As 2004 draws to a close, AOL announced a huge drop in spam and spam complaints over the last 12 months. As measured by the infamous "spam button", user complaints were down a whopping 75% from 2003 - 11 million complaints a day dropping down to 2.2 million per day. Messages automatically routed to the spam folder dropped from 100 million per day in 2003 to 40 million a day in 2004. Lastly, the number of messages blocked altogether dropped from 2.4 billion down to 1.2 billion in late 2004.
According to their release, these numbers represent a real trend and not just a blip. Spammers have always been about money and if their messages don't get delivered, they'll seek their victims elsewhere (or maybe shut down their businesses altogether). The New York Times picked up this release in an article today (registration required) and I thought it was noteworthy that none of the other ISP's they contacted chose to comment. It'll be interesting to see if they make their own announcements in the coming weeks.
From where I sit, AOL has taken one of the most aggressive and intelligent approaches to stopping spam. As an ESP, we are regularly impressed at the resources and thoughtfulness they put into keeping spam out of their customers' inboxes. Their success is well deserved and good news for all ISPs and legitimate email senders.
AOL's announcement today is big news. Look for this announcement to be all over the media the next few days as they pick up on, what appears to be, the very first concrete evidence that the war on spam has taken a turn for the better.