Yesterday, I wrote my once-every-five years rant on spam. The basic premise is that we've been sold an incredibly rotten bill of goods by everyone who says they have the solution to the problem. They've been saying this for close to a decade. If so many of them had the solution to the problem, the spammers would have given up by now. But if anything, the spam problem is only getting worse. It's a true sign that the more spam that's out there, the better it is for these vendors because they ultimately make money on the problem.
Over on my Twitter feed (see the right side of my blog pages or check the feed itself in my Zudescape, I have an entry that refers to the irony that lurks in an announcement from Cisco that its IronPort antispam appliances now use multicore processors. The release says:
....the volume of spam has been roughly doubling every year, with no end in sight. As of August 2007, the IronPort business unit [of Cisco] measured an 18 percent month-over-month increase in spam volume. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of all email is spam. More than 80 percent of spam comes from infected “zombie” computers, typically in consumer broadband networks. As spam filters become more effective and more widely deployed, a spammer simply sends more messages with the hope that enough will get through spam filters to make the spammer’s business profitable.....
90 percent of all e-mail is spam? (back when I organized JamSpam, it was around 50 percent). Is that absurd or what? The spam problem is so bad and antispam solutions like IronPort have proven so ineffective at deterring spammers that now, they have to throw more processing power at the problem? Oy.
This is why I say it's time for a re-write. We have to go back to square-one on e-mail and rebuild the entire system. Who is in a position to do this? Basically, all it would take would be for Google, Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo to make it happen and here's why. Collectively, they represent more e-mail users than any other group of vendors out there. If they came to some agreements on standard technologies for fighting spam, the rest of the world would have no choice but to follow. Not only that, since they run the largest online e-mail services, killing spam off through a set of mutually agreed upon "standard" approaches would be good for their businesses given how the load on their systems might one day be lightened. This, as opposed to the great many other companies that profit from spam's existence who don't want to see spammers giving up their line of work any time soon.
Should we hold their feet to the fire (Google, Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo that is) to make it happen? What are the next steps? How do we get them to set aside their differences for the betterment of the Internet and all its users?