📑 Email Is Dangerous

Bookmarked Email Is Dangerous (The Atlantic)

Email has changed since then, but not much. Most of what’s changed in the last 45 years is email clients—the software we use to access email. They’ve clumsily bolted on new functionality onto the old email, without fixing any of the underlying protocols to support that functionality.

In my work with schools there is a lot of conversations that seem to end with “just email [insert content] to them”. Although this is convenient, it is not always the best practice. In this post from Quinn Norton in The Atlantic she shares why. Continuing to remind us how everything is broken, Norton gives a history of email and many of its inherent flaws. This comes on the back of the latest discovery of bugs associated with supposed encrypted email.

3 responses on “📑 Email Is Dangerous”

  1. Carlos Fenollosa reflects on the demise of self-hosted email. One of the main reasons he argues for the failure is the crude blacklisting of large swaths of email, rather than a penalty process.

    I’m not asking for a revolution. Please hear my simple proposal out:

    Let’s keep antispam measures. Of course. Continue using filters and crowdsourced/AI signals to reinforce the outputs of those algorithms.
    Change blacklisting protocols so they are not permanent and use an exponential cooldown penalty. After spam is detected from an IP, it should be banned for, say, ten minutes. Then, a day. A week. A month, and so on. This discourages spammers from reusing IPs after the ban is lifted and will allow the IP pool to be cleaned over time by legitimate owners.
    Blacklists should not include whole IP blocks. I am not responsible for what my IP neighbor is doing with their server.
    Stop blackholing. No need to bounce every email, which adds overhead, but please send a daily notification to postmaster alerting them.
    There should be a recourse for legitimate servers. I’m not asking for a blank check. I don’t mind doing some paperwork or paying a fee to prove I’m legit. Spammers will not do that, and if they do, they will get blacklisted anyways after sending more spam.

    These changes are very minor, they mostly keep the status quo, and have almost no cost. Except for the last item, all the others require no human overhead and can be implemented by just tweaking the current policies and algorithms.
    @cfenollosa https://cfenollosa.com/blog/after-self-hosting-my-email-for-twenty-three-years-i-have-thrown-in-the-towel-the-oligopoly-has-won.html

    Fenollosa argues that instead of worrying about interoperability between closed platforms, we should be protecting the open ones we already have.
    This all reminds me of Quinn Norton’s post from a few years ago about how email is dangerous. However, for some like David Truss, email has simply failed us as a means of communication and technology.

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