[FoRK] At what point is email officially broken?

Jim Whitehead < ejw at soe.ucsc.edu > on > Thu Dec 7 10:03:44 PST 2006

Justin Mason writes:
> The only thing that can "solve" spam (almost) entirely would be to  
> close
> it down -- turn it into a closed-address-book AIM-like protocol,  
> where you
> cannot receive emails from someone you haven't added to a whitelist in
> advance, out-of-band.  Once you've done that, it's no longer email,
> unfortunately.

My particular pet technical fix is a variant of this.

Have a 2-tier email system.

Tier 1 (lowest level) is the current email system.
Tier 2 is a closed-address-book system.

Layer tier 2 into existing mail servers, so that existing mail  
clients can get tier 1 and tier 2 email via POP/IMAP (which aren't  

Have a mechanism for smart clients to tell the difference between the  
two, so that UIs can separate email in both tiers, such as by sending  
all tier 1 email to a "spam until proven otherwise" inbox, and tier 2  
to the standard inbox.

You can still receive random email from the masses and ecommerce  
sites, while preserving the desired quality that 99% of useful and  
desired email comes through tier 2.

- Jim

PS - You may now commence to tell me all the things wrong with this  
technical fix. In doing so, please do not miss the main point of this  
thread, which is that email is broken. My particular fix being bad  
does not negate the fact that email is broken.

PPS - Extra points for finding flaws not on the following list:
* Expensive to develop/roll out new infrastructure
   retort: email is dying. Destruction of existing infrastructure is  
also expensive. Current levels of spam are expensive.

* Management of address books is a pain, and a new management cost
   retort: management of address books is a part of most  
communication systems. It is manageable

* Closed address systems are still susceptible to DDOS attack.
    retort: agreed, but this is current problem for all Internet  

* Existing closed-address-book systems haven't worked
    retort: they were implemented in context of existing SMTP  
architecture. A permission-needed-to-write-at-destination email  
system would reduce motivation to spam, since all spams would be  

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