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Author Topic: [IDEA] - Prioritized Email using Bitcoin - a Chrome extension  (Read 1284 times)
ripper234
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Ron Gross


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July 14, 2012, 03:26:36 PM
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The idea of using Bitcoin to fight email spam has been discussed several times in the past. TL;DR - add a small cost to sending email, and refuse to accept emails that don't prove that this cost was spent.

Basically, it can't really eliminate work because of the huge network of the existing email system - you can't decide to reject all email that don't carry this payment, because 99.99% of the email you do want to receive doesn't yet use this system.


Here's another thought about a system that could work - prioritized mail.

This would come in the form of a chrome plugin that integrates with existing webmails (e.g. Rapporative is an interesting example at what you can do with such an extension).

Functionality of this plugin is simple - you would choose some threshold in BTC (e.g. 0.001 BTC). The plugin would analyze incoming emails, and when it finds an email that contains a proof that this amount of BTC was paid, it would re-prioritize this email (e.g. using Gmail Priority Inbox, or just with some sort of "overlay" on top of gmail UI).

When sending out any email, the plugin would quickly analyze the recipient email addresses. When it detects that a recipient is also a user of the extension, it will offer you the chance to pay for priority email. You can select any amount of BTC above or equal to the threshold (with higher payments being prioritized higher in the recipient's inbox).


Some part of the BTC that is spent will be sent to the recipient, while another part to the extension service provider.


This approach can't eliminate spam completely, but it can help you send and receive email from people you care about - the hypothesis is that someone that is willing to spend money, above your (configurable) threshold, is someone that you also are interested in hearing from. Remember, this works together with the normal spam filters, so this system is not open to abuse (I believe). If you get too many "priority spam" emails, you can always increase the cost, so at least you're compensated for the time you spend filtering these emails (and don't forget to still click "report spam" in gmail for true spam).


Your thoughts?

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July 14, 2012, 10:53:59 PM
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Here's another thought about a system that could work - prioritized mail.

...

Some part of the BTC that is spent will be sent to the recipient, while another part to the extension service provider.

This approach can't eliminate spam completely, but it can help you send and receive email from people you care about - the hypothesis is that someone that is willing to spend money, above your (configurable) threshold, is someone that you also are interested in hearing from. Remember, this works together with the normal spam filters, so this system is not open to abuse (I believe). If you get too many "priority spam" emails, you can always increase the cost, so at least you're compensated for the time you spend filtering these emails (and don't forget to still click "report spam" in gmail for true spam).

Your thoughts?

There is so much wrong with this it's ridiculous, but where to begin?

Well, let's start with the fact that not everyone uses GMail or Chrome.  A lot of people atually stick with mail clients.  You remember them?  They're the programs designed for reading email, rather than just using a web front-end.

Unless you're willing to implement something which can be used by all browsers and all mail clients your system will effectively discriminate against every correspondent who does not read their email the same way you do.

Then there's the offensiveness of the idea.  I don't see why I should have to pay to prove that my email isn't spam.  Especially when I already have a GPG signature to prove which emails I have really sent.

Furthermore, email should be free to send and receive and should remain so.  Your little plan is basically another method of opposing Net Neutrality.

Finally, it won't make any difference to the amount of spam being transmitted.  Spam is generated and countered at a level that a browser plug-in will barely touch.  Would I be correct in assuming you've never managed a mail server?

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July 14, 2012, 11:11:40 PM
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I think it's a great idea, and it has been suggested before, except for the chrome part. If nothing else, it would give a way to not only help fight spam (which some people think no longer exists), but also an easy way to encrypt mail. It is a micropayment which will tax the Bitcoin Network a bit, but it can be designed to be supported by mining pools to pay them the fee directly.

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July 14, 2012, 11:38:52 PM
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If a solution like this were to be implemented, then hundreds of thousands of Bitcoin nodes would each have to consume about 400 bytes of disk space and bandwidth to relay a transaction to ensure that 1 person isn't exposed to the risk of storing and seeing a 2000 byte spam message.

Bitcoin currently lacks the scalability to handle one transaction for each time anybody anywhere sends an e-mail.

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July 14, 2012, 11:53:42 PM
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If a solution like this were to be implemented, then hundreds of thousands of Bitcoin nodes would each have to consume about 400 bytes of disk space and bandwidth to relay a transaction to ensure that 1 person isn't exposed to the risk of storing and seeing a 2000 byte spam message.

Bitcoin currently lacks the scalability to handle one transaction for each time anybody anywhere sends an e-mail.
Actually, I was thinking along the lines of creating Executive Class Email. It would be cost prohibitive to send spam or even a lot of common email this way. It would probably be very popular with iStuff users.

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July 15, 2012, 12:45:21 AM
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Maybe the system could be used as free webmail service account that receive spam advertising emails paid with bitcoin, and paying a fee to user for reading emails.

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Ron Gross


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July 15, 2012, 05:24:01 AM
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If a solution like this were to be implemented, then hundreds of thousands of Bitcoin nodes would each have to consume about 400 bytes of disk space and bandwidth to relay a transaction to ensure that 1 person isn't exposed to the risk of storing and seeing a 2000 byte spam message.

Bitcoin currently lacks the scalability to handle one transaction for each time anybody anywhere sends an e-mail.

Bitcoin should handle this problem or fail.

Currently, a lot of people have a lot of money riding on the bet that Bitcoin Scalability is a solvable problem.
Let market forces decide when it is the time to solve it.
If it's not solvable, then wtf are we all doing here?

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Ron Gross


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July 15, 2012, 05:30:59 AM
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Well, let's start with the fact that not everyone uses GMail or Chrome.  A lot of people atually stick with mail clients.  You remember them?  They're the programs designed for reading email, rather than just using a web front-end.

The solution doesn't have to support all platforms and all browsers from day 1. Support for other browsers and other email providers can be added later.

Then there's the offensiveness of the idea.  I don't see why I should have to pay to prove that my email isn't spam.  Especially when I already have a GPG signature to prove which emails I have really sent.

Some people receive 100s of "legitimate" emails a day (Personally I'm at about a 100 a day), and can't possibly respond to them all. This is simply a way to ensure emails get top priority.

No need to get offended, you don't have to use the system. I'll still read emails from you ... only, whenever I have time to clean my inbox, and not as necessarily as soon as they arrive.

Quote
Furthermore, email should be free to send and receive and should remain so.  Your little plan is basically another method of opposing Net Neutrality.

This has nothing to do with Net Neutrality. The whole NN issue is about someone else prioritizing content for you, while my idea is about letting you prioritize your own content. (Besides, I'm not sure NN is justified, but that's off topic to this thread)

Quote
Finally, it won't make any difference to the amount of spam being transmitted.  Spam is generated and countered at a level that a browser plug-in will barely touch.  Would I be correct in assuming you've never managed a mail server?

I have never managed a mail server, that is correct. I still don't understand your argument.

I rely on the in-place spam filters, so I don't have to handle the shitload of spam, only the spam/less interesting emails that somehow bypass the current spam filtering systems.

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July 15, 2012, 11:53:19 AM
 #9

So an estamp. Nice. Microsoft has been tossing this idea around for a while. Reason it hasn't seen the day of light should say something.

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ripper234
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Ron Gross


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July 15, 2012, 11:59:58 AM
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So an estamp. Nice. Microsoft has been tossing this idea around for a while. Reason it hasn't seen the day of light should say something.

Thanks for guiding me towards the Wikipedia article (interestingly enough, it mentions Proof of Work).

If you know why these systems haven't taken off, please answer the question I just posted on Quora.

http://www.quora.com/Email/What-is-the-state-of-Cost-based-anti-spam-systems

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July 15, 2012, 03:05:22 PM
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Well, let's start with the fact that not everyone uses GMail or Chrome.  A lot of people atually stick with mail clients.  You remember them?  They're the programs designed for reading email, rather than just using a web front-end.

The solution doesn't have to support all platforms and all browsers from day 1. Support for other browsers and other email providers can be added later.

Let's put it this way; should you ever implement this, I'll be
impressed if you get it working with Mutt of Gnus.

Then there's the offensiveness of the idea.  I don't see why I should have to pay to prove that my email isn't spam.  Especially when I already have a GPG signature to prove which emails I have really sent.

Some people receive 100s of "legitimate" emails a day (Personally I'm at about a 100 a day), and can't possibly respond to them all. This is simply a way to ensure emails get top priority.

Saturday the 14th was a very light day for my email.  According to my logs Postfix (my MTA) transferred:
 
 6100051 bytes transferred
 397 messages sent
 397 messages removed from queue

This does not count the amount of spam that was blocked by other systems or methods (e.g. greylisting, Amavis, blacklists, etc.) before Postfix accepted the message for delivery.

Note: those figures include anything I sent and received on that day, the log report is from the server's point of view.

No need to get offended, you don't have to use the system.

You do realise that your proposal is basically an attempt to make this old hoax a reality, right?  a hoax which has since been seriously suggested by both American and UK politicians.

You can read more on the various types of Internet taxes here.

I'll still read emails from you ... only, whenever I have time to clean my inbox, and not as necessarily as soon as they arrive.

There's a much easier way which has been available for decades: filtering mail into folders.  I can very easily see where all my mail has come from and know which lists to ignore at any given time.  Plus it works for everything i receive, not just a small subset which happen to use one particular service, program or plug-in.

Quote
Furthermore, email should be free to send and receive and should remain so.  Your little plan is basically another method of opposing Net Neutrality.

This has nothing to do with Net Neutrality. The whole NN issue is about someone else prioritizing content for you, while my idea is about letting you prioritize your own content.

Your description indicated that the plugin would prioritise mail in your inbox according to whether the sender included a payment.  Which means they're paying for your eyeballs.

(Besides, I'm not sure NN is justified, but that's off topic to this thread)

I hope you enjoy your segregated little walled garden.  Once you're there for long enough you really won't know what you're missing.

Oh, in case you think I'm exaggerating, there's Verizon's law suit which says other wise.

Quote
Finally, it won't make any difference to the amount of spam being transmitted.  Spam is generated and countered at a level that a browser plug-in will barely touch.  Would I be correct in assuming you've never managed a mail server?

I have never managed a mail server, that is correct. I still don't understand your argument.

You don't even see a fraction of a percent of the spam that is careening around the Internet in search of a gullible reader.  The spam which does manage to get through does so because it generally looks (to the filtering systems) like a real message.  Rather than simply ignoring it and focussing on the email you were paid to read, you could use the spam (or phishing attempt) to improve the filters by reporting it to a blacklist like spamcop.net.

Your method might reduce the spam you see at first, but it won't affect the amount that is transmitted.  Eventually, though, the spammers will catch on and realise that they can pay some insignificant amount (e.g. 0.00000001 BTC) to be sure their email gets through.

Alternatively they may be able to spoof the mark, depending on how it is added to an email.  Was your plan to modify the headers to add one for the plug-in to read (plenty of programs do this, such as mailing lists)?  Or was the plan to add this special mark into the body of the message?  Or was it to add the mark as an attachment of some kind?

I rely on the in-place spam filters, so I don't have to handle the shitload of spam, only the spam/less interesting emails that somehow bypass the current spam filtering systems.

Yeah, whereas I run my own server and I know exactly what those anti-spam systems are doing and, more importantly, how they are improved from the minuscule amount of spam which makes it through.

Seriously, there is a lot of work being done around the world to try to get rid of it, just as there are hosts of botnets sending the spam.  90% or more of the spam sent to a server that originates from these botnets and compromised hosts is stopped by greylisting rules before any filters, blacklists or other domain/delivery checks kick in.

This idea won't do anything to help that particular fight.  It just provides senders using your system to pay for the attention of recipients using your system.  So trying to pitch this as a system that will stop spam is, at the very least, disingenuous.

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