Gates: I’ll can spam for good

Bill Gates says the Internet will be spam-free by 2006. “Two years from now, spam will be solved,” the Microsoft founder told participants in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But none of his solutions, detailed here, sounds all that compelling.

One idea is to give unrecognized senders a “puzzle” that only a human can figure out, but this seems like a waste of people’s time. An alternative is to create a challenge for the sending computer that would require hefty processing power to decipher — manageable for a few messages but impractical for mass e-mailings… Begging the question: What about legitimate mass e-mailings such as mailing lists?

The one solution that seems to have something going for it is a pay model in which a sender somehow attaches a small fee (say, 25 cents) to an outgoing e-mail. The recipient can then refund the charge if the message is legit. The fee doesn’t need to be very high to deter spammers: A million messages times 25 cents is $250,000. Suddenly direct mail looks like a bargain again!

Note to Paypal: There’s money to be made here, somehow or another.