Since joining IBM, I have been interested in the fight against spam. Having spoken at many conferences about anti-spam solutions in IBM software products and emerging technologies, I was pleased to get to sit down with Nathaniel Borenstein last week at a Premium Support Seminar in Boston. Nathaniel is an IBM Distinguished Engineer who is probably most notable for his work on the MIME standard.
Nathaniel now works with the Workplace, Portal, and Collaboration CTO overseeing research programs and standards efforts. Nathaniel does not working on any one product or solution at IBM to combat spam, but more an overall strategy against all flavors of spam (SPIT, SPIM, Phishing, Blog, Wiki, RSS, etc.).
Nathaniel opened up my vision that spammers will only follow the emerging technology. There have been many studies about spam email and the perception of the internet for users. Some analyst and people feel that if the spam email problem persists at the current rate with no solution, personal and corporate email could become obsolete. If that occurs, users will move to other internet communication tools and most likely will rely more on instant messaging and VoIP.
Nathaniel was quick to point out the obvious that spammers are just going to follow those communication methods which are not prepared to handle spammers. Today’s top anti-spam solutions are based on content filtering. These filters are usually based on scoring methods focusing on the content of the body as it relates to the sender. Sure this is a great method to stop spam email but this is clearly not a method that can prevent SPIM or SPIT. So what Nathaniel is working on is an idea around attention bonds. The idea behind this is that users put up a bond and if the recipient believes they have received spam, they can cash in a small amount. Nathaniel believes in building an economic structure for all spam and I’m starting to agree with him.
So I appreciate your comments on how you feel IBM and other anti-spam vendors should approach the spam issue. Please keep in mind that spam is not just email. I promise I won’t bill you for any comments ;-)