Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Not so fast!

Barely a month has gone by and we're beginning to hear bold predictions befitting of the start of a new year. Ranking high up there is probably Bill Gates' utterance at the recent World Economic Forum that spam will vanish in two years.

The Microsoft chairman said his company was working on three different methods to kill the spam problem. The first two would involve having computers respond automatically to any e-mail messages from unknown senders with a request to solve a problem that could be handled by a person but not a computer. The last method, which Gates considered the long-term solution, would require email messages sent by strangers come with postage attached.

However, these measures may add unnecessary complexity to people who send e-mails to new acquaintances (or old acquaintances in new places). As it is, not everyone of us will add the email address of a person we got to know within the last 24 hours onto our address book. In fact, some never do.

There's also the tricky issue of what constitutes spam and what is a legitimate marketing/promotional email, no matter how thinly disguised. Furthermore, casual conversations with friends and business associates led me to believe that there are people who derive some kind of enjoyment in reading spam messages. Should we deprive them of such pleasures?

My gut feel is that spam will not go away within the next five years, much less two. Whenever someone thinks of a clever way to deter spam, determined spammers will think of an equally clever way to defeat it.

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