Bulc Club

A Case for Retiring Burners

News December 23, 2019

A Case for Retiring Burners

When we first soft-launched Bulc Club five years ago, we knew we’d have to contend with the obstacle of promoting an anti-spam, privacy-protection service without spamming people, nor invading their privacy. In fact, any form of advertising and self-promotion felt disingenuous to our cause—ridding the world of spam, forever.

One mechanism we chose was to soft-sell prospective Members by offering BulcBurners, single-use disposable email addresses. In order to obtain one, the general public simply needed to enter their email address and a burner would be generated and forwarded to them immediately. The public could also create them quicker by installing the Bulc Club Google Chrome Extension and/or Mozilla Firefox Add-on. No account/Membership was necessary. This served two purposes:

  • to verify the user’s email address – after all, we didn’t want to be responsible for spamming anyone ourselves, if an email address was entered incorrectly as it’d be antithetical to our beliefs, and
  • to provide a use case for email forwarders in the same (and only) email that included the burner address. BulcBurners, however useful, were simply a way to inform privacy-minded folks about the purpose for our free service.

Fast-forward to 2020. Membership has grown steadily and organically and has even doubled since last year. While we attribute this growth to write-ups in SitePoint, Antyweb, and HobokenGirl, listings on ProductHunt, BetaList, and Privacy-Emails.info, thriving organic traction through news and informational articles and “Check Address/Domain” pages, and active, dedicated forums on HackerNews and Reddit, BulcBurners may also be partially responsible. Though they’re not part of Bulc Club’s core service, they were doing exactly what they were designed to do.

If you haven’t yet read “Forwarders vs Burners” on our news site, Bulc.info, we encourage you to do so. It provides a broad stroke analysis of which should be used in different scenarios. And a lot of the information in that article remains true to this day. However, feedback from Members has changed our thoughts on continuing to offer burner email addresses. Ignoring the fact that they’ve served their purpose to generate growth and increase Membership, copycat burner services have also popped-up all over the web lately. And while we could never attest to their security and privacy practices – Bulc Club rigorously safeguards your personal information – the offering has become a-dime-a-dozen. To the general public still seeking burner email addresses, we’re no longer the only circus in town.

More importantly, however, we need to consider the repercussions of offering burner email addresses and to do so, we’ll need to take a step back and think a little bit about the big picture. Bulc Club’s email forwarder service is bootstrapped with the strongest, most powerful spam-filtering engine on the planet. Its uniqueness is derived from a combination of complex math and folksonomy data. The math is a proprietary algorithm based on explicit, implicit, and inherent blocks. The folksonomy comes from crowdsourcing Member feedback on if a sender email address or domain is legitimate or illegitimate, solicited or unsolicited, real or spam.

This data is the core of Bulc Club and is what has led to Membership rating and blocking over 125,000 email addresses so far. This means that 125,000 spammers have been thwarted and these milestones have reinforced our determination to rid the world of spam and bulkmail forever.

Burners, on the other hand, provide no data at all. They’re issued, used, and discarded like plastic drinking straws. Their purpose is shortsighted and wasteful. Their opportunity cost is apparent. They function in opposition to our purpose: every burner created could’ve been an email forwarder, replete with usable data that could benefit the rest of our Membership, and still operate similarly to a single-use, disposable email address. The only difference is user intervention. While burners expire immediately after first use, Members would need to click the “Block” button to prevent that sender’s emails from being forwarded.

While Bulc Club has thousands of Members and hundreds of thousands of email forwarders, millions of BulcBurners have been generated since we launched. And with Members writing us about the purpose of burners, and our own disappointment that we could have millions more data-points, we’ve begun to ask ourselves if there still is any benefit for offering burners.

Readers, Members, and lovers of BulcBurners, there is no immediate cause for concern. We have yet to make a decision on if we want to douse the flames or keep offering burners as a value-added service. We want to continue to grow as each new Member’s ratings make our data more accurate, our filtering more efficient, and decrease the workload for the rest of our Membership as a whole. But at some point, we’ll need to decide if the opportunity cost is worth it and if we should sacrifice a useful tool for gaining new Members in hopes that, instead, they’ll create an account and join the rest of us in contributing the data we need in order to accomplish our mission: the death of spam.