[FoRK] At what point is email officially broken?

Jim Whitehead < ejw at soe.ucsc.edu > on > Wed Dec 6 12:31:05 PST 2006

A New York Times article today points out the obvious, that spam has  
dramatically increased recently. When talking with folks in the IETF  
with email standards experience, I keep getting the message, "email's  
not broken, it's just that {insert intervention here} is needed."  At  
what point are we able to officially declare the SMTP-based email  
infrastructure is fundamentally broken, and we need a major change?

Feels like we need an "Iraq Study Group" for the spam problem. We're  
not winning the war, and we're in serious denial. As far as I can  
tell, there are no IETF working groups addressing the issue of fixing  
the email infrastructure.

- Jim


Spam Doubles, Finding New Ways to Deliver Itself
Hearing from a lot of new friends lately? You know, the ones that  
write “It’s me, Esmeralda,” and tip you off to an obscure stock that  
is “poised to explode” or a great deal on prescription drugs.

You’re not the only one. Spam is back — in e-mail in-boxes and on  
everyone’s minds. In the last six months, the problem has gotten  
measurably worse. Worldwide spam volumes have doubled from last year,  
according to Ironport, a spam filtering firm, and unsolicited junk  
mail now accounts for more than 9 of every 10 e-mail messages sent  
over the Internet.

Much of that flood is made up of a nettlesome new breed of junk e- 
mail called image spam, in which the words of the advertisement are  
part of a picture, often fooling traditional spam detectors that look  
for telltale phrases. Image spam increased fourfold from last year  
and now represents 25 to 45 percent of all junk e-mail, depending on  
the day, Ironport says.

The antispam industry is struggling to keep up with the surge. It is  
adding computer power and developing new techniques in an effort to  
avoid losing the battle with the most sophisticated spammers.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. Three years ago, Bill Gates,  
Microsoft’s chairman, made an audacious prediction: the problem of  
junk e-mail, he said, “will be solved by 2006.” And for a time, there  
were signs that he was going to be proved right.


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