Pre-Approval for Mass E-Mailers on Tap

Bonded sender program to offer 'whitelist' of IP addresses from legitimate bulk e-mail senders.

Get spammers back by charging them for unsolicited, commercial mail!

Too good to be true? Well, this isnt one of those crazy, get-rich-quick schemes that show up daily in your in-box.

Banking on the fact that few enterprises sending commercial mail want to be associated with spam, IronPort Systems Inc., in San Bruno, Calif., has developed the Bonded Sender program in an effort to give legitimate bulk e-mailers some credibility.

This is how it works: Participants in Bonded Sender, to be launched this fall, will be asked to post a cash bond with a neutral party against which recipients who received unwanted commercial e-mail could charge a small fee. E-mail gateways would tally returned messages and send charges to be deducted from the bond. The size of the bond would be determined by the amount of e-mail being sent, and the fees collected would be donated to a nonprofit, anti-spam organization.

The benefit for bulk e-mail companies, IronPort officials said, is a higher chance of delivery. While many corporations and ISPs make use of blacklists to block messages coming from IP addresses of suspected spammers, Bonded Sender would provide a "whitelist" of IP addresses from e-mail senders that are legitimate. Executives at IronPort said the program would make companies and ISPs more likely to allow messages from whitelisted companies to enter through their e-mail gateways.

"Marketers that are sending solicited mail should have no problem with posting a bond because theyre not spammers," said Scott Weiss, CEO of IronPort. "This is a win-win situation because the program enables bulk e-mailers and ISPs to alleviate any issues they have regarding false positives."

Concern over false positives is certainly one reason executives at online third-party payment service PayPal Inc., in Mountain View, Calif., are considering the program. PayPal, which has 18 million customers, sends millions of e-mail messages a day notifying its customers of any financial transactions that occur. As a result, e-mail messages from the company are sometimes flagged by spam filters and blocked or even blacklisted.

"We communicate with our user base daily, and any self-respecting ISP that gets 10 percent of the messages we send out is going to wonder whats going on," said Max Levchin, chief technology officer at PayPal. "Many of our customers rely on our e-mail notifications and cant afford to be hit by a false positive."

But, while experts say Bonded Sender is a good initiative for marketers, they say the program will do little to help end users because legitimate mass e-mailers arent really the ones flooding in-boxes.

"Bonded Sender is a good idea, but the Internet itself is an anarchy in a sense," said Marten Nelson, an analyst at Ferris Research Inc., in Nice, France. "This will control legitimate bulk mail but not the unsolicited spam thats the real problem users are struggling with."

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at

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