Yet Another Whitelist Anti-spam Company… With PR Contacts

from the what's-so-different? dept

The idea of an anti-spam service that requires any senders to jump through some sort of hoop to make sure their email gets to its recipient isn’t new. There are plenty of such “whitelist” or “challenge/response” companies out there. So, why is Mailblocks getting so much press? As far as I can tell, it’s because someone there has much better press contacts than others which have been around much longer. That’s why, all at once, there are articles over at CNET, the New York Times, The San Jose Mercury News, and Direct Marketing News among others. As far as I can tell this is pretty much a me-too play, with an extra serving of hype. There are a few minor differences. First off, and most importantly, the guy who founded the company claims he has a patent on the whole “challenge/response” concept, which should be reason enough to stay away. Next, this is very clearly focused on everyday consumers, as opposed to most anti-spam technologies which are (let’s face it) really focused on more advanced users. It is certainly priced well below most anti-spam solutions (which usually run around $30/year – this one is $10). However, all the articles heaping praise on the company, seem to miss the fact that many of these “challenge/response” systems fail. People hate them. Most people who send someone an email don’t want to “take an extra step” – especially one as annoying as copying down a random set of numbers and letters – just to get their emails out. Plenty of people simply decide not to email their intended recipient when faced with such a hurdle. Any anti-spam system that puts the burden on everyone who sends you an email is going too far. While it may stop spam, it’s also going to “block” an incredibly large number of legitimate mails – because the sender simply doesn’t want (or doesn’t understand how) to go through some bizarre extra step. Update: To make matters worse, a reader over at Politech noticed that if you use Mailblocks you agree to (get this!) receive spam from their advertising partners.

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Comments on “Yet Another Whitelist Anti-spam Company… With PR Contacts”

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Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

“…claims he has a patent on the whole “challenge/response” concept, which should be reason enough to stay away.”

Why is this a reason to stay away? I don’t get this.

“…seem to miss the fact that many of these “challenge/response” systems fail.”

Which ones have failed? In what way?

“People hate them. Most people who send someone an email don’t want to “take an extra step” – especially one as annoying as copying down a random set of numbers and letters – just to get their emails out.”

Sounds like you’re the one that hates them.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: No Subject Given

Why is this a reason to stay away? I don’t get this.

They’re patenting an idea that has been in practice long before they showed up. They’re hyping the fact they have a patent over a fairly obvious technique. Companies that have to rely on patents (that already have prior art) to defend their business model are in a very risky position, and it doesn’t pay to support them.

Which ones have failed? In what way?

Simple. They “block” more legitimate email from getting through than the spam they prevent. Take a Google-gander around at the number of people who dislike having to deal with these things.

Sounds like you’re the one that hates them

And I should be discounted because of that? Actually, I don’t hate them. I think it’s an interesting solution – but I’m coming at this from a practical standpoint. And, that says they simply don’t work. They block way more legitimate emails than most spam-filtering services, and thus, they are a failure and are unlikely to work as a long term solution.

If you disagree, go ahead and use a whitelist solution. I’m not stopping you. Just don’t get upset when you stop getting emails from people who don’t want to jump through extra hoops just to speak to you. I’m not so special that I think people are willing to do that for me. If you are so special, then more power to you.

Patrick Collins (user link) says:

Re: Challenge / Response

I am with a new company called Moatware. We will be releasing our own C/R system in June which we showed recently at SecureWorld in Atlanta. We had excellent response to the system.

We have had the system in Beta for eight months and the businesses using it LOVE it. It knocks out the spam. Period.

Ours will have a full featured firewall built in. Single source to knock out spam and protect your network. Goldman has a tough seel on his patent idea – it has been around at least since 1992…

This has not failed. I don’t know how consumers will react to it, but for B2B – this is the system to use.

Richard (user link) says:


Re: the comment of “… seem to miss the fact that many of these ‘challenge/response’ systems fail. People hate them.”

My experience has been exactly the opposite. I have been using a competitive challenge/response service for several weeks and absolutely love it. My spam mail count dropped overnight from 100 to 200 messages per day to zero.

My friends all accepted it readily and several asked wehere they could sign up for the service. Now a bunch of my fiernds use the same service, each of them loves it. One wrote, “I am no longer disgusted by my e-mail.”

So far, I have not received one complaintabout my use of a challenge/response service (and I receive a lot of e-mail).

Chris (user link) says:

No Subject Given

Actually, I think the challenge / block approach has serious potential for personal email. After all, how often do you get personal email from somebody you don’t already know? Making them jump thru a hoop once to contact you would screen out a lot of unimportant and time wasting contacts.

However, it would be a disaster in a business setting. It would suck if the email from Microsoft expressing interest in buying Techdirt got caught by your filter 🙂

Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

Read the T.O.S. first!

Be sure to read the Terms Of Service at it specifically tells you that though they’ll be blocking SPAM, they’ll be providing all your personal information to their marketing buddies who will be sending you SPAM that you can’t block, and although you can opt-out (only with their partners, not with them) they’re under no obligation to comply with your opt-out request.

They also let you know that they’ll use your personal information to auto-complete forms for you, but won’t send the information until you click a button to do so. So it will only take about 10 minutes before someone figures out how to send you a SPAM mail containing invisible form objects that get auto-completed without you knowing it and when you click the ‘remove me’ link, zip – off goes your personal information to people you didn’t mean for it to go to.

Count me out, please.

Jean-Pierre Norguet (user link) says:

Challenge-Response subscrible whitelists: an endan

Being requested by the mirror project contact page to complete the challenge, I realized how endangered is the challenge-response subscrible whitelists species. Not only has the domain been sold to the merchants, but finding a similar service on the Internet is not straightforward at all. I googled the challenge-response-e-mail-whitelist keywords, without finding a site that simply allows to enter an e-mail address for completing a human-test challenge. Still, I learned a bit more about pix captchas. Not completely my day tough.

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