Bill Gates’ Promise

He’s going to end spam within 2 years. While he’s at it, could he please end viruses too? And by the way, Bill should also plug all the security holes in Windows within that same 2 year period.

I mean what kind of crap is that? In an open, interconnected medium like the Internet, there are always going to be people who want to do bad stuff. Just last week, my wife had to turn off the comments on her blog because of the crazy stuff people were writing in her comments section. So Bill Gates may want to stop all these nutjobs from spamming us, but I doubt he’s up to the task all by himself.

On top of my disbelief in his timetable, I also think that Gates’ is taking a lame approach to the problem. He’s apparently identified two approaches:

Challenge and Response – A total pain in the rear for legitimate senders.
Bonded Sender – A payment scheme that will penalize spammers with fines paid out of a bond.

Both of these are kind of wacky and out of the mainstream of spam filtering techniques. I have my doubts that either of them will get the job done.

But that doesn’t mean that spam is going to continue to be a problem of the scale it is today.

First, there are some really interesting new technologies coming of age that can be incorporated into existing spam filters without changing the established system for anyone, sender or recipient. There was a conference at MIT a couple weeks ago where most of these approaches were discussed. Here’s a list of them.

And as the New York Times pointed out this weekend, there are signs that the spammers are starting to throw in the towel.

And then’s there is the shared white list/black list (called the community based filter) which has been popularized by Cloudmark. If you think about it, the most powerful solution to spam may well be turning spam filters into community policing systems. After all, people are still smarter than machines. And large groups of people are possibly the most intelligent system of all.

So intead of promising to end spam in 2 years, Bill should pay some attention to another open source idea or else risk letting open source cut into his email franchise like Linux is doing to his operating system business.