Bills Three Wishes

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-02-05 Print this article Print

Now Gates says hes got it figured out. Of the three basic solutions he described at Davos, one seems workable, another unrealistic, and the third is not gonna happen. Establishing a human challenge as the requirement for authenticating with a recipient is essentially the RSS subscription model on a peer-to-peer scale. Solving a computationally expensive puzzle before sending would make it prohibitively expensive for mass-mailers, but it would likely force legitimate one-to-many communications off e-mail to RSS and P2P transports anyway, leaving e-mail increasingly irrelevant. Not that theres anything wrong with that.
But Bills heart is with his digital stamp idea, also known as "payment by risk." The idea is to establish a small payment by the sender for personal e-mail, with a sliding scale for unknown senders. This approach is similar to the computational approach of driving up broadcast costs, but it does nothing to stop the traffic on the network from virus-stimulated spam attacks.
Of course, the major obstacle is a political one: No government is likely to hand its post office role (and revenue) over to Microsoft, and previous ventures in the directory arena (Passport) have quickly been shredded by Silicon Valley competitors. But I fear an even more ominous result of that scenario, where Microsofts DRM strategies extend outward from metering SMTP, POP3 and IMAP to controlling all incoming and outgoing peer-to-peer ports at the hardware and network levels. Paranoid? Yes. But providing a solution that inevitably leads to migration to other transports will inevitably pollute those pastures, leading to more "big" solutions with draconian effects. Yet I agree with Bills time estimate of two years—thats how long it will take for the convergence of RSS and social networks to produce a network ecology based on the efficiencies of aggregated micro-content filtering by dynamic peers. Discuss This in the eWEEK Forum Messaging & Collaboration Center Editor Steve Gillmor can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms Messaging and Collaboration Center at for more on micro-content and collaboration technologies.

Steve Gillmor is editor of's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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