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Taking spam-fighting to the masses

June 19, 2002

By Michael Osterman
Network World Messaging Newsletter

A start-up called Cloudmark, which is currently operating in stealth mode and whose founders have roots in Napster, has developed a system for combating spam that is based on a peer-to-peer network.

This differs from current spam-fighting techniques. They typically create rules that recognize spam and block it, or they simply block e-mail from particular IP addresses.

Cloudmark’s system, called SpamNet, is currently in use at primarily smaller ISPs that, as of early June, were processing a total of about 3.5 million messages per day.

SpamNet works via a plug-in to Microsoft Outlook that, as soon as it is installed on a user’s PC, automatically blocks about 75% of the spam that an individual user receives. After that, once a user receives a message that he or she believes to be spam, a button can be clicked on the Outlook toolbar that will classify that message as spam and report that information back to the network, which then shares the information automatically with all users. The plug-in will allow users to modify various parameters, including their individual sensitivity to spam.

The advantages of SpamNet lie in the fact that the network operates in real time and that it is inherently quite scalable because of its peer-to-peer architecture. At least in theory, SpamNet captures a higher percentage of spam over time as more users join the network and become reporters of spam back to the network.

Cloudmark’s Outlook plug-in will be offered as a beta product June 19 at no charge to individual consumers.

SpamNet is conceptually similar to Vircom’s approach of having customers write sieve scripts and share them with other users through the VOP Anti-Spam Coalition. However, because SpamNet is designed to provide this sharing capability by having users simply push a button, it makes spam fighting available even to those with no technical knowledge.

Michael D. Osterman is the principal of Osterman Research, a market research firm that helps organizations understand the markets for messaging, directory and related products and services. He can be reached at [email][email protected][/email].