America Online, Microsoft and Yahoo have joined forces to spearhead a larger effort that will bring together other companies affected by spam to share resources, technologies and strategies.
"We realise we can do much more by working together as teammates than by working as competitors," said Nicholas Graham, a spokesman for AOL.
"Over the past few months, spammers have really changed the rules," and accelerated their mailings and methods, Graham said. "It became clear that we had to take action. We have to do something to restore faith in [e-mail use]."
The trio hoped they could initiate open dialogue that will include organisations across the industry to drive technical standards and industry guidelines that can be adopted, regardless of platform. The process will be open and other companies and groups will be encouraged to participate.
The group has laid out four initial goals, including protecting consumers from receiving spam by preventing spammers from falsifying sender's e-mail headers, and halting incoming e-mail from systems deemed to be vulnerable to unauthorised use through open relays, open routers or open proxies.
Another strategy will be to try and prevent the use of e-mail services such as Yahoo, AOL and MSN to send spam to large numbers of recipients. That effort will concentrate on eliminating spammers' ability to create fraudulent e-mail accounts in bulk and other methods.
The group also backs the creation and adoption of standards that would help differentiate legitimate business e-mail from unwanted spam and the enforcement of applicable and new laws to make spammers more accountable for their actions.
Lisa Pollock Mann, a spokeswoman for Yahoo, said the move was a "first step toward a broader industry effort" in fighting spam.
"We are committed to making this work," she said. "Industry collaboration is going to be a necessity."
"It's important to us because it's important to an increasing number of our customers," said Brian Arbogast, vice president of MSN and the personal services division at Microsoft. "Our customers tell us they feel like they are being robbed."
He added that spam also makes it difficult for parents to feel safe allowing their children to use the internet because of the number of pornographic messages being sent.
"Spam is one of the biggest disincentives to allow their children to use the internet, which is a tragedy," Arbogast said.
In February, AOL announced its own program to intensify its internal antispam efforts to help its members stem the flow of unwanted junk mail. AOL added a Report Spam button to its mail client and took other steps to try to reduce the problem.