I'm not sure whether this is a good idea or not, but a company in Leeds - jeftel - says it has invented a new email system that integrates with existing clients but uses an proprietary protocol, encryption and peer-to-peer technology to communicate. The .safe email addresses are thus entirely separate from the nasty spam-ridden, virus-sodden world of real email and can be handed out to other jeftel subscribers with impunity.
The logic is clear, but it may not be fully thought out. It's difficult to see how you could get by with just a .safe email address -- unless you lead a particularly hermetic business life, you'll need some form of external email address for the rest of the world so you'll carry on suffering anyway. And if you're going to have two email addresses, one public and one private, why not just… well, have two email addresses and not tell anyone you don't want to know about the more secret one?
However, the idea of peer-to-peer email is intriguing. The obvious way to do it is via IM, where my experience is that anti-spam technology works quite well. I have two or three IM accounts on different systems (to say nothing of IRC), which I use pretty well constantly -- and apart from some background noise on AOL, which the system is good at managing, I get almost no hassle from bad people. So why not link that into my email system? I should be able to point at a friend on a buddy list, click 'Send an email', get an edit box up and type merrily away. All the clients have file transfer features already, so attachments are taken care of, and if someone's on my buddy list then I'm on theirs -- we're already mutually authenticated.
It's a curious corner of functionality that's been untouched so far, and one that has some intriguing possibilities. If I were to be a money-grabbing vulture, I should by rights patent the idea right now and then lie low until someone else comes up with it, but by publishing it I've scuppered my chances of seeing a dime. On the other hand, nobody else can nab the idea either, so it's comfortably in the public domain -- where such ideas should be, I reckon.
This might all fall apart if someone's already got the darn thing covered, of course.
(Curious fact about this story: when first published, the initial sentence said "Leeds-based company jeftel, which is backed by a local mysterymaire, has launched a 'leak proof' email system for a £25 annual subscription." What, you might reasonably ask, is a mysterymaire? It's a lovely word, redolent of gothic horror and dark, forbidding forests -- if only it existed. Some investigation showed that at some point, a macro had been run over the story to apply certain house style features -- one of which is to convert all occurrences of the word 'million' to the letter 'm'.
All this is fuel to my argument that only real people -- real, talented, well-paid people -- should be given the power to edit text. Computers might be OK at adding things up (and encrypting email) but they're thick as curdled milk…) [Said macro has been (ahem) edited since - slightly blushing Ed.]