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Spam Is Good Business

Sunday, August 22 2004

Maybe this is old hat for some, but it just occurred to me that those who profit off of providing email related services, whether those services are email server software, spam filters, firewalls, etc, have very little incentive to improve email.

If selling email server software were my sole business right now I’d quickly be out of business. There are plenty of good and free email servers out there. But if I could roll in a bunch of spam fighting features, I might be able to compete in the crowded market. Have the best spam fighting features, and then I start looking desirable.

Almost any email related business seems to benefit from spam, including the spammers. In fact, big web email providers like Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail also need spam to compete. If suddenly everyone agreed on a standard, spam proof fix to the email portion of the Internet, there’d quickly be little to differentiate one email provider from another. Spam is so hard to fight, that the features big email providers toss into the mix are likely to be forever evolving as the techniques for getting spam into our inboxes evolves, making the provider with the current, most comprehensive anti-spam tools the winner.

If you could fix, and make spam impossible to send or receive, all you’re left with is some very black and white features with little possibility of significant evolution. Eventually all user interfaces, performance, storage, and remote access features will level out, leaving businesses in the email space little to improve on in order to take customers away from their competitors.