Laura has an outstanding post about coming changes to reputation systems up at her blog. If you haven’t had a look at it, you should.
Part of one of the comments, though, has caused a bit of a commotion:
While I’m with you in spirit, I’m not optimistic that “blocking ESPs” will have much of a lasting impact. It’s the same old arms race. If a large ISP blocks an entire ESP, the ESP will respond by obtaining new IP space in such a way that it can’t be identified as a group. Cloud computing is only going to make this easier. If they block based on something in the headers or body, the ESPs will remove those those distinguishing marks.
Here’s the bit that should concern us: if ESPs were actually to try what the commenter is suggesting then they would become spammers.
How do I know this? Well, there are a variety of reasons.
First, they would be acting like spammers do. Laura also has a wonderful series of posts up with the prefix “TWSD” for “That’s What Spammers Do”. One of the things that spammers do is hide behind shell corporations and false front businesses. Amazingly, that’s one of the things that she has keyed upon:
Some of the more dedicated, but just this side of legal, spammers set up 3 or 4 different front companies: one to sell advertising, one or more to actually send mail, one to get connectivity and one as a backup for when the first three fail. Because they use rotating domain names and IP addresses all hidden behind fake names or “privacy protection services”, the actual spammer can be impossible to track without court documents.
If those of us who work for ESPs start acting like spammers do, then don’t we become what we claim to hate?
A few years ago that great philosopher Forrest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” The same kind of thing applies here. Spammers are people who do the things that spammers do, whether that’s sending mail that people never asked for or coming up with shell companies to get IPs or sending mail “from the cloud” to avoid IP-based blocking.
Spammers are as spammers do.