Lycos Release Distributed Anti-Spam Screensaver

Jeff Berg
LONDON — Lycos Europe has created a new screensaver designed to allow Internet users to take the fight to spammers by requesting large amounts of data from spam servers.

Set to go live on Dec. 1, the new software, released under the name “Make Love, Not Spam,” works similarly to Seti@home, a distributed software that allows users to donate their computing power to decoding radio signals received from space.

Only, instead of seeking to find extraterrestrial life, Lycos’ software will deluge spam sites with so much extra traffic that the it makes the cost of bandwidth extremely expensive.

“There’s a huge user demand to not only filter spam day-by-day but to do something more,” Lycos Europe spokesperson Malte Pollmann told the BBC. “Before now users have never had the chance to be a bit more offensive.”

Initial rumors of the software were met with concern that the excessive amount of Internet traffic created by the screensaver would cause a massive slow down for Internet users, but Pollmann said that software was carefully designed so that it didn’t generate too much traffic.

“Every single user will contribute three to four megabytes per day,” said Pollmann.

So far, the software has only been tested in Sweden, but early results indicate the response time of some sites has decreased by as much as 85 percent.

Sites targeted by the screensaver are drawn from spam blacklists and double-checked by Lycos employees.

“We’ve never really solved the big problem of spam, which is that it’s so damn cheap and easy to do,” said Pollmann. “[Now] we’ve found a way to make it a much higher cost for spammers by putting a load on their servers.”

According to Pollmann, the new software may amount to gigabytes of extra traffic for each website every day.