[Mailman-Users] DMARC

Stephen J. Turnbull stephen at xemacs.org
Thu Apr 17 05:38:28 CEST 2014

jason fb writes:

 > Isn't this DMARC issue a bellwether for the end of email lists as
 > we know them?

Yes and no.  Those who like mailing lists "as we know them" will
continue to use them "that way", assuming that there's no active
interference from the infrastructure itself.  (This is supported by a
mathematical theorem that I know to be true :-) but haven't actually
succeeded in doing more than provide some persuasive examples yet.)

It seems likely to me that Mailman itself will evolve in the direction
of a multi-protocol distribution facility.  What I mean by that is
that at some point in the history of Mailman 3 you will be able to
install a suite of applications that allow users to communicate with a
"mailing list" via SMTP, NNTP, or HTTP.  I don't know whether you
consider that an "email list as we know them" or not.  It's good
enough for me, though.

DMARC will still mean that you can't use your Yahoo! email as an
author ID in such a system, though.

 > It seems to me that the means of production (the internet backbone,
 > the mail servers, etc) are now owned by Big Media (Comcast, Walt
 > Disney, CBS, Viacom, Time Warner) and it is in their interest to
 > make sure they can sell as much advertising as possible to the
 > cattle.

True.  However, the backbone is constrained by U.S. law about common
carriers.  They *want* that protection, because otherwise they'd be
liable for damages and criminal charges for pornography and terrorist
communications.  This doesn't prevent other countries or international
gateways from operating by different rules, but as Larry Lessig
pointed out, "Code Is Law".  Somebody has to write that software that
operates by different rules, and it *will* be buggy at gateways.  That
doesn't appeal to Big Media, because working around would require that
"the sheep look up", and I doubt they want that.

The "free email" service providers also have to worry about that
because of the hysteria about spam and phishing.  They could easily
find themselves in a position where either they have to authenticate
potential users the way banks do credit card applicants, or try to
hide behind "common carrier" because anybody with an Internet
connection can get a mailbox there.

 > People who operate Mailman servers (you guys) are just the little
 > guys who are helping people facilitate non-advertisable communication
 > between the masses. 

There's nothing "non-advertisable" about it (if you're serious about
the "potential" semantics of "-able").  Putting an advertisement into
list footers or headers is trivial, and doing Web-2.0-style dynamic
ads is a SMOP.  We just choose not to do so, but I would imagine there
exist lists that do accept advertising revenue for use of their footers.

 > This seems like a poignant example of the fiction of the
 > distributed network. The last 15 years of the internet history
 > (indeed, the first 15 years of internet history) has been the story of
 > the consolidation of control into the hands of the few, not the open
 > and egalitarian peer-to-peer network utopia that the internet was
 > touted to be in populist culture. 

So much the worse for popular culture.  Some form of consolidation of
responsibility was inevitable due to economies of scale in provision
of the backbone.  Since things don't work very well if authority
("control") isn't commensurate with responsibility, consolidation of
control is very hard to avoid.  TANSTAAFL, you know.

The Internet was never egalitarian.  It always required enough
expertise to make you a stranger in a strange land (damn, the science
fiction ObRefs just don't stop coming!)  Anybody who thought otherwise
can hardly be accused of actually thinking about the issue.

And "egalitarian peer-to-peer" is almost an oxymoron.  People aren't
peer-to-peer in any egalitarian sense: their social networks are
hardly uniform.  Phenomena like Facebook ("social netword
aggregators") were inevitable, and they have strong economies of scale

So the bottom line is that this doesn't really bother me, I don't
think that (at this point) the potential abuse by the powerful has
really achieved 1984 or Brave New World levels, due to internal checks
and balances of the system as it exists.  And Mailman still has a
lifespan more limited by our ability to adapt to new technology than
by the society around us IMO.

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