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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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The War on Spam Continues

Comments (11)

Spam is one of the flagship members of the Internet Axis of Evil – it sucks worse than War of the Worlds.  I’ve been supporting the war against spam through my investments in Postini and Return Path and I plan to continue to do whatever I can to help eradicate this scourge from Planet Internet.

While it would be nice if spam just disappeared, it’s not going to anytime soon.  So – in addition to attacking spam, it’s time to really address the “legitimate email issue.”  Return Path has been after this for a while and just released a new version of their email delivery monitoring tools.  Today – TRUSTe (a non-profit dedicated to online privacy issues) launched an “Email Privacy Seal Program” – members of this program can confidently say “We Don’t Spam.”

As I’ve gotten deeper in to the spam issue, it’s clear that it’s needs to be addressed from both sides.  The obvious side – prevent the bad shit – is what the anti-spam companies like Postini do.  The less obvious side – allow the good stuff through (which also includes “tell consumers who is good and who is bad”) is becoming more central to the war.  Return Path and TRUSTe are doing good things around this.

About every three months I hear someone say “RSS will eliminate email (implying that the spam issue will go away).”  This is a ridiculous construct – Matt Blumberg the CEO of Return Path has several good posts on this so I’ll refer to him rather than repeat what he has to say.  But – Matt gets it – he knows email, knows RSS, knows online marketing, and – well – generally has a clue.  If you care about this issue, you should pay attention to what he’s up to and what he’s thinking.

Of course – spam has moved well beyond email at this point.  My email spam issue completely under control because of the magic of Postini.  However, I get between 50 and 100 comment and trackback spams on a good day (and several hundred on a bad day).  My tools for this suck – SixApart is promising new happiness in MT 3.2, but for the time being I’m struggling along with the MT-Blacklist plug-in.  Michael Parekh tells an entertaining story of the ineptness of my blog when he tried to comment. 

While the world would be better if jerks didn’t feel compelled to write software that posted crap like:

URL: http://ceramics-tiles.blogspot.com
Title: מטבחים
Weblog: מטבחים
Excerpt:
Tell us what you like about the &#1502;&#1496;&#1489;&#1495;&#1497;&#1501; events and what you think would make them even better. You are the key to making your <a href=’http://ceramics-tiles.blogspot.com’>&#1502;&#1496;&#1489;&#1495;&#1497;&#1501;</a>…

to my blog, having lived through the last 10 years of the email spam wars, I accept that we’ll have continued fun with all sorts of new variants.  Ironically, I recognize that this helps power the “technology perpetual machine” – I guess that’s just something we have to live with.

  • http://bobllama.blogspot.com Keshava

    Unfortunately, it looks like some other people are taking the “War on Spam” to new levels:

    http://mosnews.com/news/2005/07/25/spammerdead.shtml

  • http://reservoirpartners.typepad.com Chris Selland

    Previewing your Comment

    As the author of one of those ‘ridiculous construct’s (and the recipient of some negative comments from Matt), I thought I might explain and clarify. (see http://reservoirpartners.typepad.com/reservoir_partners_enterp/2005/07/solving_the_spa.html)

    I certainly don’t believe that RSS will replace e-mail wholesale (although quite a few people have now accused me of saying that). For person-to-person communication, e-mail is and will remain predominant.

    But for one-to-many communications – i.e. mailing lists and marketing communications – I have absolutely zero doubt that there will be a large shift in volume. As soon as we see wider adoption of combined e-mail/RSS clients (such as what Mozilla Thunderbird already offers and Yahoo Mail – among others – soon will) you’ll see consumers move their marketing communications away from e-mail and to RSS. It’s just easier to manage – and for now (at least) it’s also much less prone to phishing and spam.

    This shift takes control away from marketers and puts it in the hands of consumers. Marketers will no longer be able to decide when to send me their communications – rather I as a consumer will decide where, when and how I’d like to receive them. This is ‘opt-in’ in the truest sense of the word – and it’s something that e-mail marketers will need to adapt to. The smart ones (including Matt) no doubt already are.

    Will hackers find ways to attack RSS? No doubt. Could RSS be more granular? Absolutely (but look at what, for instance, Audible and HDNet are doing – I’d argue they’re already delivering a MORE granular and personalized experience via RSS than they could using e-mail).

    Bottom line – every feed that is sent over RSS means one less e-mail. As RSS volume grows, e-mail will shrink (or at least grow less rapidly). RSS will allow consumers to take back their inboxes, and to deny that is going to happen is just as ‘ridiculous’.

  • http://www.feld.com/blog Brad Feld

    Aha! – now the discussion gets interesting. I have no doubt that RSS will have a significant impact on one-to-many communications. In fact, I’m counting on it! However, there are currently many limitations to RSS for narrowcast communication when compared to email, especially given the 10 years of infrastructure and innovation that has been built into the email delivery infrastructure. Both are important, both have a place, both will evolve, and you’ll see both impact each other (hopefully in positive ways.) The ridiculous construct is that “RSS will replace email”, not “RSS will impact email direct marketing” (oh – and I wasn’t specifically thinking of your post – it’s a common theme that keeps popping up.)

  • http://saturnight.blogspot.com Hans Van Deun

    RSS may well replace e-mail for the one-to-many communications, at least those from respected companies that care about their customers. But RSS cannot stop spammers from continuing their evil ways: the 0.05% of people who click on spam links and generate revenues for spammers will still do this after RSS takes over. I think the issue is spam filtering: as long as spam filters occasionally delete important e-mail, people will turn them off, and rather deal with the daily spam (preferably reduced to manageable amounts). And spam will still exist, even though 99.95% of all e-mail users manage the marketing they receive with RSS.

  • http://www.nextthing.org/ Andrew Wooster

    I’ve gotten all of one spam comment since I did this:
    http://www.nextthing.org/archives/2005/07/16/a-few-upgrades

  • http://www.seanporter.com/ Sean Porter

    Spamlookup (developed by MT engineers) uses a very similar approach as effective as email anti-spam solution and works great for MT blogs:

    http://bradchoate.com/projects/spamlookup/

  • http://www.feld.com/blog Brad Feld

    I’ve installed Spamlookup and turned it on. This comment is a test of how it works.

  • http://www.shutupandlistentoyourself joshua estrin

    I must agree spam is an evil stepchild that proves just what inelligent people can create when they have far too much time on h/her hands

    Keep up the great blog! Spammers need to SHUT UP AND LISTEN…we know who you are ALL OF YOU

    Josh

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