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May 16, 2006



We've lost the most widespread service on the Internet to an entire generation. Most people under about 25 don't use electronic mail by choice, largely because it's so infested with spam.

They seem to be supplanting it not only with IM, but with private messages sent through social sites (MySpace, or any other blogging site that is allowing user registration and private messaging). The latter has the advantage over regular email in that it's easier to secure from spamming. Comment spam is still a problem, but PM spams aren't because the ONLY way you can send a PM is to register by hand. Spammers still try to abuse one site or another, but they're detected quickly and kicked off; they can't automate the process enough to make it worth their while. Social sites' software by and large doesn't support bulk private messaging.

When you get right down to it, the problem with email is that the relaying itself doesn't require any central registration or verification of the sender, and you can hit the same target from ANY given point, so you just go where the security's weakest.

Of course, regular postal mail doesn't have the huge abuse problems either, because it's more centrally controlled AND it costs the senders to use it. If we took either one of these steps in the email realm, we could reduce the number of problems. But as long as nobody wants either option, we'll still have a wild wild west for email.

The question is whether the preference for social sites will end up altering the organization of the Internet. In other words, will people group themselves willingly in the absence of centralization, to gain the security benefits? It was a good argument for tribes at the beginning ...

Dan Morrill

I liked your commentary, collective heads are better than one, as I know I tend to be conservative and attempt to socialize information security to the masses, maybe at times a bit too much.
Regards, Dan Morrill

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