May 26 2004

Popular Misconceptions About Bonded Sender

There have been many postings about Microsoft’s recent announcement to use Ironport’s Bonded Sender Program as one of its many tools to fight spam and reduce false positives. I won’t belabor them here, but there are three common misconceptions I’m reading on the web and in blogs that I thought I’d point out and try to clarify.

Misconception #1: Bonded Sender is a Microsoft product, and Microsoft will profit from it. Why it’s not true: Bonded Sender is operated by Ironport, Inc., a completely separate company from Microsoft. Bonded Sender and its cousin, Sender Base, are used by over 20,000 domains. Microsoft is just the latest, and highest profile, user. I don’t believe that Microsoft is making any money from their use of Bonded Sender, but at a minimum, it’s not their product.

Misconception #2: With Bonded Sender, spammers can now buy their way into your inbox. Why it’s not true: While the premise behind Bonded Sender is that commercial emailers should put their money where their mouth is and have a financial penalty associated with spam complaints, that doesn’t mean any old mailer can join the program and pay to play. In fact, senders have to quality for the program by undergoing a fairly rigorous application process that is overseen by TrustE. If anyone doubts this, have a look at the application’s “email standards” section. I know a bunch of legitimate mailers who wouldn’t pass this — let alone spammers.

Misconception #3: Bonded Sender won’t do anything to stop the spam problem. Why it’s not true: Sure, it won’t stop it tomorrow. Nothing will. And it may not be the exact right approach to solving the problem, either. But starting to quantify and publicize mailers’ reputations, and starting to remove the economic free ride associated with spam, are important steps in the war on spam. Bonded Sender will inevitably change over time as the program gets market tested, but let’s give credit where credit is due for a good start.