Disposable e-mail addresses foil marketing plans

* Real but temporary e-mail addresses to get you through the verification process

When you want to download something, for example an application from a Web site, nine times out of 10 you are asked for your e-mail address. While a few sites perform no e-mail address verification whatsoever, most smart sites either send a custom generated short term download link or some kind of activation key that is confirmed on installation to cross reference to a given address.

These methods are to ensure that you are really at the address you claim to be at for the purposes of sending your marketing pitches. In many cases, the consequence of that confirmation is a stream of messages and newsletters that you most likely don’t want. To solve this, a class of products has emerged that provide real but temporary, disposable e-mail addresses that last long enough for the verification process to be completed.

Spam Gourmet is a good example. This service is free and allows you to set up an account where you specify the address the disposable address is to be relayed to and a username (for example, “nospamtome”). For a specific disposable address you pick a keyword (for example “PhoenixUniversity”) and the number of messages the disposable account can receive (say, 10; 20 is the maximum). These parameters become part of a disposable address such as:

phoenixuniversity.10.nospamtome@spamgourmet.com

The next 10 messages sent to that address will be routed to your real address after which the disposable address will return bounces. Spam Gourmet also provides an Advanced Mode that allows you to specify trusted senders, watchwords, and so on. Finally, Spam Gourmet also provides a Web mail interface so that you can send messages from the disposable address.

ZoEmail is similar to Spam Gourmet in that it adds a user name and a “key” to a zoemail.com account. Unlike Spam Gourmet all of your e-mail handling is done through ZoEmail’s Web interface. The key can be revoked, assigned for a limited time, and tied to a specific sender’s e-mail address. ZoEmail accounts are priced annually at $11.88 for 24MB of storage and $19.08 for 100MB.

Other entrants in this market include Emailias, Spamex, E4ward, and, a new player, 10 Minute Mail, which has to be one of the cleverest solutions. 10 Minute Mail is a little different as it creates a very short term (10 minutes) disposable e-mail address.

To get a 10 Minute Mail address all you have to do is click on the link that reads “Get my 10 Minute Mail e-mail address” and you are given a disposable e-mail address and a cookie is placed on your computer.

All messages sent to that address within 10 minutes are available to be read via 10 Minute Mail’s Webmail interface (you can also ask for 10 minute extensions). When the account expires the address becomes invalid and any received messages are purged.

10 Minute Mail is a really clever solution for dealing with sites that you may not completely trust that demand your e-mail address for you to get service or access.

The problem for Web applications designers is that methods that foil address list building may seriously compromise their business model. In the next issue of Network World on Web Applications we’ll discuss the consequences which are, I contend, far greater than just a few annoyed marketing people.

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