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"Despite massive efforts to trace SoBig and its progeny back to their source and to unravel the code necessary to turn these spam machines off, neither AOL nor other interested parties around the web have had any success and may never."

Smells like bullshit to me.


When did we start refering to email as "the web"?


I say this piece is downright silly. My mailbox was bombarded with spam - like a hundred an hour at times or something - last week. I wrote an Outlook filter and now my mailbox is clean as ever.

Sure, AOL's problems are (mine * 30,000,000) but that does not make it close to catastrophic. AOL needs to upgrade its infrastructure a bit every time it sends out the next n-millionth CD in mail.


This isn't about the mail in your mailbox. This is about the network traffic that mail (plus everyone else's) creates. So, Samie, you filtered the spam at the very last leg of its journey. That trip used up resources along the way. With the overwhelming traffic caused by SoBig and spambots, the entire infrastructure is under load (think of a very crowded expressway).


Note - I'm not a network engineer. Interpret this and apply a "what is doable" filter in your mind... there must be a solution...

What if some great minds could get together and create a new email infrastructure and throw out the POP3/SMTP protocols? Perhaps it would require an enhancement to TCP/IP as well (remember, I'm not an engineer). In any event, all email accounts would be trashed and reconstituted using an old-fashioned authentication scheme from a trusted source (e.g. a bank using your photo ID/passport and/or credit card...). A secure (encrypted, authenticated, and non-repudiable based on digital certs, etc.) system based on a trusted sender protocol could make it impossible for a randomly generated domain name/email/ip spam server to clog anybody's in box. It works for digital certs on ecommerce sites.. Maybe this is a new application for certs - signed email accounts.

Companies and individuals who own their domain names would be able to assign email accounts based on a single trusted umbrella account (and take the liability for misuse/spamming).

There would be some chaos during transition (dual mode for 1-2 years then everybody leaves the POP3/SMTP world in the past). There might be some cost (which would be a lot less than the current cost of having to dedicate billions of dollars to fight spam - so the ISPs, etc. could foot the bill). There's undoubtably a lot of great revenue opportunities as well for the entrepreneurs out there.

Bottom line - the current situation is starting to cut into the value of email to communicate (so many spam filters are killing my legitimate emails)...

Anyway, expiring, non-reputable, signed digital cert-based email is technically feasible.

Chris Woodruff

More and more people are going to a simple email model of one time addresses. The key is that you would sign up on a web site (of the person who you wish to send email to) and be granted an email address for a short period of time (hours to days) that would have permission to get email to the person. The server mail application would be aware of the current list of temporary granted email addresses and only receive email from this list. Nothing changes on the client email platform since the server grabs all and sends them to the appropriate real account (which cannot get email directly).


This may come to be the end of email as we know it, but certainly not the end of email.

A trusted-email only system seems like a perfectly good response. Setting up software to create trusted circles, by specific email address or by domain, shouldn't be that tough. The burden on infrastructure would certainly not be as great if it were only delivering invitations and acceptances/denials and not 200K junk emails.

My response to junk mail is to check the From address and delete the email if it's someone (or something) I don't know. It doesn't really bother me, personally, but I'd be fine with my email system doing it for me. (I can't think of a single legitimate email I ever got from someone I didn't remember.)

Admittedly, I have a small circle of acquaintances/friends. You VC's may not want to lose unsolicited pitches. Then again, maybe you would.

Anyway, I say bring on trusted email.

However, when I hear about the same thing being done to Web sites (like researchers setting up their own mini-Webs or the government creating a kid-friendly Web), I get scared. THAT could be the end of the Web as we know it, and I wouldn't feel so fine.


So I am reading your article and I am wondering what is the real problem you are trying to adress.

1. Is it as your heading suggests the web that is going to disapear - NO.

2. Is it the fact that AOLs e-mail servers were overloaded.

3. Is it the backbone traffic that is increasingly beeing filled by spam.

Lets look at 2 and 3, if AOLs e-mail servers acctually or backbone break down under the stress. 1-2 days downtime more dataprossessing power added problem fixed.

But the problem could get so realy bad that AOL will have to declare defeat and shut off there network. If that in turn brings down some other ISP and the world is without e-mail or net for a few weeks. Then that will hurt million of ordinary users and they will soon bring enough political, economical and technical knowlege on line to declare open season on spammers and virus writers.

Although you think it is bad now it is realy just a nuisance for the ordinary user and a skirmish between spamers and system administrators. The real problem comes when you get 10 times as much spam as you are getting now.

So be prepaired to delete much spam and confirm you have recived mails and wait for better laws. But be assured if the net one day failed and I knew that the problem originated from a spammer/virus writer in my town. Then I would personally go into his house and pour water or acid into his computer. Nothing is going to stop me from getting my morning e-mail and online cartoons.

(Using disbosable e-mail adress active until 4.10.03)


Here is the solution. DON'T RUN MICROSOFT. No outlook no problem.


"AOL was ultimately forced for the first time to call upon others at the key choke-points around the web for assistance in solving this problem."

And *that's* the end of the web as we know it? That behemoth corporations are forced to play nicely with others - especially annoying behemoths like AOL, which for years did a range of stupid things to alienate the networking community at large?

No, that's the *beginning* of the web as we knew it.

It's wonderful that the problems posed by Sobig et alia are finally getting through, in whatever way, to people at AOL: they're on a network. They will need to act cooperatively - and lo, when they do act cooperatively, people help out! Wooooo! A commons!

What next? Microsoft agreeing not to game the SMB protocols again to help settle the European antitrust litigation, thereby letting servers of all flavors consense with one another?

Why, that would be the end of capitalism as we know it, or would be if you talk to Microsoft.

I'd love to see the end of the kind of maximal growth capitalism we're addicted to, a recognition that there need to be commons and value associated with them, and damages for breaking them. Email interoperability and portability is one such (AOL and Exchange stores? Proprietary headaches) and server interoperability and data portability is at least potentially another.

Quit your whining and learn how to work with others without seeing it as always a threat. If that means legislation to reestablish the notion of commons and their protection, so that greedy pigs don't develop exploitive strategies for it, all the better. I suspect that English common law as protecting physical commons would be a fine place to start to work.


Unsolicited/unwanted contact regardless of the method (email, telephone, pop-ups) is the main problem. I think refining laws and acceptable use then holding people/companies accountable for their actions are one of the keys. Technology is always bending and changing the playing field so no matter what counter action technically is taken, those that abuse will find holes and "work arounds". I say free mail sending is no longer feasible. When direct marketers use snail mail it must be profitable to be continued. I would be more than happy to pay a per-send charge to the end mailbox for email. Take the profit out of spamming and it will disappear. I wonder if the telephone companies are supporting the DMA in their fight against the no call list.


There's a lot of confused terminology in this article... E-mail is not the Web... neither is AOL synonymous with either E-Mail, the Web, or the Internet... and spam is a distinct problem from viruses / worms like SoBig.


Don't run Microsoft, no Outlook no problem? Did you actually READ the article? This was about AOL, not MS or Outlook. get a life


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