What can bring AOL and Microsoft together? Spam. Since my email is publicly available via this site, I get more than my fair share of electronic diarrhea - I get a lot of wealthy Nigerians who need help moving funds - but I also keep out a lot by not accepting HTML emails. Don't send me a freaking HTML email, please, I can't/won't open it. There are advantages to using a really old email program - I'll be the last guy using a "compuserve" address when they turn out the lights down in Columbus.
- Are you angry about spam?
So are America Online Inc. and Microsoft Corp. These arch rivals, which compete ferociously for Internet subscribers, say illicit commercial e-mail has so overwhelmed their efforts to stop it that they are joining forces to press for tough federal legislation to stymie the spammers.
Spam is up fivefold over the past 18 months, leaving the electronic mailboxes of Internet users jammed with billions of unwanted commercial e-mails. AOL blocks 780 million pieces of junk e-mail daily, or 100 million more e-mails than it delivers.
"I get spam too, and I am as fed up with it as all of our members are," AOL chief executive Jonathan F. Miller said yesterday. "As a member and a parent, I, too, have become outraged by the tide of spam that's drowning the legitimate e-mail I want to get."
The problem is growing rapidly, Microsoft officials said, because the cost to spammers is so low that sending bulk spam can be profitable even if only 1 in 100,000 recipients responds to an electronic sales pitch for lower interest rates or increased sexual drive. [Washington Post]
Sometimes both at once.
- AOL and Microsoft's MSN, the two biggest Internet access services, want stiff jail terms for spammers who commit fraud by misrepresenting themselves online; the power to seek injunctions against the theft and use of proprietary e-mail addresses; and large fines to put spammers out of business. They are also attempting to craft legislation narrowly enough that it will block deceptive spammers without treading on First Amendment rights.
"We believe it is going to take a combination of technology tools, industry initiatives, litigation and legislation," said Larry Grothaus, lead product manager for MSN. "One part of the mix is going to be industry cooperation. People are starting to put their heads together."
How do you deal with spam? How much do you get? Have you killed anyone yet?