All I want for Christmas: reliable e-mail

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The holiday season is in full swing and with it comes a barrage of commercial e-mail, some of it downright dangerous.

I read one subject line: "Best Buy Order Confirmation." It looked real but I didn't order Sony VAIO from Best Buy, as the confirmation described. Hit the delete key, fast!

Another offered special deals at Amazon. Very slick, with a link to a polished Web site that curiously had no information about the offering company: no physical address, no privacy policy. No, thank you!

Consumers have now learned to be vigilant for e-mail fraud. It's great that they're becoming savvy but it's a bad sign for e-mail marketers. It signals an overall loss of trust in e-mail. Understandable.

Consumers have no method of safely identifying good e-mail from bad and most now assume a message is bad until proven otherwise.

Recent surveys indicate that more than 20 percent of U.S. e-mail users categorically won't open any messages coming from financial institutions - a devastating blow to the e-mail medium and to all legitimate brands striving to leverage its power and efficiency.

There is no simple solution. E-mail continues to be a rich target environment for a daunting array of bad actors with too much time, motivation and technical know-how.

Mailbox providers spend millions protecting customer inboxes. Phishing has caused AOL, Microsoft and Google to cripple the functionality of high-volume commercial e-mail. No more images, no more links. Don't even think about Javascript for adding more message functionality.

Has e-mail's evolution as an ever more powerful medium come to an end? The ASCI text is right there on the wall!

Many in the e-mail space believe it's time to take a new approach to the problem with a solution that can both return e-mail's power and effectiveness, and provide consumers with a easy way to identify messages they can trust.

AOL and Yahoo! are implementing a new class of certified e-mail and are relying on premium delivery service that is only available to carefully-accredited, highly-qualified senders. With a certified e-mail service, senders add a cryptographically secure token to each message so receiving mailbox providers can safely identify them. This approach of e-mail certification looks to benefit e-mail users, legitimate senders and mailbox providers.

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