The Penny Black Project, a project that has been in the works for years, is meant to cut down on spam e-mails. According to ComputerWire, an online magazine, Microsoft representatives said at a press conference last weekend that the issue of spam could be solved within the next 18 to 24 months. While junk and spam mail clog accounts on a daily basis, it would appear that the measures that Microsoft is proposing are impractical and are intended to further Microsoft’s interest under the guise of helping clients.
Microsoft reasons that “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,” according to their Web site. These “efforts” can be made through a number of project proposals.
One of the first ideas is the concept of forcing the sender to solve a math equation. The recipient computer sends out an encrypted message for the sending computer to break. Ted Wobber of the Microsoft Research group told the British Broadcast Corporation that these “puzzles” would take merely seconds to be solved but would ensure that a certain effort was made in order to submit the message.
For a bulk spam mail company, the seconds needed to do this would add up and be very costly. In order to get around these codes, spam companies would have to invest in software from Microsoft — expensive software. Wobber and his team of researchers calculated that if there were 80,000 seconds in a day, a 10-second delay for spammers would cost around 8,000 emails.
Naturally, Microsoft seems to have a vested interest in selling such software.
Microsoft’s Web site also explains another proposal, which works by placing a dollar value on e-mails. In short, if a sender’s name doesn’t fall on a users “white-list” of senders that are allowed to send messages to this particular account, then that sender is charged a fee for having sent the email.
A third proposal involves the concept of e-mail users purchasing tickets that they literally would sell to e-mail senders. One idea for their distribution would be to bundle 1,000 free tickets with new PCs.
These two proposals, however, would mean that the formerly free mode of communication by e-mails would now potentially cost the sender, adding the uncertainty that the sender would not know if and when he/she would be charged. It seems that Microsoft does not have the consumer’s best interests in mind.
Until a system is found that both blocks spam and is easy to use for consumers, spam will probably continue to be a menace to e-mail users.