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Originally published Monday, April 18, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Interface

An arresting development in daily war against spam

A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: Spam Arrest.

What: Spam Arrest, based in Seattle.

Who: Brian Cartmell, chief executive

What it does: Eliminates spam through a human verification process. Senders must verify themselves before a message gets through.

Employees: 12

How it works: Person A e-mails Person B, who is a Spam Arrest customer. Spam Arrest receives the message first, and checks to see if B has received messages from A before. Person B can also have Spam Arrest check his or her address book for A. If there is no record of Person A, Spam Arrest sends A an e-mail asking the sender to visit a Web page and type the word shown there. Once cleared, the e-mail and all future ones from Person A go through.

The result: Spam Arrest customers receive e-mail only from people who verify themselves. Because most spam is sent out by machines that can't do that kind of verification automatically, the process wipes out nearly all spam, Cartmell said.

The cost: The subscription service ranges from $4 a month to $55 for two years. Most of the 20,000 customers are individuals or small businesses.

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Spam on the rise: Some software titans believe that spam will be eradicated in a year or two. Not true, Cartmell said. About 82 percent of the e-mail messages coming in to Spam Arrest's system is spam, and it's getting worse, he added.

Starting up: Cartmell was the founder and chief executive of eNIC, an Internet domain registry he sold to VeriSign in 2001. He founded Spam Arrest later that year, mainly because he was getting some 1,000 spam and 50 legitimate messages a day. "I had to go fishing through my spam looking for my e-mail. It just drove me nuts," he said.

A new phase: Cartmell is launching a marketing campaign next month, which will include nationwide spots on Comedy Central and other cable channels. The ads show a man throwing his computer on the ground and stomping it in frustration. Cartmell estimates that the new business will help Spam Arrest become profitable, likely by the end of the year.

— Kim Peterson

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