These days, spam accounts for 90% of all email. My Gmail account is deluged with about 150 spam messages per day. It costs businesses an estimated $10 billion per year to deal with. And the problem just keeps getting worse. Botnets on compromised computers can crack CAPTCHAs, create endless random accounts, and send millions of emails. If you clean up some of the computers, you can be sure that even more will be compromised in time. It is believed that spam could cripple the electronic mail system.
What are we to do? A number of solutions have been proposed, all with their limitations. Some have suggested using digital signatures, certificates, white lists, better filtering algorithms, and so on. But hackers continually invent ways to circumvent our defenses.
The solution, in my opinion, is to get rid of email. That’s right, eliminate email. It’s an inherently vulnerable system of communication.
Internet users under the age of 25 don’t use it anymore, anyway. Their primary means of communication is social networking sites. Web forums replaced mailing lists as the primary means of communication for special interest groups several years ago. Services like Google Docs, Google Sites, and web interfaces on internal corporate LANs are already paving the way for new forms of collaboration.
In short, our future is on the web. In five or 10 years, we will have web interfaces that satisfy all of our communication needs, whether it’s online desktops, private messaging, or group collaboration. Email will be as obsolete as gopher (yeah, remember that?).
The best part is that these interfaces provide far better control over the communication channels than email does, as long as people understand how to use them.
On a personal note, I rarely use email anymore, too. More than 99% of my email is spam. I won’t miss it.