[Mailman-Users] The economics of spam

Stephen J. Turnbull stephen at xemacs.org
Thu Dec 25 02:29:06 CET 2008

Bernie Cosell writes:

 > I'm not sure these are fatal-flaw problems

They're not.

 > [same as with the USPS

Aye, there's the rub.  The USPS is, even today, a state(-protected)
monopoly.  Email is not, and cannot be, unless you make the whole
Internet a state monopoly.

 > > ... Email has evolved more along the lines of the TCP/IP packet
 > > paradigm rather than that associated with postal hard-copy snail-mail.
 > > There are aspects of email that resemble ICMP packets far more than they
 > > resemble Christmas cards.

Why, Lindsay, I'm shocked.  I thought you didn't know the jargon!<wink>

 > Actually, this is backwards.  email *started* that way [remember that 
 > forwarding was provided for and there was even that cute explicit-routing 
 > form of email address] and has, IMO, evolved off into needing to be 
 > *more*like* Christmas cards.

Including a national monopoly email provider, I guess?  What I
interpret Lindsay to be saying is that for Christmas cards you can
treat the USPS as a well-behaved black box (in the systems analysis
sense; it may or may not do the job it claims to do at all well, but
you can figure out what job it reliably does).  In particular you can
determine that a piece of mail was properly paid for by the addressee
because each and every one has postage *attached*, not merely
"accounted for" somewhere.  This is not true for ICMP or for email as
currently designed; there is no way to determine the provenance of a
packet in general.

Sure, you can redesign email to require a secure, authenticated
connection.  But that's not the current design.  Nor will a secure,
authenticated connection that carries postage be acceptable in the
market.  Price competition will quickly drive postage actually paid to
zero, and all that will happen is that the email network will become
disconnected (as we are currently observing, anyway): a "backbone
cabal" of email providers will evolve, and people with Linux boxes etc
will set up wildcat SMTP networks along the lines of the old UUCP

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