New Router Hopes To Turn The Tide On Spam
Here's how it works: the router identifies the source of an email stream and then, based on behavioral history, notes which of those streams may be coming from spammers. TurnTide then narrows the bandwidth available to those streams, meaning that spam gets blocked before entering the system. "Let me give you a conceptual analogy: we offer good, legitimate marketers a fire hose into our systems, and spammers a straw," quips TurnTide President and Chief Executive Officer Lucinda Duncalfe Holt.
The router, formally introduced at Monday's DEMO 2004 conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, would seem to have several advantages over conventional spam filters. Most importantly to Internet marketers, it doesn't delete individual messages or block mail from specific domains. "It will eliminate false positives," Holt promises.
The router is also immune to the tactic currently favored by spammers in response to more sophisticated email filters: namely, turning up the volume. "We have to destroy the economic model of the spammer," Holt continues. "The cost of doing business is so low that it's worth it for them to continue even if they get a .0001 percent response rate--so if the filters get better, they just send more. That won't affect [companies or individuals using the router] at all."
Holt concedes that the router, billed by the company as a "network appliance," won't entirely stop the flow of spam. She estimates that it will halt roughly 90 percent of the overall volume, however, and suggests that users might look to filters to limit the rest. "It's not a complete solution, but I don't think there is a complete solution," she adds.
Response from the analyst community has been favorable so far, with Ferris Research's Nick Shelness writing: "There is a new entrant in this space-- TurnTide--that is delivering a router-level appliance that applies TCP and IP bandwidth-shaping techniques to the elimination of spam at source... This is an exciting new development."
While most email marketers believe that the ultimate answer to the spam question will be an amalgam of technology, legislation, and consumer education, Holt believes that the financial impetus for spammers to blast email across the globe must somehow be eliminated. She's not entirely optimistic that this will happen anytime soon, though, regardless of Bill Gates' recent bleatings about making it "computationally expensive" (her words) to send email.
"I've been working on the Internet since 1995 (she was formerly chief executive officer of WebSolutions), and the idea of making it not free in any way, well, that's a difficult proposition," she says. "You hear a lot about it, but there isn't much that's actually happening."
And while Holt thinks that TurnTide's router will eventually achieve the same result--making it unprofitable for spammers to go about their business--she hesitates to make grand predictions about its ultimate success. "Spammers are a crafty lot," she notes. "It's going to take a whole cocktail of approaches to eventually stem the tide of spam. We don't have to eliminate it, really. Just turning the growth volume in the other direction would be a big first step."