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Author Topic: Potensial Killer application for Bitcoins?  (Read 1987 times)
Eivind Nag
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January 31, 2011, 08:40:38 PM
 #1

Hi,

Sorry if you guys already have thought about this:

I just heard about the bitcoin concept. As a keen hobby economist / nerd i immediately understood how great a concept this is. The only problems to get it really flying fast its missing basically one of two things; physical backing or _lots_ of people who use it. Physical backing is difficult as it will immediately attract the governments attention. Lots of people to use it may be difficult unless there is a killer application for the bitcoins, and i have such a suggestion: Limiting spam!

What about making small plugins to the most popular email clients (and later email server software) where you actually have to pay bitcoins to send email to people. The receiver of your email will get the 0.01 bitcoins it "costs" to send an email. Later application would be that the receiver can himself specify how expensive it should be to send mails to him. A mail with a bitcoin attached to it (its just a text string that can be searched and parsed for right?) will guaranteed be white listed by the mail program plugin (or mailserver which supports bitcoin). The payment will be added to your wallet. For all normal people who send / receive a little bit of emails this will be a zero sum game but for spammers it will be expensive. If you still get spam you can increase the price to send email to you. If you are poor / broke and still want to send email to others you can just "lower your guards" a little bit and let the spammers fill up your wallet with bitcoins (its pretty obvious spammers would still spam, it would just be less and higher quality since its pay per actual read). You can even add advanced features like: The first mail from an unknown person is very expensive and you will get a "refund" if the person you mail to replies, and a lower fixed rate is set after that (like a deposit of wasting peoples time). There could even be features to "buy" peoples attention, attach 1.000 bitcoins and your mail will be marked as crazy important and not be bumped down for several days in the recipients mailbox. If you have something important to say you can buy that attention.

In the beginning both systems (old and new) could live side by side, but as more and more users starts using this system (and experience no spam) users will be tempted to check the "trash any mail not containing bitcoin payment". If you try to mail somebody with this filter you will just get a bounce mail that states "Your email was returned, the recipient only accepts emails with an embedded bitcon of at least 0.001 value". Or the intermediate "Your email has been put into (Insert Name) low priority email pile, if you are lucky it will be read. If you want your email to be whitelisted attach 0.001 bitcoins".

This could kill spam + make millions of people use bitcoins.

Also: its easy to get payment for simple content like text and images, you can just have automated email responses like: To buy this chocolate cake recipe send a mail to xxx@xxx.com with the subject:ChocolateCake and attached payment of 1 bitcoin.

Normal people and companies would buy bitcoins to send guaranteed spamfree mails, the prices would be low and affordable. There would be a constant demand for bitcoins from all over the world from a multitude a currencies = in some ways better than physical backing because of the easy access to liquidity through normal forex channels.

What do you guys think?

Eivind
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Mike Hearn
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January 31, 2011, 09:25:54 PM
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This sort of proposal comes up from time to time.

These ideas don't work because they mix up spam with bulk mail. The problem of stopping spam is correctly categorizing logical streams of mail and calculating whether the recipient wants them - not just making sending large blasts of mail hard.

Consider that your proposal would make it hard to run mailing lists, forums that send mail to confirm registration, etc. Your proposal would not stop spammers from hijacking accounts/computers and using them to send lots of mail, leaving the owner with the bill (this already happens today except the "bill" comes in the form of blacklisting, captchas, phone verifications etc).
Eivind Nag
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February 01, 2011, 12:02:09 PM
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I think this idea should not be dismissed so easily, your points are only valid if everything stays the same as it is today. Next gen mailboxes would separate verified/whitelisted mails from nonverified/unsecure mail. Wanted bulk mail would pose no problem, there as several good ways of handling this though a payment system, for example:

"Consider that your proposal would make it hard to run mailing lists, forums that send mail to confirm registration"
If you subscribe to a mailing list, you actually pay to subscribe, you pay to register at a forum, your own payment whitelists the email in your inbox, this would also force the people who generate content for mailing lists to generate good content because when people pay for something they dont just let it go on and on for years because they are to lazy to press the unsubscribe button. You might also imagine that you have a "reoccurring payment tab" conneted to your wallet that makes it easy to unsubscribe to different kinds of mailing lists / forum memberships. very convenient. Its the very fact that you can charge very very small amounts of bitcoin with no transfer fees that makes this feasible. Its also a nice revenue stream for popular forums and newsletters which is not advertisement.

Spam would be identified through the fact that no payments had ever been initiated from either party before. These mails would be seperated in a folder in your email client.

Another way of doing newsletter and registrations is to have zero sum transactions: When you subscribe to a newsletter you pay a small sum (for example 1 bitcoin) for a twelve month subscription, for every issue (if its monthly) you get paid 1/12 bitcoin to read the newsletter (your pay yourself to whitelist a newsletter you subscribe to). This would also nicely regulate the number of newsletters you get, the last newsletter might contain a button "This is the last newsletter you "paid" for, if you want to subscribe for 12 new issues pay a bitcoin here". I would love such nice features.

"Your proposal would not stop spammers from hijacking accounts/computers and using them to send lots of mail, leaving the owner with the bill"
I dare say that my solution is much better than todays email anarchy. Virusmakers are infecting millions upon millions of pc's highjacking them and turning them into slave SMTP servers pumping out unsolicited emails. These viruses pose a huge security risk and its all facilitated by the huge profits from spam. If email was not free anymore nobody would accept unsolicited mail in their inbox'es ever again = spam be gone.
There would be no reason to hijack peoples machines any more.  You are right that some peoples accounts would be hacked and their bitcoins used to send spam but i dont think this would be such a big probem, why? An average person only have enough bitcoins to send a few thousand emails and then the account would be empty. Also the account would be empty even faster if people could chose to "charge 10 bitcoins for initial contact with new person, refund 9.95 if the contact was of benign nature". I think spammers would soon stop pursuing this business model as it requires a steady stream of stolen wallets, which i find hard to believe would be available in large quantities. Also people would maybe associate their wallets with a specific mailserver with a rule: "do not allow my wallet to be charged to send emails other than through xxxx mailserver". Or even better: bitcoins used to send mail is prepaid to trusted mailservers who functions like information clearing houses.

My point is, this is a gamechanger, completely new ways of handling information would arise from this method of organizing communications.

ttul
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May 26, 2011, 04:54:55 AM
 #4

This is a really useful idea. It won't rid the world of spam, however it might provide a method for marketers to get reliable delivery of messages they want you to see. Others have tried similar things - the two the come to mind are Goodmail (digital tokens to get reliable delivery to aol etc - raised $$M's and failed), and Habeas (similar idea; basically failed and got picked up for pennies on the dollar).
kjj
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May 26, 2011, 08:31:04 AM
 #5

Your post advocates a

(x) technical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

approach to fighting spam. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

( ) Spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresses
(X) Mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected
( ) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
( ) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
( ) It will stop spam for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it
(X) Users of email will not put up with it
( ) Microsoft will not put up with it
( ) The police will not put up with it
( ) Requires too much cooperation from spammers
(X) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
(X) Many email users cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential employers
( ) Spammers don't care about invalid addresses in their lists
( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business

Specifically, your plan fails to account for

( ) Laws expressly prohibiting it
( ) Lack of centrally controlling authority for email
( ) Open relays in foreign countries
( ) Ease of searching tiny alphanumeric address space of all email addresses
( ) Asshats
( ) Jurisdictional problems
(X) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
(X) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
( ) Huge existing software investment in SMTP
( ) Susceptibility of protocols other than SMTP to attack
( ) Willingness of users to install OS patches received by email
(X) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
( ) Eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches
( ) Extreme profitability of spam
( ) Joe jobs and/or identity theft
( ) Technically illiterate politicians
( ) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers
( ) Dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves
( ) Bandwidth costs that are unaffected by client filtering
( ) Outlook

and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

(X) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown practical
( ) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
( ) SMTP headers should not be the subject of legislation
( ) Blacklists suck
( ) Whitelists suck
( ) We should be able to talk about Viagra without being censored
( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
( ) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks
( ) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
(X) Sending email should be free
( ) Why should we have to trust you and your servers?
( ) Incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses
( ) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
( ) Temporary/one-time email addresses are cumbersome
( ) I don't want the government reading my email
( ) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

(X) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your house down!

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May 26, 2011, 08:34:01 AM
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Wow, it's been a while since I saw one of those. Thanks for the memories. Smiley

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May 26, 2011, 08:34:22 AM
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as for bulk mail... if i dont want the bulk mail, its spam... if its bulk mail i want, i should be subscribing to it.. and thus they should be allowed to send to me for free.

ZOMG Moo!
jerfelix
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May 26, 2011, 10:04:32 AM
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A similar concept was proposed in 1992, in a paper titled "Pricing via Processing or Combating Junk Mail".  It eventually evolved into a system called Hashcash (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hashcash ), where users had to do some "proof of work" to send email.  Since the proof of work took some time (and cost), it was thought that it would slow down spammers (and make it expensive).

As others have pointed out, there are a number of problems with this system. Two are that it penalizes legitimate bulk lists, and spammers have bot networks.

Interestingly, though, the concept of "proof of work" algorithms is precisely what enables Bitcoin to work.


So you are proposing a system similar to one that led to the invention of Bitcoin in the first place!  Pretty cool that you came to that conclusion.
ttul
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May 27, 2011, 01:16:34 AM
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A similar concept was proposed in 1992, in a paper titled "Pricing via Processing or Combating Junk Mail".  It eventually evolved into a system called Hashcash (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hashcash ), where users had to do some "proof of work" to send email.  Since the proof of work took some time (and cost), it was thought that it would slow down spammers (and make it expensive).

As others have pointed out, there are a number of problems with this system. Two are that it penalizes legitimate bulk lists, and spammers have bot networks.

Interestingly, though, the concept of "proof of work" algorithms is precisely what enables Bitcoin to work.


So you are proposing a system similar to one that led to the invention of Bitcoin in the first place!  Pretty cool that you came to that conclusion.

As an expert in the anti-spam field (seriously), I can tell you the idea of applying Bitcoins in some manner to allow email senders to give email recipients some value in exchange for paying attention to their advertising messages is worth pursuing. Marketers spend a huge amount on deliverability consultants and services, trying to get their messages delivered. If someone wanted to try using Bitcoins in this manner, I'd say go for it. It might just work.

It won't make spam go away, but it might improve marketers chances of getting messages delivered.
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May 27, 2011, 01:25:28 AM
 #10

This sort of proposal comes up from time to time.

These ideas don't work because they mix up spam with bulk mail. The problem of stopping spam is correctly categorizing logical streams of mail and calculating whether the recipient wants them - not just making sending large blasts of mail hard.

Consider that your proposal would make it hard to run mailing lists, forums that send mail to confirm registration, etc. Your proposal would not stop spammers from hijacking accounts/computers and using them to send lots of mail, leaving the owner with the bill (this already happens today except the "bill" comes in the form of blacklisting, captchas, phone verifications etc).

I think it could work if the fee is paid to the recipient and there is a one-click payback button. Desired bulk mailers will have no problem. And they can incentivise people to payback by removing them from the mailing list for not paying back. You could even have a payback double button that would draw from the excess you've got from not paying everyone back. Also you could drop a hint by not paying back your aunt's emails.

I think it isn't a killer app though because it isn't a problem for people. Google seems to have solved it algorithmically.

Play Bitcoin Poker at sealswithclubs.eu. We're active and open to everyone.
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May 27, 2011, 01:29:33 AM
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I am so, so glad that my work no longer revolves around email systems.

When this happened it was one of the happiest days of my life. Utilization of my filtering appliances dropped 60% overnight.

Email is what it is. I don't think there's much use in trying to modify or extend it, there's just too much legacy to contend with.

Big ideas should be looking towards the next forms of communication.
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May 27, 2011, 01:33:59 AM
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As an expert in the anti-spam field (seriously), I can tell you the idea of applying Bitcoins in some manner to allow email senders to give email recipients some value in exchange for paying attention to their advertising messages is worth pursuing. Marketers spend a huge amount on deliverability consultants and services, trying to get their messages delivered. If someone wanted to try using Bitcoins in this manner, I'd say go for it. It might just work.

It won't make spam go away, but it might improve marketers chances of getting messages delivered.

It would actually be pretty easy to do.  The only new part would be a mechanism to let a potential sender ask the recipient's server for the price of filtering bypass.  I suppose we could resurrect finger for this.  Or, add a new SMTP command (or bring back an old one).

After that, it is just a milter.

The problem is that no one is going to pay to send mail because of people like me.  I'm going to set my server to accept the coins, and then I'm going to filter it anyway.

p2pcoin: a USB/CD/PXE p2pool miner - 1N8ZXx2cuMzqBYSK72X4DAy1UdDbZQNPLf - todo
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May 27, 2011, 02:18:43 AM
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So you are proposing a system similar to one that led to the invention of Bitcoin in the first place!  Pretty cool that you came to that conclusion.
+1. but that shouldn't prevent bitcoin from solving  the problem its ancestor originally tried to solve.
same concept can be applied to anywhere where resource is limited but charging a fee is not appropriate.

Money = privilege to command  other's labor and service
Proof of work = machine cycles = proxy of people's  labor
Bitcoin = Proof of work = Money 
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