A friend sent me the press release on a new solution to the privacy, spam and inbox deluge problem. The company, Affini promises to: "Combine the Best of Spam-Free Email, Search and Targeted Online Advertising. It sounds like motherhood and apple pie, not to mention curing cancer. But when you surf over to their site, you see some pretty well thought out ideas.
Affini plans to offer several services. First is a verification/authentication for individual senders (like SenderID or SPF but for individuals rather than companies). Second, they have a points and payment system that lets recipients "vote" on good senders and get paid from senders they don't know but want to solicit to them. Third, they offer the usual gamut of spam filters and inbox cleaners. Of course, on top of all this, they throw in a little Friendster/LinkedIn/AOL Buddy stuff just to top it off.
Many of their ideas look pretty powerful and may ultimately provide a workable solution to spam on the internet. Unfortunately, the company appears to be trying to tackle so many different areas at once that the old venture capitalist in me gets a bit skeptical.
The main point, however, of my blog entry here is that even powerful ideas like these are unlikely to succeed unless they are endorsed by one or two of the larger infrastructure guys (like AOL or MSN). A solid endorsement from Microsoft put BondedSender in clear leadership position for company-based authentication. A similar endorsement by Yahoo or AOL of Affini may have the same effect. Without such endorsements, I fear Affini may be just today's cool idea and tomorrow's forgotten start up.
In my view, solutions to spam are less likely to come from any single technology or new company. Rather, the best solution to spam will come from a broad, cooperating group of stake holders in the email game. TCP/IP and SMTP are definitely not the best networking and email protocols ever invented but they became ubiquitous because they were widely available and everyone adopted them.
Let's keep our collective eyes open for promising approaches that can be put into the public domain so that the broad email community can start acting together to curb spam.