Spam Scourge Unites Rivals

Chen: AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo could succeed where legislation falls short

Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo may not play well together in the instant messaging space, but the trio announced today that they will combine forces in an attempt to help fight spam, or unsolicited commercial e-mail.

The online giants will focus on reducing the ability of spammers to use their e-mail services to send spam. They also announced plans to work together to eliminate the ability to create fraudulent e-mail accounts, and to define best practices for anti-spam e-mail account policies.

Considering that a significant amount of spam sent to my e-mail address originates from Hotmail and Yahoo accounts, Im keeping my fingers crossed. While the idea of bitter rivals such as these three working together might sound too good to be true, I have more faith in the trio than I do in federal legislation thats being announced this week. Today, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) proposed new federal legislation that authorizes prison time for chronic spammers. His proposal also includes spending $75 million on a "do-not-spam" registry to be operated under the auspices of the Federal Trade Commission. E-mail marketers would be required to check the list before sending mass e-mails.

Twenty-six states have already passed anti-spam legislation, with limited success. And I can see why. At the fifth annual "Making Spam History" event, executives from Brightmail said more than 40 percent of the spam tracked by the company comes from overseas.

Here at eWEEK Labs, were big proponents of using product to control spam. In the past, weve recommended server-side products such as Brightmails Anti Spam product, and client-based products such as DeerSoft Inc.s SpamAssassin and Sunbelt Software Inc.s iHateSpam.

IT managers struggling to convince executives to spend money on anti-spam solutions may want to take a look at "The Anti Spam for Businesses and ISPs Report", released this week by Ferris Research Inc., of San Francisco. The report found that by mid-2003, North American business users will receive approximately 10 spam messages per day, and ISP users will get approximately 12 spam messages per day.

Deleting 10 spam messages a day doesnt sound so bad—because my e-mail address is at the bottom of this column, there are days I delete 10 spam messages in an hour. But Ferris estimates that by 2008, business users will receive an average 40 spam messages per day, and ISP users, 54. For 5 percent of business users, that number will jump to as many as 400 messages per day by 2008.

This week, the FTC is hosting a forum with industry leaders to discuss how to prosecute spammers, and to brainstorm solutions to hinder fraud.

A number of new products and solutions will likely be announced to coincide with the forum. If there are particular ones youd like eWeek Labs to look at, let me know.

Will Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo be the ones to eventually can spam? Let me know at