Can the three net titans offer an escape from spam?
Three of the largest players on the internet have thrown their weight behind the fight against unsolicited e-mail known as spam.
America Online, Microsoft and Yahoo said they would work together and with other companies to develop ways of blocking the unwanted messages.
"The time has come for competitors and the industry at large to work together to address the burden of spam," said David Cole of Microsoft's internet arm, MSN.
Spam is widely considered as one of the biggest annoyances on the net, with unwanted mail set to account for 40% of all e-mail by the end of 2003.
Much of the seemingly endless messages offering pornography, sex drugs or ways to reduce weight come from e-mail addresses set up through the popular free e-mail services of AOL, MSN or Yahoo.
As a first step, the three companies want to reduce the amount of spam by making it harder to register fraudulent e-mail addresses in bulk.
The trio also plan to set up better feedback policies so that their customers can help determine the real identity of the spammers.
In a statement, they said they hoped to "significantly reduce the ability of spammers to use AOL's, Microsoft's and Yahoo's e-mail services to send spam."
The three companies said they wanted to work with others to develop new technical standards to block spam and put together guidelines about the use of e-mail as a marketing tool.
Many organisations are now looking for a way to combat spam. Most internet firms and e-mail services have systems to block spam.
But spammers regularly figure out how to get around the checks.
A number of the major internet firms, including AOL, have turned to the courts to try to stop the spammers, in the face of mounting anger from their subscribers.
There are also moves to toughen up American law in this area, with two senators reintroducing a bill to curb junk e-mails.
Experts estimate that spam costs businesses around the world about $9bn a year to deal with.
This includes the time it takes people to delete the messages, the cost of buying larger mail servers and storage systems and the cost of having staff unclog networks overloaded by spam.