August 7, 2003 in Gadgets


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Is anyone using Mailblocks or another similar service to deal with spam? It sounds like a great idea in theory, but wondering how in plays out in real life. Even if it’s only 50-75% effective, I’m almost willing to try. Lord knows I spend enough precious time deleting unwanted emails from unscrupulous vendors trying to sell me a mortgage, penis implant, diet drugs, etc.

Mailblocks service simplifies challenge-response
By Paul Roberts, IDG News Service, 07/28/03
A new e-mail service aims to put an end to spam by collecting the addresses of legitimate e-mail senders on to a master list that will take the “challenge” out of “challenge-response” for many e-mail users.
Four month-old Mailblocks Monday unveiled Challenge/Response 2.0, the latest incarnation of its patented Challenge/Response technology.
Challenge/Response is similar to technology used by other ISPs, including Earthlink.
Using the technology, Mailblocks quarantines inbound e-mail messages to its accounts, sending an e-mail “challenge” message back to the sender with a request to type a seven-digit number into a box.
The challenge requires the human sender to view a unique number displayed on a Web page and transcribe it, something computer-generated spam mailers can’t do.
Once a valid response is received from the sender, the initial e-mail is retrieved from quarantine and delivered. The sender’s e-mail address is then added to the user’s valid sender list, enabling subsequent messages to be received without challenge.


  1. August 14, 2003 at 11:39 am


    I use “qurb” for MS Outlook and Mailwasher for Outlook Express. Both are working nicely but Qurb is an especially awesome tool.

  2. August 10, 2003 at 9:48 am


    Thanks for the great feedback everyone. You’ve given me something to think about…

  3. August 8, 2003 at 10:35 am


    The problem I’ve most often heard from people regarding challenge/response services is that things like newsletters that you’ve actually requested never get through, and many of the services don’t give you a way to say generically “any mail with X in the subject line is okay”.
    So, I use a *ton* of mail filters to handle my mail. Plus, the e-mail address I publish on my website is not my primary one, and mail sent to it goes into a special folder for “when/if I have time”. I also have an address that goes straight to /dev/null that I use if I’m signing up with a site that’s likely to spam me.

  4. August 8, 2003 at 8:03 am


    I sent a friend an e-mail the other day and got sent to a KnowSpam page. It seemed straightforward enough. I haven’t gotten off the dime about trying it out yet.

  5. August 8, 2003 at 6:23 am

    Steve F.

    I have debated using services/technology like Mailblock and due to a number of posts by webloggers whom I admire, I decided against it for one simple reason: it is too complicated for many of the people who write to me (namely my in-laws and friends over-seas – because of the language challenge-response). I have found that a much easier way of dealing with spam is using a SpamAssasin servlet or filter for your mail client. I thought that SpamAssassin would filter too many “good” emails, but the fact is that it actually does a fantastic job. There are a lot of different clients out there for a desktop/portable that will filter the mail before it gets to you – all which use SpamAssassin’s basic technology. I would recommend going that route before the “drastic” route of challenge-response. (I guess the negative side of something like SpamAssassin is that you still get the emails, but they are clearly marked as junk…)

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