May 15, 2004

Making Spammers Pay: Time = Money



As with the British Post of the 1830's, Internet email is becoming increasingly expensive for message recipients.  In the current case, the culprit is spam.  Although spam does not constitute a monetary expense for most users, it does require time and attention (and hence productivity) to deal with spam.  Moreover,  measurable costs associated with spam are incurred by providers of network services, and these costs are increasing daily.

In a nutshell, the idea is this: "If I don't know you, and you want to send me mail, then you must prove to me that you have expended a certain amount of effort, just for me and just for this message."  The approach is fundamentally an economic one.  Suppose we measure effort in CPU cycles.  Since there are about 80,000 seconds in a day, a computational "price" of just ten seconds per message would limit a spamming computer to at most 8,000 messages daily. So spammers would have to invest heavily in hardware in order to send high volumes of spam. (While this idea is simple, people often misunderstand its implications. We encourage potential critics to look here first.)

Posted by Vanderleun at May 15, 2004 3:45 PM
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This will be "the next big thing" - bigger than the PDA, bigger than I-tunes, bigger than blogs, bigger than ads on websites. Lord save us all from junk email- I would pay a fee to have a ticket system as described in this article. Whoever successfully brings this to market will become quite wealthy.

Posted by: Kate Lyon at May 17, 2004 6:57 PM