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Spamhaus rising?

Ken has a good article talking about how many ESPs have tightened their standards recently and are really hounding their customers to stop sending mail recipients don’t want and don’t like. Ken credits much of this change to Spamhaus and their new tools.

Is their increased vigilance pissing you off? If so, your anger is misplaced. They are reacting quite sensibly to market conditions apparently imposed by Spamhaus. Ken Magill

While I agree with Ken that the ESPs are reacting to market conditions. Where we disagree is the idea that these conditions are imposed by Spamhaus. I don’t think all the uptick in ESP enforcement and compliance activity is the result of Spamhaus’ actions. I believe that many of the mass market ISPs are changing how they detect unwanted mail, and are fine tuning filters to reduce the amount of unwanted mail that shows up in the inbox.

One of the big changes is better tools for handling huge data sets. Bigger ISPs handle billions of messages a week. Even just collecting and storing the mail is a giant task. Storing it in a useable form was almost out of the question. But over the last few years there have been significant improvements in the speed and affordability of hardware to handle very, very large datasets. Likewise, there have been algorithm and software improvements in mining that data for useful correlations.

In practical terms, ISPs and filtering companies like Spamhaus don’t have to focus on complaints or trap hits or “simple” measurements. They can draw complex correlations and look at mail in a way that was simply impossible 2 or 3 years ago. This means they can better identify senders who had previously been able to slide in under the filters.

Spamhaus rolled out tools to monitor their spam feeds in a different way and have been listing a lot more “legitimate” senders because of it. ISPs are rolling out tools to better filter “greymail” and keep users inboxes full of mail that the users actually want.

One of the trends I’m noticing is that direct marketers are getting more aggressive. Whether it’s a response to the years of recession or a response to the slowly warming economy, I can’t tell. But there are a lot of direct marketers who are no longer afraid to break the law. For instance, my cell phone is getting multiple telemarketing calls a week, despite being a cell and despite being on the do not call list. My inbox is full of unsolicited email carefully engineered to get past standard filters, much of which violates CAN SPAM. I’m even getting the occasional unsolicited fax.

The increase in listings by Spamhaus are one example of the filtering screws being tightened. But it’s not just Spamhaus that’s driving this; ISPs and filtering companies are also filtering more aggressively. I’m seeing a lot more emphasis being placed on content and a good IP reputation is no longer a ticket to the inbox. Content must be clean and recipients have to want mail for it to get into the inbox.

3 comments

  1. Andrew from Vancouver says

    Ken Magill had it pretty close there when he said “your anger is misplaced”. Allow me to rewrite that snippet.
    Is SpamHaus’ increased vigilance pissing you off? If so, your anger is misplaced. SpamHaus is reading your recipients’ wishes better than you are.

  2. Catherine Jefferson says

    I agree with Laura that Spamhaus is only part of this picture. *All* of the antispammers I know — at blacklists, at reputation services, at ISPs, and at ESPs — have got thoroughly sick of the spam sent by legitimate mainstream companies via ESPs. This spam is a tiny fraction of the spam that’s sent, but it’s not a tiny fraction of the spam that lands in the inbox. And it’s the spam that lands in the inbox that annoys users.
    Many of those users were starting to wonder why the companies and ESPs that were sending this ongoing trickle of spam to their inboxes were largely ignored by blacklists and reputation services. Not surprisingly, blacklists and reputation services listen to their users. ESPs need to take note. Fortunately many of them are.

  3. Email Marketing – The Ride Is About To Get Bumpier. | Smarter Commerce says

    […] filter vendors such as Spamhaus and Cloudmark to help control their incoming spam problem, and as Laura Atkins writes, Spamhaus has become increasingly effective in the last year. They and other filter vendors are able […]

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