Following the surprise disappearance of anti-spam company ORBS from the Internet, we have received a succinct email from its head Alan Brown over its demise. "I am unable to talk about anything. Alan."
Alan has however been a little more expansive in an email sent to the users of his ISP Manawatu Internet Services. In it he wrote: "The rumour mill is doing overtime, so it is time to make some announcements. 1. Manawatu Internet Services Ltd is closing down. 2. There will be no loss of service for MIS or Flatnet customers."
He states that the stress associated with running Manawatu has taken its toll on his health and so he has decided to sell it. It has been sold to Quiksilver for an as-yet undisclosed sum.
Since ORBS was run by Manawatu, the ISP's sale has coincided with the disappearance of the anti-spam company. Whether ORBS will appear on another ISP anytime soon is unknown, although Brown has not offered its blacklist to any interested parties, as predecessor Alan Hogdson did in 1998 when his ISP refused to carry ORBS any longer.
Brown has been under heavy pressure recently following two court cases and an action for defamation. Last week, he admitted he was in financial trouble. The two court cases concerned Xtra and Actrix, which both claimed they had been falsely added to ORBS' blacklist.
A High Court judge agreed and issued an injunction. When Brown failed to remove the two, he was threatened with an arrest warrant. However, he subsequently made a formal apology and accepted the companies should not be on the list (but not before mis-spelling Xtra as "Extra").
The defamation action - the first of its kind in New Zealand - was taken out by the former head of Domainz (New Zealand's domain registry maintainer) Patrick O'Brien. Both sides' fees were met by Domainz. It was heard last month but the judge has yet to reach a decision. If Brown is found guilty, he faces heavy damages.
With all this going on, Brown has decided to shut up shop, sell Manawatu and hence signal the end for ORBS.
Alan Brown has made a large number of enemies in recent years due to his blunt personality. Many disagree with the policies he has introduced into ORBS, and a Web site was even set up to enable people to vent their spleen - www.stoporbs.org.
If you're interested in knowing more, a big discussion has broken out at news.admin.net-abuse.email, which covers most of what is going on. Either that or go to the spam-l list at lsoft.com (but you'll need to subscribe).