We know it's a problem, folks. We know it's growing at an exponential rate. Do we really need a $95 research report to tell us that marketers must begin every email campaign by "clearly identifying their customer base, surveying their customers as to the types of email they would like to receive, and then deliver on the feedback and give customers a way to update their preferences frequently?" That should be common sense at this point!
What we need is a solution that goes beyond elementary logic and legislation that sounds great on paper but has little chance of actually preventing spam. Something to the tune of (notice I didn't say "exactly like") the Email Service Provider Coalition's Project Lumos, which today unveiled a set of fairly simple technical specifications for authenticating email senders' identity, thus enabling ISPs to monitor the sender's mail and "score" the sender based upon their performance. In a word: a whitelist.
Details of this solution are outlined in "Project Lumos: A Solutions Blueprint for Solving the Spam Problem by Establishing Volume Email Sender Accountability" and the ESPC is looking for reviews, recommendations, and comments from the industry.
My $0.02: The first wave of complaints will come from email senders, since under Lumos guidelines they will have to pay to authenticate themselves. While the registration cost has not yet been set, it stands to reason that it would have to be high enough to deter spammers from registering. The ESPC will undoubtedly get a barrage of "unfair burden on legitimate marketers" complaints, but I think the registration cost would be a small price to pay to save your email campaigns from getting caught in the spam filter. The second problem is that Lumos will not work unless the ISPs handling the majority of email (AOL, Yahoo! and Hotmail) implement it, and it's not clear if they ever will, if only judging by Cloudmark's ill-fated attempt earlier this month to get ISPs to implement another version of a registry and rating system. Lumos would also have to be cheap enough and easy enough for smaller ISPs to implement, which may or may not happen.
Bottom line? This is definitely a step in the right direction. I just hope the ESPC is ready and willing to fight for it, because it will be a tough battle.