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SpamNet and Matador: A fighting chance against spam

David Strom reviews weaponry to help you win the fight against spam.

Category: Spam cleaner
Name of tool: SpamNet and Matador (two separate products)
Company name: Cloudmark/
Price: Free
URL: /
Platforms supported: Windows running either Outlook 2000/XP versions only

** = A tad shaky to install and use but has some value.

Key features:
Easy and simple to use
Eliminates the majority of spam e-mails in Outlook
Whitelist and blacklist entries

Doesn't work yet with Outlook Express, let alone other e-mail products
Doesn't support IMAP servers
Some stability problems, but hey, it's still in beta!


Is there anyone who likes to receive spam e-mails? Not that I know of. Lately, the amount of spam finding its way to my inbox has geometrically increased, and I find myself spending a goodly portion of time deleting messages by the dozens. I have looked around for solutions that wouldn't require me to switch ISPs or do some major surgery on my e-mail system. While there are some add-on products like SpamWeasel and Email Remover that attempt to kill spam, until I came across MailFrontier's Matador, SunBelt Software's IHateSpam and Cloudmark's SpamNet, I wasn't a particularly happy camper.

The three products are all based on the same clever idea; they take the peer-to-peer concept and extend it to fighting spam. The way they both work is relatively simple: You have to download an applet to your machine to run inside Outlook.

Now, maybe the more cynical of you would say that it serves me right for running such an e-mail system that encourages all sorts of script kiddies to take advantage of my computer, but I have grown accustomed to Outlook's address book and other non-e-mail features, and I don't really want to switch out of all that right at the moment. SpamNet and Matador give me a fighting chance.

These products are an alternative to running an enterprise-class spam filtering service, such as provided by Brightmail. They are free of charge and easier to install. (IHateSpam is $20, but the free download at is fully functional for 30 days.)

Note that I am reviewing both Matador and SpamNet here. You only need to run one product or the other. I didn't get a chance to test out IHateSpam, which has a version that supports Outlook Express, but it looks like it operates similarly to the others.

The two products pretty much do the same thing. As e-mail arrives in your inbox, either product screens it to see if someone else has already reported it as spam on its network of users. If there is a match, the software moves the message to another folder where you can review it and delete the messages at your leisure. There is really nothing for you to do, other than enjoy a relatively spam-free inbox. I say relatively because the software doesn't catch everything, of course. In my tests, I found each product took care of about 75% of the spam I received. You can check the statistics page in Outlook's Options | SpamNet menu because SpamNet doesn't have its own interface outside of this settings sheet.

Matador has a few more buttons to control its activities and has its own separate application and interface. It has five tabs: people, companies, messages, challenges and reports. The reports never seemed to match what was actually happening on my computer. Both the people and companies tabs allow you to explicitly block or allow particular e-mail addresses or domains, respectively. The challenge tab includes settings that can make Matador more or less restrictive about its filters. SpamNet has something similar for this, as well.

One thing I didn't see were any false positives. Meaning that neither SpamNet nor Matador identified something as spam that was an e-mail message from a legit user.

I had some problems with both software products, some of which may be attributed to early betas that I was using. There was a conflict when I happened to run Norton's Anti-Virus Live Update at the same time that SpamNet's updater tried to run. I had to reboot my machine to get out of that one. And sometimes SpamNet would blow up Outlook 2000 and I would have to restart Outlook. But I am not convinced that was something unique to SpamNet, as I had problems with Outlook stability prior to installing SpamNet.

Neither SpamNet nor Matador work with IMAP mail servers because they inspect the contents of the message and IMAP connections just download typically the mail headers.

Using a peer-to-peer network is a good idea when it comes to fighting spam, and the early versions of SpamNet and Matador show lots of promise but aren't quite ready for prime time. Once both companies work out the bugs, I think this will be a must-have application for any Outlook user.

Strom-meter key:
**** = Very cool, very useful
*** = Hey, not bad. One notch below very cool
** = A tad shaky to install and use but has some value.
* = Don't waste your time. Minimal real value.

About the author
David Strom is the senior technology editor for VAR Business magazine. He has tested hundreds of computer products over the past two decades working as a computer journalist, consultant and corporate IT manager. Since 1995, he has written a weekly series of essays on Web technologies and marketing called Web Informant. You can send him e-mail at

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