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Why We’ll Never Replace SMTP

An acquaintance asked whether there’s been any progress in the oft-rumored project to come up with a more secure replacement for SMTP. Answer: No

Truly, spam isn’t a technical problem, it’s a social one. If we could figure out some way to make mail recipient networks and hosts willing to shun known bad actors, even at the cost of losing some real mail for a while until the bad actors cave, it would make vastly more difference than any possible technical changes. No matter how super secure an improved protocol is, if a mail system operator lets people send spam through it, the recipients still have to decide how they’re going to deal with the sender’s behavior.

The reason that e-mail is uniquely useful is that you can exchange mail with people you don’t already know. The reason that spam exists is that you can exchange mail with people you don’t already know.

By John Levine, Author, Consultant & Speaker

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Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet

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