Lots of people have multiple email addresses: one for work, one for personal use, and then one or two that might be called “spam-catcher” addresses — used for low-priority e-commerce transactions, sharing on public Web sites (like comment boards), or communications with people or organisations who you don’t trust with to keep your real email address private.
The problem with these spam-catcher accounts is that they require more maintenance than they’re worth. You have to remember to check them periodically, and when they get overwhelmed with spam, you have to kill them and then sign up for a new one.
On Friday, Microsoft’s Hotmail made it much easier to create and maintain spam-catcher accounts with a new feature called aliases. You simply enter a new email address in a special window, and Hotmail will let you send and receive messages from that alias as if it were your main Hotmail account. When you no longer want the alias, you can shut it off and all emails sent to that alias will stop showing up.
Hotmail will let you create up to five aliases per year, and up to fifteen total.
Hotmail already offered another way to create aliases by adding a “+” to the end of your email address — for instance, “[email protected]+spamcatcher.com”. But you have to create special rules to sort the “+” addresses, which is a hassle, and it’s too easy for spammers to guess your real email address simply by stripping off the “+” portion at the end.
Microsoft has been steadily adding features to Hotmail over the last two years in hopes of staving off Google’s Gmail. Hotmail is still the most popular service in the world, with more than 300 million users, and Yahoo’s a close second, but Gmail is coming on strong with close to 200 million users.