This weekend, Microsoft revealed that the company has limited a feature of its MSN Hotmail service to better combat spam, or junk email. Effective immediately, Hotmail subscribers are limited to sending 100 email messages each day--far more messages than most Hotmail users send. However, that limit will help Microsoft prevent spammers from using the service to spread junk mail. This tactic follows a similar change last year that prevented Hotmail users from sending email messages to more than 50 people at a time.
Microsoft says that only 1 percent of Hotmail and MSN users regularly send 100 or more email messages a day, so the change will likely affect relatively few customers. But the change should have an awesome effect on spammers, who regularly use the free service to ferry bulk email around the Internet. Microsoft has come under fire regularly during the past few years for harboring a safe haven for spammers. Beginning in 2002, Microsoft started fighting back, and its MSN 8 email client was the company's first product to include sophisticated spam controls. Microsoft will include the same technology, developed by Microsoft Research and similar to the Bayesian junk-mail filters in products such as Mozilla 1.3 and Apple Computer's Mail for Mac OS X, in Microsoft Office Outlook 2003, the company told me recently.
With more than 120 million email customers using Hotmail and MSN, Microsoft has a tougher job controlling unwanted email than most companies, especially considering that spam has increased more than 500 percent since late 2001. Other large email providers, such as AOL and Yahoo!, are also working to decrease the amount of spam delivered through their networks, and AOL included spam controls in its most recent client, AOL 8.