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Bill Gates: Spam is bad!

Jun 30, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMalware

* Gates on the spam warpath

Bill Gates has the occasional revelations. In 1995, he discovered that the Internet (which Microsoft previously professed to have no interest in) was “way kewl!” Early last year Gates realized that users really didn’t like having viruses, worms and Trojans showing up in their inboxes, on their servers or in their browsers and so he launched the “Trustworthy Computing” initiative. Now he’s turning his attention to spam.

Last week, the Microsoft Maven revealed he also receives strange offers and requests in his in-box. Gates sent an e-mail to participants in Microsoft’s “Executive E-mail” program (that’s e-mail from Microsoft executives, anyone can subscribe!) outlining his discovery:

“Unsolicited commercial e-mail is a spreading plague that feeds off the unique power of the Internet to connect hundreds of millions of computer users around the world, at virtually no cost. Generally unwanted – and often pornographic or with fraudulent intent – spam is a nuisance and a distraction. Like almost everyone, I receive a lot of spam every day, much of it offering to help me get out of debt or get rich quick. It’s ridiculous.”

Well, yes, it is ridiculous that anyone might think Gates would be interested in a “get rich quick” scheme. What he doesn’t bother to say, though, is that Microsoft itself has contributed a lot to the problem.

MSN and other online services promoted by Redmond had for many years made it relatively easy to harvest e-mail addresses that spammers could inundated with unwanted messages. On the other side, Microsoft’s mail clients and servers have not, until recently, provided ways to block incoming spam.

I don’t doubt that this new pronouncement from chairman Bill (and sometimes Microsoft really does resemble China under Mao Tse-tung) presages new activity on the antispam front from Microsoft. Indeed, it recently took the unprecedented step of suing alleged spammers (see link below). But it may have made at least one egregious error by suing a British man who last year took over a domain name of an alleged spammer, according to “USA Today” ( Nevertheless, it is a good first step for Microsoft and one which others should follow. Only by making spam too expensive for the spammers could we hope to stem the tide.

But progress on the technological front is also needed. Better filters, more secure servers and clients, and more spam-unfriendly protocols need to be developed in the very near term.

Fortunately for those of us who receive upwards of 500 pieces of spam per day, when chairman Bill speaks the entire Microsoft machine rolls into action. Now if we can just get Gates to realize how annoying “pop up” ads are.