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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 September, 2004, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
E-mail turns to P2P technology
Wallet secured by padlock, Eyewire
The service is aimed at firms keen to protect client confidentiality
Peer-to-peer technology has been used to create an e-mail network said to be free of spam, viruses and snoopers.

The .safe e-mail service is the idea of a Leeds-based start-up, with users paying an annual fee to use it.

Jeftel says it keeps messages away from the net's usual e-mail infrastructure, protecting them from spammers, malicious hackers and prying eyes.

Initially the service is aimed at legal and financial firms keen to keep client messages confidential.

Community checks

The idea for the service emerged while Jeftel was doing work for high-profile law firm Mishcon de Reya, said Robert Barr, the company's head of development.

"We were doing some work on Voice Over IP and developed the whole idea of using the same transport technology for e-mail," he told BBC News Online.

Normal e-mail travels by the motorway. But we have a private railway that carries your e-mail and no-one else can get on it
Robert Barr, Jeftel
Anyone paying the annual 25 fee must download a small program before they can send messages to other members of the Jeftel network. The downloaded program works alongside Microsoft's popular Outlook e-mail program.

He said Jeftel had worked hard to make its e-mail service easy to use and install as many other encryption and security systems for mail were too tricky for most people to get to grips with.

Users of the service get an e-mail address ending with .safe.

Mr Barr said the Jeftel service lets users create small communities that can exchange messages that will not be plagued by the problems suffered by e-mail sent via the net.

"Most people only communicate with 25-30 people on a regular basis," he said, answering the charge that it is only going to be useful once a lot of people have adopted it.

"If you want communication between you and these people you are not worried about the rest of the world."

Instead of messages travelling through numerous e-mail post offices as they cross the net, Jeftel messages go direct to their intended recipient and no copies are made.

Mr Barr said a future version will allow people to keep copies of messages to let legal and financial firms comply with regulatory guidelines.

He added that to stop abuse of the e-mail system both parties to a message were authenticated before the e-mail travels.

"Normal e-mail travels by the motorway," he said. "But we have a private railway that carries your e-mail and no-one else can get on it."

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