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The Cost of Spam - AllowInbox

The Cost of Spam

Many of my friends here in Silicon Valley keep asking me “Hasn’t Google already solved the spam problem?”. They, and many others, use Gmail – and to them it seems Google does a pretty good job of getting rid of spam. Google does use some of the most advanced anti-spam systems in the world, and they do a better job of filtering spam than any other email service I’ve ever used. But no one, including Gmail, is able to filter all spam.

It’s sometimes easy to gloss over this important point, just as many people have grown comfortably numb to the countless hours they waste every day managing their email, trying to figure out which emails are legitimate or not, looking at their inbox every few seconds just to keep from falling behind in their inbox maintenance chores, and frankly allowing the entire concept of “inbox zero” to become a rather unhealthy obsession – like a bad relationship they just can’t leave.

It’s important to note that 90% of the world does not use Gmail – and even Gmail users themselves are more likely to connect to the service using a third-party email app instead of the native Gmail interface. And there are other issues with all email services that are more difficult to understand unless you have family and friends who aren’t always focused on technology. Most people aren’t as savvy around email (and its related issues) as my more technical friends. Most people don’t work for companies with full-time IT staff to maintain decent network and email security. And most people simply can’t afford to spend very much time glued to their inbox. These are facts that sometimes get lost in our own focus on technology here in the Bay Area. We know how to build neat things, but we also often forget to ask if we’re addressing truly important problems that people need solved.

For decades, I’ve seen the effects of all the problems with email on my friends, family and workers at companies of all sizes. These are problems people need solved.

The fact is, even the world’s most advanced (and most expensive) spam filtering systems only block about 90% of spam – and the 10% of spam that gets through those filters actually costs the world hundreds of billions of dollars in cyber-crime and lost productivity every year.

Here are a few more interesting reference points, for your information:

After more than 35 years, and in spite of serious effort by the world’s foremost network, security and email experts, spam is still with us – and it’s more dangerous and costly than ever.

So, why haven’t the world’s smartest experts been able to solve the spam problem? Because they’ve all been trying basically the same approaches.

The most common technical attempts to address email security have relied primarily on Bayesian filtering, pattern matching (which only works after-the-fact), updates to email protocols and international standards that are easily circumvented, and/or a patch-work of fixes made by particular service providers which only work for their users.

It’s important to note right here that spam isn’t the only problem with email. With so much focus on blocking malicious emails, we forget about all that other productivity-sucking clutter we’ve been building up for ourselves over the years – newsletters, old subscriptions, the dozen or so emails your sister-in-law sends you every day because she still believes in chain-letters, or all those mailing lists we were added to after registering at the mall to win that shiny new BMW ten years ago… Wouldn’t you love to free yourself from all of that too?

AllowInbox is being built to offer a much better, more productive inbox experience – on top of a real solution to the spam, and junk and inbox clutter problems, that actually works for everyone – no matter which email service they use.

Your inbox is about much more than just email – it’s about your valuable time, productivity, and security. We believe your inbox should do more to protect you.

And soon, it will.