by Mike Masnick

Mailblocks Sells Out To AOL

from the there-goes-that-plan dept

When Mailblocks launched a year and a half ago, it seemed really strange. Here was a company that was doing exactly what a number of other companies were already doing (challenge-response email), but somehow Mailblocks got a ridiculous amount of press for their "me too" offering. They also suddenly trotted out a bunch of pointless patents and started suing everyone until a judge told them to give it up as the patents didn't seem particularly valid. Since then, the company has been fairly quiet. There have been reports of semi-frequent outages of the service, and unlike the predictions, it appears that challenge-response hasn't really taken off like people planned. So, the company with a big patent plan and good press contacts ended up quietly selling out to AOL, so that AOL can now offer an option that Earthlink gave its customers quite some time ago.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Chris, Aug 4th, 2004 @ 10:05am

    No Subject Given

    I've been using Mailblocks since late last year - haven't had any problems with the service. In fact, I can't imagine dealing with email sans challenge-response at this point.

    However, I wonder how the AOL acqisition will affect me? I wonder if AOL will eventually write off us non-AOL customers by reserving the service exclusively for AOL members.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    data64, Aug 4th, 2004 @ 10:26am

    Re: No Subject Given

    I will usually not respond to challenge emails from challenge response systems.
    Usually, I would go find somebody else or some other business to work with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Chris, Aug 4th, 2004 @ 10:39am

    No Subject Given

    Uh, I'm not using CR on my business email. It's on my personal address that has existed since 1998 and receives over 200 spams a day. Anybody contacting me through my web site bypasses mailblocks, and my friends have an address that bypasses mailblocks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Wally, Aug 4th, 2004 @ 11:38am


    A week or so ago, someone used one of my email addresses as the sender name in a bunch of spams. I had over 1000 Mailblocks, Earthlink, and other CR messages in my in box one morning. This will be "real fun" knowing how much spam AOL users receive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Chris, Aug 4th, 2004 @ 12:24pm

    Re: Mailblocks

    But the problem isn't mailblocks there, it's the fact that it is so easy to spoof an email address. We need an authenticated sender standard. I know it's being worked on - but it is fragmented with multiple "standards."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Jordan Bressler, Aug 11th, 2004 @ 12:04pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    Sean -

    I read with interest the various glowing reviews of the Mailblocks service, and I can see that they have been successful in pulling the wool over the eyes of many tech reporters. They managed to snow Walter Mossberg at the WSJ so bad that he is even now acting as a shill for their product.

    To wit:

    I have been having a persistent problem with the Mailblocks service that speaks to the heart of their product. For a period of six weeks and counting, the Mailblocks product will not "serve" my Yahoo! bulk mail folder contents. Thus, the bulk mail (spam) filtering is of no use to me.

    They refuse to take my issue seriously, refuse to acknowledge the problem and refuse to send me personalized replies -- instead sending me form letters with information that is not applicable to my issue. I will be happy to share some of these messages with you if you'd like.

    Further, they will not phone me to find out more about my issue nor will they give me a phone number to contact THEM. And when I finally had enough and asked them to cancel the service, they refused to offer a refund -- again sending some form letter response that showed about as much heart as a dead fish.

    We're not talking about a random, tolerable glitch here. We are talking about a complete and utter systemic failure for the product to peform the most basic and critical operation that justifies its existence -- the sorting, and blocking, of spam from a third-party E-mailbox. That's just inexcusable.

    I have always been bemused by the Mailblocks entry portal page, which they use to trumpet how wonderful they think their product is. I now see, with their purchase by AOL, what their primary focus has been all along -- to make a product that "looks good," cosmetically on the surface, to quickly turn a profit by selling out -- but failing to focus on the individual consumer. I certainly hope AOL realizes the piece of junk they're getting. I haven't seen a snow job this effective since the height of the dot-com boom.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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