Prepaid Anti-Spam Tolls

I have always loved economics and markets. Now that we are a global economy, it makes life even that more interesting. Instead of losing a bunch of money in the markets based on what some stupid US managers are doing, I can now lose it based on what someone in some foriegn land is up to.

Meanwhile, I caught wind of this Professor Marshall Van Alstyne over at Boston University, and what he was saying about solving the spam problem. He put a market forces spin on things, and I just had to listen and comment.

What Professor Van Alstyne is essentially proposing is bonding email senders. A bond is money that is posted to some escrow account someplace, and often underwritten by some capital provider. It is usually designed to guarantee some level of performance. Professor Van Alstyne’s mechanism is dubbed the “Attention Bond Mechanism,” and is a sort of spam insurance. Van Alstyne argues that the ABM can beat out technical anti-spam solutions, by hitting high-volume garbage mailers in the pocketbook. If a spam is determined to have been sent, email providers (and maybe even everyday users) could draw down on the sender’s bond.

This solution makes a lot of sense, but like many market-based mechanisms, requires a heck of a lot of cooperation. You have to have a pack of major email providers involved, as you have to be able to block the majority of “unbonded” traffic for the idea to really work (or at least that’s my opinion). But no worry, as Van Alstyne has been talking with the likes of Google, Stanford University, Sun Microsystems, Symantec, Microsoft and the Federal Trade Commission – not exactly small time players in the email provision and regulation space.

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