is launching a beta Mac version of its spam-free, Web-based e-mail service called Challenge/Response 2.0. A free, 30-day trial of the beta software is available for downloading and test driving.
Mailblocks launched four months ago with the goal of eliminating spam, overcoming the small storage space and attachment quotas of e-mail services, and increasing the speed of e-mail use. Though broadband is all the rage, most people still have dial-up connections, said Mailblocks CEO Phil Goldman, a veteran of such companies as Apple, General Magic, and WebTV.
“Before we started the company, we looked around and saw there were a lot of great Internet services available, such as Google for searching and Amazon.com for e-commerce,” he told MacCentral. “However, no one seemed to be doing a really good job on e-mail. My professional opinion was: they all stink and never seem to get any better. In fact, with the onslaught of spam they seem to be getting worse. So our modest goal was to create the world’s greatest e-mail service.”
Mailblocks’ challenge/response technology uses a blend of automated technology and human involvement to stop spam. E-mails sent from new people who aren’t in your address book are put in a “Pending” folder and automatically sent a request to authenticate (called a “challenge”). Machine-generated e-mail can’t reply to the challenge e-mail, so spam doesn’t reach your in-box. New users can respond once to a challenge in order to be recognized in the future. The only e-mail that you see is from recognized correspondents or new contacts who respond to the challenge e-mail.
Challenge/Response is compatible with Mac OS X (using Safari 1.0 and Internet Explorer) and Mac OS 9.2 (using Internet Explorer).
“We’ve done a tremendous amount of work to make our e-mail service work with these browsers,” Goldman said. “We’ve really had to get up close and personal with them. We’re certainly Safari experts now. We know exactly what Apple’s browser is and what it does best.”
You can use the Mailblocks service to consolidate existing Yahoo!Mail, AOL, Hotmail and POP3 accounts into one Universal Inbox. Mailblocks provides 6MB attachment capacity and offers e-mail access from an application-like Web interface — or through Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, or Apple’s Mail. This means you can keep your current e-mail addresses.
When consolidating multiple accounts, you can choose to “Reply From” your Mailblocks address or any vanity domain you own. Plus, you can read all your e-mail with your preferred e-mail client or through a Web browser. You can switch back and forth between the two methods if you wish.
Mailblocks with Challenge/Response 2.0 automates the challenge/response process. New senders to Mailblocks’ subscribers are no longer challenged on an ongoing basis. Unless a sender begins sending spam, they will never be challenged again, Goldman said. Challenge/Response 2.0 incorporates a patent- pending technique to verify humans and allows “trusted senders” to send e-mail without being challenged.
Challenge/Response 2.0 includes additional capabilities to:
Customize Challenge messages with personalized text;
Automatically correct false positives from external accounts (caused by inaccurate anti-spam techniques used in Hotmail, Yahoo! and AOL when mail is consolidated in a Mailblocks account);
Set mail policies for auto-deletion in the Pending folder, eliminating the need to manually manage unconfirmed e-mail and leaving more room for e-mail you want.
Challenge/Response gets rid of 100 percent of spam and offers an “ultra-fast user experience,” Goldman said.
“We’re faster on dial-up than other e-mail services are over broadband,” he said. “We’re focused on innovation and that’s why we wanted to make sure that the Mac community is involved, because Apple is all about innovation.”
Goldman said the Mac beta program will end in late summer, when the finished, fully-qualified version of the Mailblocks service will be made available to Mac users for standard pricing of US$9.95 per year with 12MB of storage or $24.95 per year for 50MB of storage. You can sign up for
a free trial online.