Avoiding the Chasm

April 8, 2008

ORDB – Gone But Not Forgotten

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: — vextasy @ 9:34 am

ORDB has posed another Web traceability problem for me. They recently announced that they were closing down their Open Relay database that has been used by mail servers to help identify incoming mail likely to be considered spam based on knowledge of the mail senders IP address; the idea being that if enough people reported spam to a centralised organisation then a database could be maintained that could track IP addresses from which spam appeared to originate and then that organisation could provide a lookup service to mail servers which would allow them to rapidly check all incoming mail to determine if it originated from one of these blacklisted IP addresses.

The problem is that although I recall reading about their impending closure, there is now nowhere authoritative that I can find that confirms the current status; their website, at http://ordb.org/news/?id=38, where the original news item was posted (I believe) is currently offline and the word on numerous online sites is that the ORDB service is now reporting all IP addresses as being blacklisted in an attempt to force mail server administrators to remove the ORDB database from their list of blacklist services, presumably to reduce the load on their servers if they decide to re-open in some form. Looking through online forums and blog posts it is clear that plenty of people are experiencing the results of this change.

There is really no technical issue here for me – the correct solution is simply to remove ORDB from my mail servers, which is something I did a while ago anyway. The real issue is that when I googled for “ordb” it was apparent that most of the articles were based on the same sources at www.nabble.com and in turn Slashdot which reported the nabble.com message. The one site I did find that reported a conversation with a former ORDB operator was on a German site at www.heise.de which reported:

Andreas Plesner Jacobsen, a former ORDB operator, explained to heise online sister publication iX that this measure has been introduced because the zone is still swamped with queries. The intention is to get mail server operators to stop using ORDB. Simply deleting the domain was not a viable alternative, since the load would then merely be directed to the .org name server.

Ironically, it seems that the only way ORDB could get people to act to remove them from their mail servers was by breaking their service in a way which forced administrators to investigate – simply making an announcement on their web site was clearly not sufficient.

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