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Summary:

EMail, the only real killer application on the Internet has a big problem: a spam problem. After a brief decline in the first eight months of last year, spam is back. The New York Times reports that the situation is getting worse by the minute. Ironport, […]

EMail, the only real killer application on the Internet has a big problem: a spam problem. After a brief decline in the first eight months of last year, spam is back. The New York Times reports that the situation is getting worse by the minute.

Ironport, a spam filtering firm, and unsolicited junk mail now accounts for more than 9 of every 10 e-mail messages sent over the Internet.


According to Softscan, the percentage of email which counts as spam is 89.73%, which is close to the IronPort data.

Image spam used to just contain straight text on a white background, now increasingly spammers are trying to obfuscate scanners by introducing more complex images and colours. Text has also been disguised by changing its colour throughout the image and is frequently distorted

There are new kinds of spam, like the image spam which is making the rounds, and is causing problems. It is not the only kind, but it is the kind which has become a major issue for us here at GigaOM. These image spam emails continue to confound our email servers, and also our Apple Mail inbox, even though we have been patiently teaching it to behave like an over eager parent.

No dice! Some of us simply have set up elaborate rules where we route emails to our Google Mail account, and then route it back to our main email account. That helps, since Google has good spam filters, but in reality it is a band aid fix. (Please share your tips and tricks with rest of us, and help make our email lives better!)

Our personal spam trials and tribulations aside, the email spam is a massive productivity drain and I bet it is a big drain on the overall economy. What is more confounding is that the bad guys keep winning, and the technology industry, with all its brains has failed to outwit them. Back in 2003, Bill Gates had declared war on spam, but that hasn’t helped.

So what we really need to do is rethink the whole concept of email and its client-server underpinnings. We need a new kind of an email application, be it for the web or for the local machine.

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  1. Rushi Vishavadia Wednesday, December 6, 2006

    Om,

    Try this fix which should work for image related spams:
    http://lifehacker.com/software/gmail/how-to-filter-gmail-image-spam-197955.php

    It has helped me quite a bit. Atleast in Gmail.

    Regards,

    Rushi

  2. Om, We use Postini and it grabs everything. Full disclosure: we invested in Postini so ostensibly some interest in that recommendation. Not sure if that is what you are looking for, but I hope that is helpful.

  3. the biggest problem with email nowadays is “false positives”, when legitimate emails get snagged in overzealous spam filters. i recently tested this myself, sending 10 blank emails directly from my school account to my hotmail account. only 8 made it through.

    while viagra ads are annoying, imagine the communication breakdown that results when 20% of the emails you send never arrive.

  4. I’d recommend a visit to http://www.acme.com for a good read on effectively handling spam.

  5. We’ve been saying for some while – http://www.egoboss.com/pdfs/egobossprnewsoct2006_1.pdf – that email is no longer viable; it’s become the new Fax: use RSS/tailored blogs for business communications, IM for personal contacts and other blogs/social networks areas for everything else. if all else fails, use VoIP, of course.

    so, R.I.P., email … it’s ironic, as in the past year or so email client appllcations have become really nice to use. Too late.

    Just look at the new demographic – youngsters who have caused the surge in social networks such as myspace, etc: rarely do they use email – it’s perceived as being as arcane/irrelevant as letter-writing for communication. they want to communicate via IM, myspace pages/blogs, text/SMS messaging – not email.

    with new legislation regards email archiving and the knowledge that most of our email is being monitored (especially in the context of business accounts) the appeal of email has diminished to the point of an irrelevance.

    the killer app has been killed.

  6. Email as the only killer app of the internet? Maybe the FIRST killer app but not the only one…

    Apps I would classify as Killer (today)in order of appearance

    1. Email
    2. Web Browsing (lot of applications here, this was really THE killer app)
    3. IM
    4. Music
    5. Video

    On the horizon:
    1. Gaming (Almost there)
    2. VoIP (not mainstream yet, for good reason)
    3 ???

  7. we run 100s of sites and have the catch all mail for all of them so end up getting 1000s of spam mails per day

    The solution is Cloudmark. Cloudmark works and for me has a 99% positive identification rate.

    It just rocks and it saves so much time…I love the product. I should work in their marketing department :)

  8. I am the project leader of EmailXT, a new public, patent-free protocol for email.

    EmailXT is a proposal for a new email protocol that solves its current problems. It makes your email private, and defeats any non-authorized bulk emailing, and stops viruses from spreading. It is based on relationships and has a self-updating address book. With its automatic return receipts you always know if your message reached its intended recipient. Check other features at the EmailXT website.

    This is a work in progress (currently at v0.1). Upcoming features are forms, photo albums, tasks and calendars, file sharing.

    Along with the protocol, an official email client named InfinityXT is made available, currently at a pre-alpha stage (v0.13).

    For those who want to learn more can visit the EmailXT end-user website at http://www.emailxt.com

  9. We were using our own mail hosting until we switched to the Google hosted apps last week. It is amazing how good their filter is. I went from just about pulling my hair out to disappointed that I don’t get mail anymore. I find myself constantly scanning the spam folder searching for a false positive, but have yet to find one.

    Or perhaps I am just lonely and miss my spam.

  10. Hey Om.

    I recently tried “Spam Sieve”:http://c-command.com/spamsieve/, which works with Apple Mail, and it rocks.

    You train it with 1,000 messages, 2/3 SPAM and 1/3 good.

    After that, my SPAM problem is basically 100% resolved, with a very few early false positives (yikes!) and now and again a false negative.

    Image spam is gone.

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