Outgoing SMTP Servers

Dave CROCKER dhc2 at dcrocker.net
Sun Oct 30 19:19:35 UTC 2011


Your misunderstanding of physical pollution pollutes your understanding of spam. 
  But it turns out that you seem to misunderstand spam quite a bit, independently.

On 10/27/2011 9:26 PM, William Herrin wrote:
> If you throw pollution into the air, it may eventually impact me or it
> may blow somewhere else. Mostly it'll blow somewhere else. But as lots
> of people throw pollution into the air, some non-trivial portion of
> that pollution will drift over me. This is the so-called tragedy.

They used to be able to tell how recently someone moved to in Los Angeles by how 
corrupted their lungs were, from the /local/ pollution.  Maybe it's still 
possible.  Pollution tends to increase the occurrence of some diseases, thereby 
significantly increasing societal health costs. So the casual view of pollution 
going "somewhere else" is simply wrong.  Still you do seem to understand that it 
affects some mass of folk.

> By contrast, if you send me spam email, you are directly abusing my
> computer. The linkage is not at all amorphous. You send to me. I
> receive from you. There is no "all world" or "local area" destination.
> If you send without some specific pointer in my direction, I won't
> receive it. Ever.
> Imagining spam as a tragedy of the commons disguises its true nature
> as a massive quantity of one-on-one abuses of individual owners'
> computers. Worse, it forgives the owners of the intermediate networks
> for shrugging their shoulders and turning a blind eye to the abusers.

Email travels over shared resources.  Spam consumes roughly %95 percent of that 
shared path (comm lines and servers).  Receiving operators must devote masses of 
resources to filter that firehose of mostly junk, in order to get everyone's 
mailboxes to remain at least somewhat useful. Since the spammers are 
well-organized and aggressive and often quite bright, they adapt their attacks 
to get round these filters, thereby creating an extremely unstable arms race. 
This means the entire situation is extremely unstable.  When -- not if -- it 
breaks, mail becomes unusable.  That will be a common suffering.

The one-to-one cost or damage is probably also a reasonable perspective, but 
it's /incremental/ to the shared cost.


   Dave Crocker
   Brandenburg InternetWorking

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