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Futureproofing Spamhaus
Steve Linford, CEO, Spamhaus

Spamhaus Founder and CEO Steve Linford on how the Spamhaus organization is futureproofing itself

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A Blueprint for the future by Spamhaus Founder and CEO Steve Linford

1 June 2004

Spamhaus has grown considerably these last few years, we have many more server racks, more forensic investigators, more projects on the go, and the running costs are forever mounting. As some know, we initially looked to the UK Government for funding, but that's not been forthcoming (issue additionally complicated by Spamhaus being an international organization which the UK Government thinks should also be the responsibility of the EU and US governments to fund). In the meantime, thanks largely to ineffective spam laws passed by governments, we are having to step up the fight against spam with more resources, and for this we need more funding - Spamhaus can not continue forever funded with the personal resources of its team, or rely indefinitely on donated servers and network resources.

This year we have a dozen conferences and law enforcement meetings we need to attend in various expensive-to-get-to places, new projects and databases necessitate more servers, dedicated lines and armoured, distributed colo space on 4 continents. We also anticipate spammers will attempt more lawsuits in efforts to stop us stopping them, and we need sufficient funds to easily turn the tables on them when they do.

In addition we have a number of large networks hesitant to use our Block Lists without Service Agreement contracts. As the Swedish Government put it when they asked the price for Spamhaus zone transfers and were told 'they're free': "Free means you can't fund yourselves, we need to be sure you'll be around tomorrow". Most ISPs want the same assurance, as do all who rely on our data to protect commercial networks.

So it's time for Spamhaus to address these issues and fund itself, using a funding model I believe the email management community will be happy with, and from which our millions of free users will benefit.

The chosen funding model is based on charging large commercial/corporate networks a yearly fee for a service only large networks need - our 'Datafeed' data synchronization service. Datafeed is a resource-intensive service which Spamhaus currently supplies exclusively to large ISPs and corporations with heavy email traffic.
By separating the Datafeed into a stand-alone service run by an independent company, funds from the Datafeed service will finance both the provision of that service and yet more free public DNSBL servers, guaranteeing that Spamhaus's public DNSBL service remains free.

We have a possible partner to handle the new Datafeed service and have devised a pricing structure designed to be acceptable to current Datafeed users (the few thousand corporations taking Spamhaus DNSBL transfers) and which takes into account the large amount of universities and non-profits, and which caps the subscription fee with an "unlimited users" rate.

Networks that up to June 2004 have generously provided Spamhaus with our free public DNSBL query mirrors in return will now receive service free of charge no matter how many users they have. These networks become our partners/sponsors in the fight on spam.

With this model, our prime objective of keeping Spamhaus free to the public is secure, and the millions of users who rely on our anti-spam systems can be assured we'll be here for as long as spammers plague the Internet.

Steve Linford
Chief Executive,
The Spamhaus Project
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