E-mail 'guest list' service adds Yahoo, Outlook integration

Because 'one person's spam is another person's sausage'

Boxbe, a free e-mail filtering service, on Thursday announced several improvements, including integration with Yahoo Mail and beta version of a plug-in for users of Microsoft's Outlook e-mail program.

But the San Francisco-based start-up, which calls itself an "e-mail by invitation" service, de-emphasized one of its more attention-getting aspects: the ability for Boxbe users to charge spammers and direct marketers for having their e-mail ads delivered to their in-boxes.

"No one will ever get rich from using Boxbe," said Thede Loder, the company's co-founder and president, in an interview earlier this week.

Boxbe scans users' contact lists and archived e-mails to create buddy lists of friends, family and co-workers whose messages are allowed to pass through its virtual gateway.

That capability turns e-mail into something more like instant messaging services such as Windows Live Messenger and social media networks such as FaceBook and allows users to regain control over their bulging in-boxes, Loder said.

When Boxbe launched at the beginning of this year, users were forced to log into a separate Web page to tweak what Loder called their "guest lists."

With the upgrade of the Boxbe service, Yahoo Mail users can now edit their Boxbe filters without being forced to sign into a separate Boxbe page.

Boxbe is testing a similar feature for Outlook, which Loder expects to be ready within several months. It also plans to unveil similar integration with Google's Gmail, now that it has launched IMAP e-mail access.

"We would love to have millions of users by the end of next year," he said.

Loder acknowledged that spam or junk e-mail "blacklists" operated by Internet service providers, Web mail service providers and corporate e-mail networks are all "pretty good" today.

So why would a user go through the hassle of creating a personal "whitelist?" One reason, Loder said, is that blacklists can err on the side of overaggressiveness and prevent desired e-mail from ever reaching users.

"One person's spam is another person's sausage," he said.

Boxbe would give users more direct control over determining what gets through. For instance, all blocked senders are notified, rather than having their e-mail simply sent to a junk or trash folder, Loder said.

Boxbe relies on two security standards, Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Sender Policy Framework, to authenticate e-mail senders.

Users can still customize and manually tweak the buddy lists, or they can set entire domains as being kosher, Loder said.

When Boxbe emerged earlier this year, most stories focused on the "attention economy" side of its service. Users can charge direct marketers between 15 to 25 cents to unblock them and receive their messages, with Boxbe taking a small cut.

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Eric Lai

Computerworld
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