August 14, 2003 01:14 |

Time for a change?

Joi Ito's Web: Email is officially broken

Well, here's my take.

E-mail is modeled on postal mail. Anyone can send you something as long as they have (or guess) your address. Both afford us much spam/junk mail. I get 200 junk emails a day, and, despite the note on my mailbox outside, I get on average 20 pieces of unsolicited mail a week. One is very annoying, the other is as well, and ecologically retarded.

Now, let's look at Instant Messaging. It is modeled on social interaction (more or less; humour me), in that consent has to be given (more or less) in order for contact to be made. There's a whack more to it I know.. humour me I said. ;)

I've been lookign at Jabber lately and one very interesting thing is that it uses an email URI as it's IDs. Way cool.

So, if an IM Client has a buddy list, but also is hooked into an extended address book, all we really need ot add to it is email-client like archiving and presentation. Voila.

I have to know you for you to send me email. Or at least you have to "ask permission" first.

Not unreasonable.

Joi asked me what I thought the other day of his desire to stop using email entirely. My only issue with it was archiving/indexing, now that I think of it.

So let's have it! Jabber's done much of the work really already. Somebody wanna make a client? Somebody wanna shift the paradigm? ;)


It needn't be that complex. On OS X, I can imagine an extension bridging iChat, the Address Book and Mail (or any savvy e-mail client) - once the request is approved (using iChat/AIM's buddy list tools) then they can be added to an email 'whitelist' filter. Heck, it could all be done with AppleScript...

But... but... there's more to the difference between email and IM than just delivery. One, (email) is like snail mail in that it is non-intrusive -- you can let it lie dormant for as long as you want, throw it away without reading it, and basically read it at your liesure without the sender knowing if you got it or not. The other (IM) is intrusive, like a phone call -- if you ignore it when it arrives you miss it (although you might get a voicemail or IM equivalent). It is more interactive, in that it represents "dialog" (like a phone call, to email's serial monologs), but that's exactly why I hate IM -- because I also hate the phone! I want to change my voice mail message to Shaddap and quit bugging me! Send an email!

A kludgier way work around your problem of unsolicited email is to simply set it up to trash any email who's sender is not in your address book. Not elegant, but it will work.

Also, if you get 200 spams a day then (a) change your email address, (b) inform the people who you want to get email from, (c) protect the new address vigorously. That will allow you to enjoy all the pleasures of email without having to jury-rig new tools (although I know you like to do that {;-)}), and it will give you the same basic protection as an unlisted phone number.

Jesus, look at all those typos!

Ed, I thought that was what Boris was saying too, but that's not it. Essentially, such a system would use the "Knock, knock!" nature of IM to let you add people to your email "whitelist" as you suggest. You wouldn't have to pay attention to every single email arriving, only the first time someone asks 'permission' to be added to your 'mail buddy list' so to speak. It's elegant because it fuses aspects of two existing systems without really writing any new protocols; it's just a matter of bridging IM (or, specifically, Jabber, as Boris suggests) and e-mail with some sort of inter-application API...Easy enough to do on the client, the next thing to do is enable it at the server level (Sendmail, Exchange, Domino).
Now, if they could do something like this to stop tele-frickin-marketers calling during dinner time...

Whitelist system.

Easy to implement,

1. Each new email address (not known) when received is put on a separate list.
2. The sender is receiving a mail back with a link to a form on the web.
3. The human sender will be able to fill it (not the bots)
4. You will see who's the person. If you accept it or not. (whitelist or blacklist)

Next time this person email you, if it's in the whitelist no problems anymore.

+ burden on your sender
+ forged email address

Another solution which exists already but is "complicated' just because it's not implemented by default in Mail User Agents, it's PGP. PGP could be very simple.
And you could accept only signed mail for you. If it's not signed, it's not someone who knows you. It goes in a separate list.