I've had it! This morning I could barely connect to my server because it was so overrun with bounces of spam sent by people spoofing my email addresses (ie. spammers sending email with an email address at one of my domains in the senders address). I'm not kidding. The traffic was so heavy that HTTP connections would time out, and I had to wait forever for an SSH connection to find out what was going on.

I've been getting lots of spam bounce traffic since back in June, and have implemented countermeasures that have drastically reduced the impact on my server. But starting some time yesterday, the volume exploded. I've made a few more configuration changes to my server today that will hopefully help. But for now, one of the solutions is probably going to end up delaying the delivery of a lot of legitimate email. I'm not happy about this!

I read somewhere that 97% of email these days is spam. 97%! Freakin' 97%! Any system that's 97% trash really needs to be thrown out with the trash. The pain of replacing SMTP (the protocol used to deliver email today) couldn't possibly be worse than the pain of continuing on the way we're going.

I'm not saying I don't think the pain would be great -- just that things have gotten to the point that we need to stop ignoring it and treating it with bandaids.

One reason it's difficult to muster the momentum to solve the problem is that many of today's email users are insulated form the pain by spam filters. I like a good spam filter as much as anyone, but they're only hiding the pain from end users. Companies still have to spend a fortune on bandwidth and anti-spam measures, and those costs aren't paid by some magic billionaire in the sky -- they're borne a little bit by each of us.

To hilight the problem and solicit efforts to find a real solution, I'm proposing that we stage a "Day Without SMTP". For 24 hours, anyone who can would turn off their SMTP server. Any email sent to anyone at that domain would be delayed for 24 hours (the sender's server, unless it's grossly incompetent, would attempt to send the message every few hours, so the messages wouldn't be lost).

Reader Comment:
Day Without Email: What If I Can’t Shut My Mail Server Down? » Alpha Gecko said:
[...] I suggested we organize a Day Without Email where we’d all shut off our SMTP servers for a day. We wouldn’t send any email out, and [...]
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During that period, participants would post a message on their website's homepage explaining why email wasn't getting through and perhaps proving an alternative contact method like a contact form that didn't rely on SMTP (or was able to inject messages in a way that wasn't blocked by the general shut-down of SMTP).

Participants would Twitter, blog, podcast and vodcast about ways to fix or replace the existing system, and link to, digg and otherwise hilight possible solutions. Anyone who could would express support. Hopefully would could make enough noise to convince people in a position to make a difference that there is sufficient desire for change to overcome the fear of change and the pain that will come with it.

If this sounds like a good idea to you, even if you can't shut off your SMTP server, let me know, blog about it, etc. Let's see if we can focus more attention on it and see if we can get something done. If we get enough interest, we'll schedule a day.