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Guerrilla Mail’s Sending feature – 1 year in retrospect

The email sending feature has been live for over a year now. Here is a blog post with some reflections thus far.

First, why was this feature introduced? The biggest motivation was because this was the most requested feature. Sometimes our users want to forward an email they have received. Sometimes they need to reply to an email that they received. Sometimes, they need to send a single email to someone, but they do not want to use their real email address.

Providing an email sending feature can be difficult. It opens up a can of worms, especially because of the potential for abuse.

How do we minimize abuse, including eliminate spammers from taking advantage?

1. CAPTCHA test. Users are required to type in the text they see in an image. This almost guarantees that the user is a real human, or at least spent some resources on the problem. (It’s a trade-off with usability, although Google’s reCaptcha usability has improved significantly the last few months)

2. Take the email through a spam filter before it is sent.

3. Aggregate the spam scores and also calculate the averages for each originating IP address. We have an automated banned IP list. This catches a lot of spammers. For the biggest spammers, we do not let them know that email was caught. This means spammers waste resources by filling out the form and solving CAPTCHAs.

4. Add the originating IP address to the email headers, to help the receiving back-end judge whenever the sent email is to be flagged as spam.

5. Do not allow to set a name for the “From” header to eliminate the possibility of impersonation or fake emails

6. Clearly mark the emails that they came from Guerrilla Mail in the signature.

7. Ability for receivers to report abuse and block all future email to their address.

Another issue that we have to deal with is the added anonymity that Guerrilla Mail provides. Guerrilla Mail does not require login or registration, and email is kept for only one hour. Although we still attach the sender’s IP address to each outgoing email, users could easily use Tor, VPN, or someone else’s Wi-Fi to mask their actual IP address.

Anonymity is not the goal of this service, rather an unintended feature. The goal of Guerrilla Mail is so that the user’s email address will not get collected by the receiver and avoid being added to some spam database. Anonymity can be an advantage. So why is anonymity an issue?

When we launched this service, we were worried that the added anonymity would attract abuse. Sure, anonymity on the internet can do a lot of good, such as whistle-blowing or provide a screen from persecution. Sometimes, anonymity can also bring out the undesirable traits of human nature, and that is what we were worried about. After a year of operating, we are glad to report that it has not been much of a problem, except for a very small minority who abuse the service.

Unfortunately abuse such as bullying or harassment is the dark side of human nature, and the written, non-verbal nature of internet communication can amplify or distort the interpretations of such messages. Bullying is not spam, it is sent by real people, and there’s no such thing as a ‘bully filter’, which makes these messages more difficult to filter.

We recommend that you:
1. Do not take these messages seriously.
2. Do not reply or show any response to such emails.
3. Use the blocking feature and block all email Guerrilla Mail. (This will report the email to us too)

Rule 2 is the most important. DO NOT REPLY. DO NOT REACT. If you do reply to the message, or make such a message public, then you will be giving the sender exactly what they want – a reaction.

As for the people who use our sending service, we ask them to be mindful of their actions, be forgiving and treat others in a respectful way.

One billion emails processed!

Yesterday, we passed the one billion emails processed mark!

Most of it has been spam or other junk including phishing and scam emails. Sure, there are probably billions of such emails sent daily, which makes our count just a drop in the ocean, but we’re glad to make a difference, however small…

The number of email coming in to Guerrilla Mail is increasing each day. We sure look forward to the next billion milestone arriving faster than ever.

Why we like Bitcoin @ Guerrilla Mail?

We really like Bitcoin here at Guerrilla Mail.

We first blogged about it in June 2011, when we were excited to propose a novel system for email stamps: https://www.guerrillamail.com/blog/stamps-for-email/‎

Since then, we have seen Bitcoin decline, rise again, decline and rise again. Each time, coming back stronger than ever.

We’re not talking here about the price of Bitcoin on the exchange. Bitcoin is not for investing, or at least investing is not why we care about Bitcoin. So why do we like Bitcoin?

The answer is that Bitcoin: 1. solved a very difficult problem of tracking decentralized transactions, 2. It plays well with the internet (after all, it’s just another protocol, as HTTP and SMTP are), 3. is easy to program and integrate in to many different applications, some that were not possible before.

The former reason is probably the most important. Bitcoin can be used for much more than just payment. For example, applications can include micro-payments, contracts, proof of ownership, automated meditation, escrow, authentication, and more. These features are there now laying dormant in the protocol, ready to be used by the next generation of the economy of the internet.

The adaption of Bitcoin is growing fast, and we can tell. As you may have noticed, we have added a bitcoin donation address. To our surprise, we have received quite a few more donations than expected! This could be because bitcoin removes a lot of the friction. Instead of the hassle of clicking on a button, going to another page to checkout, taking out a card, typing in the card, filling in the billing address, etc, … all users only do is scan a QR code and send a Bitcoin transaction instantly in one step!

(We really want to thank all of those unknown people who donated. With your donations, we were able to sit back with nice cold beer, purchased directly with Bitcoin! )

Bitcoin donations beat Flattr.com too. (And there was one mistake donation for 1.8 BTC was was promptly returned. Bitcoin transactions are irreversible, unlike credit cards which can be charged-back). What’s amazing is that people can send us their donations, almost instantly, from anywhere in the world, without the need for for trusting any intermediately such as a bank or a postal service. And yes, we can really spend our bitcoins on legitimate, common, every-day items, such as beer or a meal!

We are very interested in developing Bitcoin apps too. This year, we have seen the launch our first Bitcoin service: Ability to send Bitcoin via email, without the need to know someone’s email address: https://www.guerrillamail.com/bitcoin – which was a good warm-up in to the bitcoin services.

Development is now under way on a brand new Bitcoin application, something that’s never been tried with Bitcoin yet. The application is due to be unveiled in about a month from now.