Hari's Corner

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Spam Filtering in Google and Yahoo Mail

Filed under: Software and Technology by Hari
Posted on Fri, May 13, 2005 at 16:55 IST (last updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 @ 20:31 IST)

In the first place, let me mention that I get very little spam in my mailbox. Probably a couple a week (our ISP account gets flooded with them). So going by that standard, the free e-mail accounts I use are relatively spam-free. It may just be a natural consequence of my cautious nature in keeping my mail IDs fairly private.

Anyway, I have two e-mail accounts which I use. One is with Yahoo and the other is a gmail account. Both have spam filters and from what I have observed, I find the one in google mail to be far superior to Yahoo's "bulk mail" feature. For somebody who expected better results in Yahoo, this comes as a stunning fact. And I make my judgements on hard, practical experience over several months.

I have found Yahoo's "bulk mail" folder to be most unreliable. On more than one occasion, genuine e-mails have slipped through the inbox and fallen into the "bulk" box. On the other hand, spam does slip into the inbox rather more frequently. This has not been a one-time aberration but a regular event. Sure, you get the report spam options, but that's rather like the cure: not prevention. And as they say prevention is far better than cure. Especially when the disease is spam.

On the contrary, google mail's spam filter has been giving consistently better results. It is true that I get a lot more spam on my google account, but the fact is that the spam filter has had an accuracy of 99.99% in detecting spam so far (in my case) and even well-disguised spam mails (with ordinary looking subjects, plain text body with no images) have been consistently rejected. There was just one occasion when a spam managed to slip through its defences, but that's quite acceptable. Almost always I can be sure that the mail I receive in the Spam folder will be spam. With Yahoo, I can never take the chance of trashing my bulk mail before taking a glance at its contents.

An amazing fact, but I would have expected the more experienced Yahoo to be the leaders in this field. It shouldn't really have surprised me, though. It's not just in spam filtering that google has overtaken its competition...

Consider the fact that google has revolutionized the field of free webmail providers. In the first place, they made gmail the exclusive domain of a few beta-testers: making it all the more desirable in the eyes of everybody: a very astute move. Slowly and surely they expanded with the unique concept of "invitation-only" registration. They offered a mind-boggling 1 GB of mail space, which was unthinkable at that time. This has not only forced other webmail-giants like Yahoo to keep up with google as far as storage space is concerned (there were days when 6 MB was considered quite enough!), but google's innovative (some critics might say "gimmicky") ideas have been pushed rather aggressively and rapidly and not the least, the implementation of these ideas have been extremely successful. While Yahoo still keeps displaying annoying, full-blown graphical ads in my mailbox, with google, the annoyances never existed in the first place! Talk about revolutionary: their concepts have really made the competition look bad... and worse, obsolete.

How long google can keep this up is another matter, though. What is undeniable is that they have unleashed new, dynamic forces in the field of web services and one can only look forward to more innovations and advances in the future! I am an optimist and I believe that the rise of google can only mean more choices, higher value and better competition in the field of web services... and its a good thing for all of us.

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