Fighting Spam for Money

MailProtectAs a kid, when I would to take out the trash as part of my chores, I remember operating on the assumption that garbage collection was free, that it was a part of city services or something and that no one really payed for it directly, but rather it came out of local taxes or some big garbage collection fund in the sky or something. It seemed so basic and essential that I was surprised, later on, to discover that it most decidedly is not free, that lots of neighborhoods and communities bill you for it directly, and in lots of co-operatives and condominiums, it’s a discrete line item on a resident’s monthly maintenance bill. This is the story that came to mind yesterday when I got an email from my hosting provider, Media Temple, announcing their new MailProtect Anti-Junk Email Service.

New, Improved and More Expensive

My mail box is inundated with hundreds of crap marketing pitches and virus-infected messages every day, so a few months ago I dashed off an email to Media Temple’s fairly responsive technical support department, inquiring as to their intentions for offering server-level spam filtering services. They emailed me back that something was in the works, and it took a while, but now it’s here.

The only thing is, it costs an additional US$4.95 per month for this service, a surprise which recalled my youthful epiphany to the commercial reality of garbage collection. To be honest, this revelation miffed me a bit. It’s not that I don’t think that junk mail protection isn’t worth paying a little extra; in fact, I’ve always foreseen a very tangible convenience benefit to signing up for MailProtect.

Who Benefits?

It’s just that I feel, in many ways, that it’s really the hosting provider who would monetarily benefit from putting this system into place. Now, I admit to knowing next to nothing about the fundamentals of the hosting business, but my impression is that it’s in the interest of every hosting provider to minimize the amount of traffic passing through their servers.

Spam filtering would go a long way towards doing that, presumably, by classifying huge chunks of email as spam and deleting it immediately, preventing it from passing on for download to end users like myself. I figure that, personally, I get about 1.2 MB of junk mail per day, which adds up to about 36 MB per month. I have no idea how many mail accounts Media Temple supports, but I imagine there must be some accounts that get up to five times that much spam per month. That would all add up, no?

So, by paying $4.95, I may be benefitting from a more convenient-to-access mail account, but wouldn’t I also be underwriting a nontrivial cost savings for Media Temple? Now, I realize that Media Temple has the right to generate revenue from any services it offers, especially when it invests design dollars into creating a user interface as attractive as MailProtect’s seems to be. But it strikes me that a more equitable fee would be along the lines of US$2 per month — that’s a level at which I’d feel comfortable sharing the burden of spam with my ISP.

This is really my first exposure to spam filtering as a commercial service — rather than just a software ideal that I’ve had on my wish list for the past few years — so someone correct me if I’m totally wrong here. On the other hand, if I⁏m not quite so off, maybe I should be asking for recommendations for a new, cheaper hosting provider.



  1. There are many spam filtering packages that you have to pay for. And many that are free. I’m surprised that a host wouldn’t include a free one, as the burden of spam email traffic over the networks is almost certainly significant.

    Anyway, why not cut to the chase and install something like SpamAssassin on your own?

  2. I was also slightly shocked to discover that my service provider charges for spam filtering. I run my life through several domains, and spam filtering at domain level would simply break the bank. I would have thought that it was in web hosts’ best interests to get rid of this stuff before users see it, since surely it would eventually become pointless for spammers to keep sending it? At the moment, I’m using JunkMatcher through Mail, and it’s okay, but not ideal.

  3. The junk mail filter in Entourage actually isn’t that bad (though the latest version, 2004, oddly seems a little less effective than its predecessor, v.X), and if it’s going to save me $59.40 per year, I may just stick with it. But what I really want is a server-side solution. I know little about SpamAssassin and less about Unix, but if I can get it installed, I’d be more than happy to give it a shot.

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