The future of the Email address, Part I
Over the past 2 years, I have been sending media releases
out over the internet via Email, as part of my companies
NetPOST and NetWIRE services. I've gotten pretty well known
for doing it the right way, and have benefited greatly by
never sending spam, and always identifying the person at
the end of the address before I send them anything. This
has resulted in me now having clients that are among the
most famous names on the Internet.
Since I do this for a living, I have spotted several trends
that are no doubt in response to the deluge of junk now reaching
all of us. Here are some likely scenarios that will unfold
as it gets worse.
I - Public and Private addresses
I have many editors, publishers and reporters who contact me
now to give me a private email address to reach them at. In
fact, most folks in the Internet Media Industry who put their
email addresses up at their web sites long ago are sorry they
did. These public addresses get hammered with junk email and
poorly formatted autobot press releases. One editor told me
that she receives nearly 100 press releases a day at her email
address she has up at the magazines Web site. She has decided
to leave it up just to have a "junk-pile". This is an example
of the trend of "Email account for content filtering", where you
keep an account (or two) just for such a purpose, and then you
keep a private account that nobody but who you want to knows.
I now have 5 email accounts.
Compare this to the office phone and the cellular phone. Only
a handful of people in my life get the cellular number.
II - The disappearing "MAILTO:" link in response to the
automated address sniffers, and the "gif-izing"
of our addresses
Remember how excited you were when you made that first mailto
link out of your email address and watched the mail form pop
up in Netscape when you clicked on it? Well, take it down.
In the past two months several companies have created specialized
tools that seek out and return any mailto links they can find,
in the same manner as the search engines seek out and index Web sites.
This is scary, no matter how potentially useful. A person can point
this bot at any url and turn it loose. In a few hours, they have
a database compatible list of verified email addresses that they can
cut and paste into any email package or remailer.
I saw one ad that said "capture hundreds of thousands of email addresses
is a few hours and have your message in their hands the same day"
The survival response to this will be a combination of the following:
People will leave the mailto links they have in place, and abandon
those accounts. A simple defense I will use is to make my email
address available as a gif or jpeg only, which has no html address
behind it to be sniffed. I may even imagemap it by itself. By
doing this my source code has no email address for anyone to grab,
and it can only be seen by a human who persaonlly visits the page.
I wont even use alt tags on email address gifs.
III - Advanced filtering packages
I am expecting at any moment a new email pop-client that
does the following:
The moment email arrives, a mini-box pops up that says do you want
to block this address from sending future email to you?
If you click YES, then it will add the offenders email address to
it's database, and match future email to it. If it finds a match
the next time you log on, it will not only not download it, it will
automatically delete it from the server. You wont even have to
know about it other than that first time you tell you pop-client
to block them. Other options could be to automatically send a response
asking them to remove you from their list (this too can be invisible to
you while it happens).
The above scenario is feasible, though in no way a permanent answer.
IV - An increase in the email terrorism response
I listened to a 20 year-old college student who told me how,
in less than 20 minutes, he could write a PERL script that would
nearly destroy any email address he wanted to by sending a 100MB
email message to it over and over automatically all day long.
Imagine if ACME spam company irritated this kid. All he needs
is one valid email address at ACME and he can bring them to their
knees. He said that this was nothing compared to what he could do
if he really worked at it.
I expect the creative and angry young rebels to increase in
The reason that email spammers are proliferating is because
they haven't been given painful enough reasons not to spam.
That pain can be defined in a number of ways, financial, legal
equipment or otherwise. I really expect sweeping changes to
email communication over the next 10 years, and in many
cases I think they will be positive changes. I do have a
feeling that email will get more expensive for all of us
before it's over with.
Eric Ward <email@example.com>
The WardGroup - Internet Publicity, Media & Press Services
Founder of "Eric Ward's NetWIRE"[tm] and
NetPOST Awareness Campaigns
____Fortune 500 Clients and References in 6 Countries_____
<a href="http://www.netpost.com">The WardGroup/NetPOST</a>