Hotmail, the Internet portal's Web-based e-mail service, has long offered subscribers the ability to use a technology standard known as Web DAV (Web distributed authoring and versioning) to download e-mail from Hotmail into Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express for free.
Starting Monday, MSN will grant use of Web DAV tools only to paid subscribers of Hotmail, which starts at $19.95. However, Hotmail subscribers who have previously used the technology, an estimated 5 percent to 10 percent of its total 187 million customers, will be able to continue to use it for free through March or April of 2005.
"We've seen spammers exploiting this Web DAV protocol, and we're going to make a change to help curb its abuse. New spammers won't be able to set up of free accounts" to send junk e-mail, said Brook Richardson, lead product manager for MSN communications services.
"We felt we needed to make a decision for the greater good, not only for Hotmail users, but also for the whole e-mail ecosystem," Richardson said.
Hotmail users will still be able to import e-mail from third-party services using POP (Post Office Protocol).
The move is only the latest technology front MSN has put up to staunch spam. Previously, Hotmail has started requiring new subscribers to input an authorization code before signing up, in order to prove they're not a spam robot.
Yahoo and America Online have similarly restricted access to e-mail exporting tools to only paid subscribers.