SpamNet is “a new e-mail filtering program using the same technology that allowed Napster users to swap music online, is helping its users banish unsolicited bulk e-mails from their inboxes — and protect other people from the spam at the same time.” It has been developed by Cloudmark Inc. Writes WSJ:
The program works like this: After downloading the software add-on to Microsoft Corp.’s Outlook e-mail program, users can simply hit SpamNet’s “block” button whenever they receive an e-mail they deem to be spam. The twist: Not only is that message and similar pitches blocked for that single user, but any identical message subsequently sent out to other SpamNet users will automatically be filtered into the “spam” mailbox of all the users on the system. Users can review the messages in their spam folders before they are deleted.
SpamNet scans the content of the message and creates a unique identifier for each marketing message. The theory is that the marketing pitch is the most important part of any spam message, and thus, the least likely to be changed.
“The one thing they care about is the marketing message,” says Mr. Karl Jacob, Cloudmark CEO. “It’s how they make money and it doesn’t change a lot.” He adds that the software is designed to check each message’s attributes against the database of known spam, so that even similar — but not exactly identical — messages will be blocked.
Over time, each person builds up a reputation within the system according to how many other users agreed with their spam choices. That reputation in turn determines how much weight SpamNet gives their future choices.
According to the company, the “trust” component of the application accomplishes two things: It protects SpamNet from being compromised by bulk e-mail senders who might “unblock” their own spam. And it creates a sense of community.