Tim Bray’s spam solution

Oct 13, 2003 19:37 · 282 words · 2 minute read

Tim Bray’s Another Whack at Spam declares:

We can’t go on like just trying to live with and filter spam.

Though I agree with this sentiment, I don’t agree with his solution. I think the unmetered, free access to email is one of the things that makes it a successful medium. Tim mentions the one-to-many email newsletter… what about the many-to-many email lists? I think the Jakarta Struts list has around 2,000 subscribers. Does anyone who wants to post there have to pay $20? A vital form of communication will get damaged.

Beyond that, Tim’s recommendation will require changes to the client software. Sure, the changes may be relatively straightforward, but it would take a while before everyone is using a “registered relay” and you can stop receiving messages from people who aren’t. Other proposals require minor changes only to mail and DNS servers. That seems like a more tractable way to go.

I’m now getting considerably more spam than I would like. I’m considering changing my email address and giving the new address only to humans I know. Web sites and the like will get either temporary addresses or some other address if I have ongoing need to hear from them. Had I known to do this way back when, I may not have any spam today.

By the way, as soon as you get any spam, you’ve started your way down the track of having a useless mail account. Maybe Paul Graham has it right with his filters that fight back as a better approach to taking down the spammers. (Of course, the spammers can always just list fax or phone numbers instead of websites to get around the FFBs.)