Gates Outlines Microsofts Plan to Can Spam

Among the technologies the company is pursuing is a better filter that can adapt to users' preferences.

In the latest of his periodic e-mail messages to Microsoft Corp. customers, Bill Gates on Tuesday said the amount of spam clogging corporate networks and users inboxes is "ridiculous" and detailed the companys plans to help stop the onslaught.

Microsoft recently established a new internal group, the Anti-Spam Technology and Strategy Group, dedicated to finding ways to stop spam from reaching customers. Among the technologies the group is pursuing is a better filter that can adapt to users preferences and create an anti-spam system unique to each person. A version of this filter will be included in Outlook 2003, and Exchange 2003 has an API for better integration with third-party spam filters.

In his e-mail, titled "Toward a Spam-Free Future," Gates portrays the companys anti-spam effort as part of its larger Trustworthy Computing initiative, saying that "although theres no easy solution, we believe that spam can and must be dramatically reduced."

Gates, chairman and chief software architect at Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., writes that spam represents a major threat to the productivity gains companies have made in the last decade through the use of e-mail.

"Unsolicited commercial email is a spreading plague that feeds off the unique power of the Internet to connect hundreds of millions of computer users around the world, at virtually no cost. Generally unwanted—and often pornographic or with fraudulent intent —spam is a nuisance and a distraction," Gates writes. "Like almost everyone, I receive a lot of spam every day, much of it offering to help me get out of debt or get rich quick. Its ridiculous."

The idea of someone helping Gates get rich quick certainly qualifies as ridiculous, as does the amount of spam that active Internet users receive on a daily basis. Filters in Microsofts MSN and Hotmail services block about 2.4 billion spam messages a day, Gates said.

In addition to improving the anti-spam capabilities of its products, Microsoft is working with other technology companies to share information on known spammers. The company is also part of an effort known as Trusted Sender, which aims to help users verify the identity of senders.

Microsoft has also turned to the courts for help in the fight against spam. It recently filed 15 lawsuits against spammers in the United States and England. Gates writes in his e-mail that these efforts, along with some regulatory help from the government, could "lead to a world where we are less troubled by spam. As less of it reaches recipients—and violators face stiffer sanctions for illegal activities—the financial incentives for spammers will decrease, and spamming will lose much of its appeal."