A new company called Habeas (as in Corpus) announced this afternoon that they are going to help stop the spam influx by offering a Sender Warranted Email service. At surface, it's a lot like TrustE's Trusted Sender program which was pretty much a flop except for happy PR ink for a few of the program's signatories earlier this year.
Basically both programs give participating mailers a thingy (for want of a better word) to stick in all their outgoing mass emails. ISPs and consumers alike could set their incoming email filters to allow mail with the thingy in because it's "good" email. And presumably any email without the thingy then goes into the "perhaps-bad" pile.
This sounds like a great idea on the surface. However, some problems are:
1. Auditing emailers to make sure they are correctly mailing, and thus deserve to use the thingy on their mail, would cost far more money than either organization proposes to collect. We assume the auditing function will be kinda lame. If a few spammers get through, well then nobody will trust the thingy anymore.
2. How do you define who's a "good" mailer and who's not? Frankly consumers' definitions of what's good email and marketers' definitions don't exactly overlap all the time. Even the term "opt-in" can be defined in about six different ways with critical differences.
3. You have to get critical mass to make any system like this work. Loads of mailers and ISPs and consumers all have to go for the gusto. Which is hard and expensive to do. Not to mention risking expensive law suits (which have shot down some of the blacklists attempting to help ISPs filter out spam). The whole critical mass thing has as yet proven impossible for email address changer systems (although a couple are working at it) and I think will be equally hard here.
4. A whole bunch of consumers will get so fed up with mass email that they'll just filter out (not in) anything with the thingy. How handy; it's like having a commercial zapper built in to your TV. (Oooh, isn't that why Hollywood hates TIVO?)
That said, obviously we need a solution. I guess folks will keep throwing spagetti at the fridge door until a piece sticks.
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