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No spam on the spambone

Even the most ardent of antispammers are wishing luck to the long-anticipated and much maligned backbone network for spammers.

The long-anticipated and much maligned so-called spambone--a backbone network for spammers--has finally launched. And even the most ardent of antispammers are wishing it luck.

What gives?

Since the Net's two most notorious spammers announced their intention to build a spam backbone, junk email has become so unpopular and difficult to send legitimately that, in truth, it won't be a spam backbone after all.

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That's right, no spam--which by all definitions must be unsolicited--will pass through the gates of Global Technology Marketing International.

Instead, GTMI See perspectives: 
Eulogy for the Spam King will be based on an increasingly popular business concept: People will be paid to get advertisements through email. It's not unlike free Web-based email in which Netizens agree to get ads in their email boxes in exchange for free accounts.

But GTMI will work directly with Internet service providers, giving them free T-1 connections in exchange for the ability to send advertising email to their customers. ISPs, in turn, would give discounts to customers who agree to get the email, although prices are up to the ISPs.

Even John Mozena, cofounder of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE), likes the idea. "If GTMI is sending commercial messages to people who want to receive them, more power to them," he said.

The attitude is a far cry from the fight between spammers and antispammers that arose after GTMI made its first official launch announcement in November. Back then, GTMI's backers, Sanford Wallace and Walt Rines, were the two highest-profile spammers in the business.

And those roles made them--especially Wallace--two of the most hated men on the Net.

But Wallace has since sworn off spam altogether and dropped out of GTMI. And Rines is not far behind him.

You could even say that he's crossed over to the other side.

"We're trying to help everyone see the light," Rines said. "Spamming is just over. If it's not illegal now, it will be soon."

Plus, he added, being the bad boy of the Net can only last so long when the tide has changed. Not only is spam unpopular, but with so many effective filters that guard against it, companies successfully pursuing legal measures against junk emailers, and the politicians beginning to legislate against it, the writing is on the wall.

"It's one thing to piss everyone off if you believe in what you're doing," Rines said. "But you can't believe in it right now when you see the end of the tunnel. We just sort of realized about a month and a half ago we weren't up for another fight."

So now it's about opt-in advertising. Which is exactly what antispammers have been fighting for the whole time.

"That's what CAUCE and all the other antispammers out there have been working toward all these months and years," Mozena said. "We don't have a problem with commercial use of the Internet or commercial use of email in particular. We just want to make sure people ask first."