Into the wild, wild west

Remember way back, in summer of 1999, when Will Smith and Kevin Kline starred in the movie Wild, Wild West?  If you don’t remember, that’s fine, because the movie really sucked.  According to the Wikipedia entry, Will Smith turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix in order to star in this one.  Ordinarily, I’d say that was a pretty poor career decision for Smith (in a sarcastic tone), but he’s bounced back incredibly well from that bad selection.


Anyhow, over here in Forefront Online, our customer base continues to evolve.  One of the projects coming up is that of shared IP space.  That’s when we have a customer that connects to us and delivers mail downstream to their customers.  An example would be an ISP.  For inbound mail, this isn’t a big deal.  Filtering mail inbound and delivering to its destination makes no difference to us whether it’s going to them direct or if it’s going via some other filtering service (a downstream filtering service from us would certainly have some issues, though).

However, where this does become a big deal is when these same customers attempt to use us to send outbound mail.  Then it becomes a really big issue.  How so, you ask?  Well, I’m glad you posed the question.  If a customer is sending outbound mail through us directly, through no proxy, that’s easy for us to detect.  We can block the customer’s offending email alias; or, if the problem is widespread, we can disable the one customer directly and affect none of our other customers.  However, if the customer’s IP space is shared, it becomes a different ball of wax.

The reason is that we do not necessarily know who all of our shared IP customer’s customers are.  If we were to cut off the shared IP customer, then all of their customers cannot send email anymore.  This becomes a serious issue for them because all of them are impacted.  To make matters worse, we don’t really know who all of our customers are who are in this scenario since it is relatively new for us.  We have to build up this list of IPs on the fly.  So to sum it up: we don’t know who uses shared IP space, and even if we did we don’t know what domains belong to the ones using shared IP space.

That’s why I use the analogy of the wild, wild west.  This is unchartered territory.  How do you have a very high user experience when you don’t have all of the necessary information required to maintain it?  The rules that we have defined over the past 18-24 months are not applicable anymore.

So, the bad news is that our evolving customer base and complex customer scenarios will make it much easier for spammers to relay spam through us.  The good news is that they will have to go through me to do it.  And I hate spam… so much.

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