America Online says you've got less mail thanks to its ongoing battle against spammers.
Despite the recent spike in spam, the company claims to have had a banner year in its fight against the scourge, which resulted in a 75 percent drop in the amount of junk mail its subscribers received, according to a survey by users of the service.
"Our members are telling us they are getting less spam than ever on AOL, and we're seeing a substantial drop in the number of spam messages reaching AOL members' spam folders, said Carl Hutzler, director of anti-spam operations at AOL, in a statement. "That means one thing: many spammers are raising the white flag of surrender for the first time since 1999."
Officials at AOL's Virginia-based e-mail networks say the improvement is likely a combination of company efforts and federal and state anti-spam laws, such as the CAN-SPAM Act, which went into effect in January 2004.
"We are changing the equations so we are in the driver seat," Nicholas Graham, a spokesman for AOL, said. "Spammers realize their attempt to fraud is being shut down, and it is essentially no longer cost-effective to attempt to send spam to AOL members."
As junk e-mail continues to flummox Internet providers and users alike, companies like AOL are spending more and more to thwart the spammers' efforts.
"The bottom line based on this great news is we're opening up a new, better chapter in the story about spam. The gap between the amount of good e-mail AOL delivers, and the bad e-mail members might get, has never been wider than it is today on AOL," Hutzler said.
AOL officials said they noticed a temporary drop in the rate of spam in 2003, but their success was short-lived, as new records for spam blocking and e-mail attempts were soon set. This year was the first time a substantial and consistent drop was recorded since AOL began tracking the spam phenomenon in 1996, said Graham.
In November 2003, AOL averaged nearly 11 million spam reports every day. That number dropped to 2.2 million in 2004, said Graham.
The company also reported a 60 percent decline in the amount of mail being diverted to AOL members' spam folders. In November 2003 that number had peaked at 100 million a day, but saw a steady decline until it bottomed out at 40 million in November 2004.
Graham said that spammers aren't attempting to hit AOL subscribers with junk mail as often as in the past, and he attributes the company's stringent policies for discouraging those efforts. In fact, the number of attempts has even dropped from 2.1 billion to 1.6 billion a day in 2004.
"They are going to have to go somewhere else," Graham said. "We are winning this cat and mouse game."
Additionally, the company reported the amount of mail being blocked by AOL's anti-spam filtering had dropped 50 percent to 1.2 billion a day.
Spam reports are almost entirely sent using the "Report Spam" button on subscribers' accounts, helping AOL constantly update and fine-tune its anti-spam filters minute-by-minute, Graham said.