Feel Free to Spam Me

This is just beautiful. If you’re anything like me I’m sure you’ve used services like Mailinator for those pesky situations when you *must* supply an email address but you really don’t want to. You know the consequences can be a never-ending barrage of spam to the account – I can testify to this with my original Hotmail account which is pretty much overrun with offers to meet with lonely girls in my area, Viagra, virus cures and methods to enhance my abilities. What did I do? I created another Hotmail account which I guard with my life.

In fact only yesterday, on a publishing website I had to provide an email address to download an eBook. I didn’t want to provide my “real” email address but at the same time it’s not appropriate to use a service like Mailinator as everyone has access to your mails. I’d be receiving account details and a download link to an eBook – clearly inappropriate for “public” consumption. So what did I do? I created another Hotmail account, this time with the _spam suffix – something like MyUsualEmailAddressSpam@hotmail.com.

Not exactly ideal – it’s another account to monitor and another password to remember. I now keep a OneNote list of all my Hotmail accounts so I remember to add them all back to Live Mail when I rebuild my machine!

Today, Hotmail announced aliases. If only I’d known this was coming I could have saved myself all that hassle yesterday. An alias lets me create a new email address and associate it with my existing Hotmail account. Then, when I’m done with it, I just throw it away and create another. (There’s a limit of 5 new aliases per year and a max of 15 on an account).

Imagine my current Hotmail email address is MikeyO@hotmail.co.uk (it isn’t BTW – sorry if yours is). I could create MikeyOSpam@hotmail.co.uk. Or I could be a bit more adventurous and go with ViagraMagnet@hotmail.co.uk. Either way, I can safely give out this email address knowing there’s no way to determine my “real” email address, I can switch them off whenever I want to (and filter on them in my inbox of course) and conveniently they all go to the same account so only one username / password to remember.

That is a thing of beauty and a poke in the eye for all those spammers out there. Nice one Hotmail.

You can start creating aliases here.

Comments (17)

  1. I agree, this is a great service, and one that I will be setting up for both myself and the other half.  As for the use of OneNote, couldn't live without it anymore!!


  2. Francisco says:

    If you don't want people to see those mails you could also use services http://10minutemail.com

    It will generate a random email address for you, and after 10 minutes, it will expire and self destruct. There is the handy "Give me 10 more minutes!" button too but you have to do it manually, or it will self destoy 🙂

  3. Jason Neave says:

    A lesser known feature of Hotmail is pretty cool too, adding a + and a label after your mailbox name.

    For example, if your email address was blah@hotmail.com you could use blah+msdn@hotmail.com to sign up to the MSDN Flash (shameless plug) and it would be routed to your blah inbox but easier to filter.  I don't think there is a limit to them either.

  4. Mikej says:

    Yes by all means avoid spam by using tricks like the above but when a website asks for your email in return for access to a facility providing a false or time limited email is dishonest.

    You are receiving something in return for your email and basically you are paying with a dud cheque.

    There is no way that this urging to be dishonest would appear in another context – yes go on take the magazine and pay with forged currency, etc…

    Next time Microsoft ask me for a registration email I must remember to cheat.

  5. MikeO [MSFT] says:

    Mikej – There is *no* dishonesty involved at all in what I've said or what I'm advocating. If you don't want to supply your email address to Microsoft then don't though I'd stress that Microsoft is a company you can trust with those details. Personal data & privacy are taken extremely seriously and we make it easy to manage whether and how MS can contact you. There are many organisations however that don't live up to such standards. Best regards, Mike

  6. Mikej says:

    So let me get this right —

    a company has something you want enough to supply an email address to gain access to

    but because you fear the company might use this is in ways you do no approve of you feel that a false identity is in order.

    So next time you buy something and you fear that the company will use your money in a way you do not approve of it is fine to pay using forged notes.

    Email addresses are one of the currencies of the web and you are simply saying its ok to cheat.

    That is not to say that aliases aren't a good idea if they allow you to organise your email – but using one to cheat on a deal that is clearly stated for you IS dishonest.  

    And finally there are many places that Microsoft INSISTS on an email and at that point you have a moral decision to make (albeit a small one) – to either supply a correct email, to supply a false email or to walk away and accept that the deal on offer is not for you.


  7. MikeO [MSFT] says:

    Mikej – I'll keep this short because you seem set on misinterpreting and misrepresenting what I've said but as you're questioning my integrity I feel obliged to respond.

    [1] I am not advocating false identities. These are real email addresses. Mails sent to them get to me.

    [2] That said I can think of many occassions when it's quite appropriate to give a "disposable" email address – in exaclty the same way my bank once offered disposable credit card numbers. Where no relationship exists, I'm under no obligation to provide an email address where I can be contacted in the future.

    One concrete example is the convenience of having a reservation number sent to me when I make a purchase for in-store collection. The only thing the company should ever use that email address for (according to their terms and conditions) is to send me the reservation number. They are breaking the law in the UK is they fail to respect that agreement. I do not feel under any obligation therefore, moral or otherwise, to give them a permanent email address. They have no use for it. This is a transaction, not a relationship.

    This is just one example. I can think of many others.

    [3] Your analogy with currency simply makes no sense. For one thing I would be committing a crime. A more appropriate analogy would be if they insisted taking my phone number without being able to provide a good reason. They have my money. We've completed our transation. I would refuse.

    [4] If you're concerned about MS abusing your email I'd advocate using an alias and switching it off if MS fails to live up to its part of the agreement. As I said, our standards in this area are extremely high but if we fail in them, I think you're well within your rights to take action. People have been doing this with Junk Mail filters for years – aliases simply offer another, potentially more potent defence.


  8. Jim says:

    I have always found http://www.spamgourmet.com a great way of dealing with spam emails when i only need the first or second email. Create an account then when you want to give a website an email address you create the email with the number of returned emails you want to send on to your account with the rest being deleted.

    So spam.2.[accountname]@spamgourmet.com will forward on the first two emails to me and then delete the rest. Next time just create a different prefix.

    Saved me 1000s of spam emails over the years

  9. Mikej says:

    My last comment on the subject too – because you don't seem to (want to?) follow the argument.

    Its a simple deal give me an email address I can use to contact you with similar stuff and you can have access to whatever it is.

    Its a simple deal – take it or leave it but don't cheat on it.

    This isn't difficult logic and we are supposed, as programmers to be good at logic.

    I'm perfectly happy to give Microsoft my email in return for say C# Express and trust that they will send me things I find intersting about C# and even programming in general.

    This isn't about spam – spam is something else but you can use its evil reputation (yes it is evil I agree) to justify behaviour that in other situations you would condem.

    And yes it is a particular bee I have in my bonnet – and I'm certainly not getting at you in particular – its a very common and very illogical position. See


    for more.

  10. MikeO [MSFT] says:

    Mikej – I don't have any difficulty following your argument but you maintain it's universally applicable. I disagree. I see at least two "other" scenarios::

    [1] When there is no such "deal" – as per the in-store collection example I describe above

    [2] When the other party with whom the "simple deal" was made reneges on it.


  11. mikej says:

    This isn't about instore deals but if you really want to make it so then – again you have a choice – don't deal with the store.

    There is a deal – your email for my content/program/service

    You don't have to accept the deal but neither do you HAVE to cheat on it.

    And your point 2 is an assumption of guilt without proof and it can be used to justify any dishonest act.

    I thought the bank might steal my money so I stole it first.

    You don't have to accept the goods but if you do you should supply an honest email.

  12. MikeO [MSFT] says:

    Mikej – Again you repeat the same mantra and miss my point that not everything is about this "deal" you describe.

    My first point has nothing to do with "instore deals"- where did you get that from? I've bought something from the store and they send me a reservation number so I can collect it. The agreement – *their* agreement – is they will only ever send me one email which provides me this number. They should never send me another email – to do so is breaking the law. Using a short-lived address in such circumstances is not "cheating" anyone.

    I make no assumption of guilt in point 2. The use of an alias means they have my contact details. They can email me as per "the deal" and so long as they stick to their part of the deal I get their emails. If they break their part of the bargain I can choose to disconnect them, This seems eminently fair to me to both parties. They are innocent until proven otherwise.

    I am not advocating the use of an anonymous email or a short-lived email where I'm entering into any sort of agreement. Yet you repeatedly assume and represent that I am. Let me be 100% clear – I am not.

    I am arguing that the use of aliases can proivide an additional level of protection *should* a company abuse your contact details and there exist circumstances where the use of services like Mailinator or 10minutemail is pefectly legitimate, both morally and legally. If you can't accept that, I fear it's you that's struggling with logic.


  13. MikeO [MSFT] says:

    Jason – Yes, I wasn't aware of those until I read the Hotmail article. It's a nice feature thought it would be relatively easy for someone to figure out your "root" email address. Aliases offer complete "disconnection". Mike

  14. Mikej says:

    Thanks for  stating the correct position – I'm sure you did really mean to take this in the first place.

    The problem is that spam is unsolicited email but there are lots of sources of email you might not want everytime you get it that is solicited and not spam. We use the term too much.

  15. Klaus Graefensteiner says:

    Or you could use Gmail.

  16. MikeO [MSFT] says:

    Well I don't see how that would help. Gmail's spam protection is no better than Hotmails AFAIK and they don't offer an equivalent feature yet. Mike

  17. ian Walker says:

    Sweet & useful feature – thanks for the information!

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