Return Path’s Bonded Sender purchase could boost program

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E-mail security company IronPort Systems is selling its Bonded Sender program to e-mail service provider Return Path.

Announced April 12, the purchase will make IronPort a Return Path shareholder and put Scott Weiss, IronPort’s founder and CEO, on Return Path’s board. IronPort will continue to provide hardware infrastructure for the program as well. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The Bonded Sender program, which has a reach of more than 35,000 networks and 250 million e-mail boxes, asks legitimate e-mail marketers to put up a cash bond to guarantees their messages aren’t spam. If a complaint is lodged against a Bonded Sender marketer, it could forfeit part or all of the bond. IronPort counts companies such as Google, CheetahMail and Microsoft Corp. among its customers.

It’s a smart move for Return Path, and one that should boost the visibility and progress of all reputation-based programs, including Bonded Sender, said Shar VanBoskirk, an analyst with Forrester Research.

"When Bonded Sender was at IronPort, it was a good product; but the company is a technology company. This wasn’t their core business," she explained. "This is a nice change because Return Path will be better able to leverage the Bonded Sender program in the way it was intended."

Des Cahill, CEO of Habeas Inc., whose products compete with Bonded Sender, said, "IronPort did little to advance [Bonded Sender] beyond the initial program. Having Return Path in the market creates two credible competitors. It gives customers more than one viable choice."

Still, David Daniels, research director at Jupiter Research, said the agreement may increase Bonded Sender’s user base, possibly affecting the market share of Habeas.

"Return Path has a very strong relationship with the e-mail-marketing community, including many of the leading ESPs. This move should also increase the adoption of the Bonded Sender program, further legitimizing the programs for senders and receivers," he said.

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