Mailblocks CEO Phil Goldman Dies at 39

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Phil Goldman, founder of WebTV and challenge-response e-mail company Mailblocks, died Dec. 25 at his home in Los Altos, CA, at age 39. The cause of death is unknown.


Goldman founded Mailblocks, Los Altos, in July 2002 after nearly two decades in the technology industry that included positions at Apple Computer and Microsoft. Mailblocks is a Web-based consumer e-mail system that uses challenge-response technology to combat spam by forcing all unknown senders to prove they are not a computer mailing unsolicited bulk e-mail.


Prior to Mailblocks, Goldman was senior vice president of engineering at WebTV Networks, a system for accessing the Internet through television sets, which he co-founded in June 1995. Microsoft bought WebTV in April 1997 for $425 million in stock and cash. He stayed on with Microsoft in various executive positions, serving most recently as vice president of advanced TV services prior to founding Mailblocks.


"Everyone talked about how Phil thought he could crack any problem," said Susan Bratton, vice president of sales and marketing at Mailblocks. "He certainly took that approach with Mailblocks and spam."


After graduating from Princeton University summa cum laude with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science in 1986, Goldman began his career with Apple Computer. There, he created MultiFinder, a program that let Mac users operate more than one application at a time, and other operating system advances. Goldman was awarded 19 U.S. patents for technologies he pioneered.


Goldman said he started Mailblocks after realizing that popular, free Web-based e-mail services like Yahoo and Hotmail had failed to innovate amid the spam problem. Goldman cast his lot with the fledgling challenge-response technology, which aims to keep a user's inbox 100 percent spam free. The company's patented challenge-response technology diverts e-mail from senders not in a user's address book to a "pending" folder. Mailblocks sends a challenge to these senders, requiring them to replicate a numerical password for their mail to reach the inbox.


Mailblocks said it would continue operations under the executive team of Bratton, vice president of engineering Rich Landsman and vice president of network operations Phil Steffora. The company has not named a chief executive. The company plans to release a new version of Mailblocks in early January.


Funeral services were held Dec. 28 at Peninsula Temple Shalom in Burlingame, CA. He is survived by his wife and two children. Donations in Goldman's name can be made to BraveKids (www.bravekids.org), a charity Goldman helped direct that gives computers to children with life-threatening illnesses.


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