Rubenking served as vice president and president of the San Francisco PC User Group for three years when the IBM PC was brand new. He was present at the formation of the Association of Shareware Professionals, and served on its board of directors. In 1986, PC Magazine brought Neil on board to handle the torrent of Turbo Pascal tips submitted by readers. By 1990 he had become PC Magazine's technical editor, and a coast-to-coast telecommuter. His 'User to User' column supplied readers with tips and solutions on using DOS and Windows, his technical columns clarified fine points in programming and operating systems, and his utility articles (over forty of them) provided both useful programs and examples of programming in Pascal, Visual Basic, and Delphi. Mr. Rubenking has also written seven books on DOS, Windows, and Pascal/Delphi programming, including PC Magazine DOS Batch File Lab Notes and the popular Delphi Programming for Dummies. In his current position as a PC Magazine Lead Analyst he evaluates and reports on client-side operating systems and security solutions such as firewalls, anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam and full security suites. He continues to answer questions for readers in the ongoing 'Solutions' column and in PC Magazine's discussion forums.

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