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Microsoft, Yahoo Investigate Spam Solution

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the eternal-spam-issues dept.

Spam 596

bllfrnch writes "The NY Times (account required, yada yada) has an article about the suggestion of email postage to stop the advent of spam. Apparently, both Microsoft and Yahoo! support such an initiative, as they are the largest email service providers. Best quote: ''Damn if I will pay postage for my nice list,' said David Farber, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who runs a mailing list on technology and policy with 30,000 recipients'."

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Cha ching? (5, Interesting)

monstroyer (748389) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163463)

Paying for postage already exists, it's called a fax.

This is the worst solution ever and the only reason that MS/Yahoo support it is because of Hotmail/YahooMail. They stand to make huge profits because they host the inboxes of millions of users. Every email received at those accounts would invoice the sender. It's a no brainer for BARRELS OF CASH !!! (tm)

In fact, there already was a good solution [slashdot.org] proposed a few weeks ago, by microsoft no less. Combine it with Spam Assassin the way Spam Interceptor [si20.com] does (replacing the C/R component) and the solution is plausible.

Re:Cha ching? (5, Insightful)

diablobynight (646304) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163495)

I am sure it doesn't have that much to do with the money they'll make. This idea has been suggested many times, and all of the times suggested, there has always been a white list, that if you choose to accept the senders mail, you can choose whether to have them billed or not. But here I see the problem, spammers are using open relays and hiding under anonymous accounts already. How will they bill them?

Re:Cha ching? (2, Insightful)

Frymaster (171343) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163575)

spammers are using open relays and hiding under anonymous accounts already. How will they bill them?

ah... but if spammer x sends a boatload of herbal viagra offers under bob's relay and bob gets a bill... then when they do catch spammer x he can be nabbed under wire fraud laws and be open to all sorts of tasty civil action.

Re:Cha ching? (5, Insightful)

digital bath (650895) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163678)

but if spammer x sends a boatload of herbal viagra offers under bob's relay and bob gets a bill... then when they do catch spammer x he can be nabbed under wire fraud laws

But until then, would you like to be bob?

Re:Cha ching? (5, Interesting)

Awptimus Prime (695459) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163586)

Agreed. I've said it before and I will say it again:

Replace SMTP with a more secure protocol. Give a 12 month window for everyone to upgrade their clients. Then make port 25 filtering mandatory for all ISPs.

Failure to comply results in no email gateway for your customers. Simple as that.

Re:Cha ching? (5, Insightful)

diablobynight (646304) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163641)

ummm...don't even need to mod the protocol, if people just set up their mail servers to force authentication before outgoing mail can be sent, there wouldn't be any problems. Sorry there will be some problems, but I bet it would eliminate a lot of spam. Or if we just convinced the RIAA that spam was affecting their music sales, they would find a way to take every one of them to court.LOL

also, best answer to spam, don't click on the links in it, don't read it, just delete it, if it wasn't profitable they wouldn't send it out. Sadly dumb people buy shit from telemarketers and spammers.

WE HATE YOU TOO BITCH (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163621)

suck a dong

Re:Cha ching? (3, Interesting)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163522)

Email postage might make sense under one of two conditions:

1) the recipient gets the postage fee
2) the ISP that gets the postage fee provides email / internet access to the user for free

If the ISP gets the cash without providing any FURTHER service, it's nothing more than a cash grab. I would still be likely to maintain a "free" mail account so my friends wouldn't have to pay to email me... I'd just be more likely to filter that heavily for spam.


Re:Cha ching? (1, Troll)

Trejkaz (615352) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163567)

Like hell.
(a) I'm not paying for emails I send to their inboxes unless I get a notice that it will cost money before I send it.
(b) If they insist on this, I'll just keep up my policy of not keeping in contact with morons with hotmail addresses.

Better than that... (3, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163578)

They stand to make huge profits because they host the inboxes of millions of users. Every email received at those accounts would invoice the sender. It's a no brainer for BARRELS OF CASH !!! (tm)

Someone also has to provide software and systems to meter and invoice email. Gee, who could that be...

Do we need this? (5, Informative)

RT Alec (608475) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163464)

Story also posted on C-Net [com.com] (no account required, yada yada).

What hapened to Yahoo's (as yet unveiled) scheme-to-end-all-schemes [eweek.com] for authenticating mail? IMHO, I think that SPF:Sender will make great strides towards combatting spam, combined with new laws that make spoofing illegal. And AOL is backing it [wired.com] , so I think there is a good chance for success, as they are both one of the largest sources of e-mail as well as one of the most commonly spoofed domains.

Mirrors without registration (4, Informative)

digitalvengeance (722523) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163466)

Here is a Washington Times summary that doesn't require registration.

http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20040202-1 23126-8662r.htm [washingtontimes.com]

And here is a IHT article which appears to feature the same quote as the NYT article. Same article? I won't register...

http://www.iht.com/articles/127677.html [iht.com]


Re:Mirrors without registration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163576)

Yes, same article.

Advent? (-1, Offtopic)

yerfatma (666741) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163469)

I think they're a little late on stopping the advent of spam. But nice of them to try.

fp (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163472)


Re:fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163493)

You had a full 20 seconds, and that was the best you could do? And you failed it, on top of that?

You are a sad excuse for a human being.


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163474)

Do not buy from her. She sent me one broken motherboard, and when I told her, she sent me a new one OF THE WRONG SOCKET TYPE. This took almost a month to resolve. So I basically said "fuck this, this is not worth my time or my $50" and left negative feedback. I'm almost certain she is some disjointed old biddy from Florida (judging from the e-mail exchange and the return address from Boca Raton) so I don't think she can be trusted. Check her feedback, there are several others who got wrong items.

Eh? (1, Redundant)

DakotaK (727197) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163479)

Could anyone truely pull this off? Most people would never dream of paying for e-mail. And what's to stop me from setting up my own mail server and sending it off? Step 1: Charge for e-mail Step 2: ??? Step 3: Profit

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163569)

Interesting point. I think we would see an increase in the number of people doing just that - set up their own email servers.

The problem is, most of these people probably would not know how to properly configure it, and we would see an increase in the number of open relays available to spammers to subvert.

I don't trust any solution that comes from MS, Yahoo, or AOL, all of whom seem to be the most widely abused systems in existance today. It is up to these organizations to fix their own cruddy operations before attempting to tell the rest of us what to do.

Re:Eh? (1)

ooby (729259) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163635)

Both Yahoo and Hotmail sell premium accounts, so somebody pays for email. I do agree, however, that paying to use email (paying for anything other than your own server, bandwitdh, etc.) is pretty lame. We might be able to rely on consumer rejection because there will probably always be a free (or near free) alternative to paying to send email.

There are advantages to the technique. If it is implemented, spammers may stop sending porn to my yahoo and hotmail accounts, and these type accounts probably make up the bulk of non-corporate email addresses. So a side effect may be a drop in spam across the board (providing the spammers don't adapt).


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163488)

There, I said it.

It's a ridiculous concept (5, Interesting)

MysteriousMystery (708469) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163496)

It's a ridiculous concept really, the reasons email has become successful to begin with is that it's fast and free. If you charge for email, people will just move over to instant messengers or other systems. And how do you enforce charging people who you may or may not be able to track, the proposal to charge for spam based on the reciever's choice is absolutely ridiculous.

Re:It's a ridiculous concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163667)

I haven't thought this through, but what would happen if a place like Yahoo would charge for certifying bulk email? Say by encryting it with a private key, or using some kind of watermark or stamp. In that case, I could white list people I know, enable emails that decrypt nicely if I want ads, and send everythign else to the trash.

Postage? (1)

mindstormpt (728974) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163498)

Doesn't seem too smart but at least it's better than the memory and processor cycles idea

Re:Postage? (1, Funny)

Trejkaz (615352) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163599)

I don't know about that. I'd love to invoice Microsoft for all my wasted memory and processor cycles.

Re:Postage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163622)

On the contrary, I think the CPU cycles idea is a good one. Even if it only took 3 seconds per email, it would KILL the spammers (how do you send out 25 million emails at 3 seconds each?) while not doing much to the rest of us.

I send out a double opt-in newsletter for one of my clients, with about 75,000 subscribers. Yes, I realize it would take my nearly 3 days to send out our monthly newsletter.

BFD! I spend 3 days of MY time each month dealing with spam. I'd much rather it be 3 days of my CPU's time.

snail mail (5, Funny)

QEDog (610238) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163499)

Would this really help?
How come stamps can't stop all the spam I get through snail mail? Please, make those AOL disks stop!

Ha! (2, Funny)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163573)

How come stamps can't stop all the spam I get through snail mail? Please, make those AOL disks stop!

I realize you're being facetious, but I still don't get 100 AOL discs a day, like I do spam. Hell, if I did, I wouldn't have had to use my nice Snoop CD for my wall mural.

Re:snail mail (2, Funny)

nizo (81281) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163627)

Actually, all you have to do is send your date of birth, SS#, bank account numbers, and credit card numbers to nojunk@scammer.ru and once they use that information to verify you really are who you say you are they will take you off of every maillist in the whole world, guaranteed!

hiJacked account? (1)

Numeric (22250) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163503)

so now all those poor AOL users will get a huge bill

15.95 internet services
9100.00 e-stamps

Re:hiJacked account? (1)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163539)

If they don't bother trying to secure their machine, then perhaps they should bear the responsibility for it. Perhaps AOL or their ISP can warn them at a certain point. Hopefully this will pressure people to be more security-conscious and that might in turn pressure software makers to do the same.

Re:hiJacked account? (1)

mahdi13 (660205) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163642)

I think that would get more people to STOP using the internet. People are very lazy and view their computers as an appliance.
Toaster = make bread crunchy
Refrigerator = Keeps think cool
TV = Keeps intellegence at a managable level
Computer = E-mail and check aol.com for important news stories

If the average person is forced to take responsibility for their computers, they would give them up in a heartbeat

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This will work (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163508)

(but only if the only people who get charged are the spammers.)

They Stop Recieving (1)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163510)

So, how are they going to charge their customers that get free email for the postage??? Won't other free emailers pop up and take their place???

And if they only recieve postaged email, who would want to use them????

What's more annoying...spam you have to delete(or is somewhat filtered) or the mess of postage. I would say the mess of postage.

smokescreen (4, Insightful)

mabu (178417) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163511)

There's no way to enforce this. The irony is that the only way a pay-for-email scheme would work, is in the context of a network of trusted mail relays, which is in effect, A WHITELIST.

All this does is prove that eventually, there will be a network of whitelisted SMTP relays that will do more to combat the spamedemic. You don't need to charge money - that's an extra, goofy idea to make profit for a few select corporate interests. It won't fly because millions of systems will refuse to pay the "postage" extortion fee in order to be whitelisted.

Re:smokescreen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163655)

You don't need a whitelist, nor are there any corporate profits, if the postage is collected by the recipient, rather than paid by the sender. Not only that, but given that the recipient isn't required to cash such a stamp, email remains free your friends (and mailing list admins). Only the spammers will pay.

It wouldn't take much to add to your spam filter to have it automatically cash in your stamps, and only for those categories of mail that you chose.

If the stamp is for a suitably trivial amount, then you simply need to pile up a large quantity of certificates to cash in at once to avoid transaction costs. And guess who is the only one generating large quantities of email at once, making it worthwhile to bother?

This form of postage is not a fee to deliver the message, but rather a fee for annoying the recipient, payable directly to them.

I like the computational challenge solution better (4, Interesting)

kcornia (152859) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163514)

Asking the sender to process a quick math question seems a better solution to me.

Spam boxes would be prohibitively expensive due to the heavy requirements for sending millions of spams, and it would have the added benefit of notifying people when their box has been owned due to 100% processor utilization on said owned relay box.

The money option just sounds like pushing for a new revenue stream. To heck with that.

Re:I like the computational challenge solution bet (4, Insightful)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163574)

What about me who runs a mail server (a legit one at that for a no-profit) on an old Pentium 166? It's a fine smtp server but don't ask it to do any heavy math. This would screw the little guy using old hardware too.

Re:I like the computational challenge solution bet (1)

dustmote (572761) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163612)

I thought I had been keeping up with the spam-stopping stuff, but I had never heard of this idea. It seems like a very good idea to me, pros and cons anyone?

Re:I like the computational challenge solution bet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163637)

Same as always. What about mailing lists?

Re:I like the computational challenge solution bet (-1)

StarManta (692541) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163645)

I like this idea. Unfortunately it will never fly with M$ because they can't make money off of it.

You could put the math equation in an image and skew it slightly to throw off equation-solving programs.

Common sense... (2, Interesting)

FrancisR (640455) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163515)

"AOL is taking a different approach and is testing a system under development by the Internet Research Task Force. The system, called the Sender Permitted From, or S.P.F., creates a way for the owner of an Internet domain, like aol.com, to specify which computers are authorized to send e-mail with aol.com return addresses." Shouldn't AOL have thought of this a long time ago? I remember a few years ago when I used to use AOL and got deluged with FormMail spam with faked @aol.com return addresses. Good to see they're getting their act together.

Welcome to the new IM revolution (1)

jobugeek (466084) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163517)

I can't think of something else that would push an enormous amount of people from email to instant messaging. Someone will change the format to allow messaging of those off-line and bingo. New email!

Welcome to the IM spam revolution (1)

enosys (705759) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163669)

Some people already get IM spam. If people started using IM instead of e-mail spammers would move to IM too.

FCC Chairman Declares Halftime Show Crass (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163520)

"I am outraged at what I saw during the halftime show of the Super Bowl. Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration. Instead, that celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt. Our nation's children, parents and citizens deserve better."

I don't know whether to laugh or weep. If the FCC chairman declares one stunt to be crass, should I exclaim "Down with censorship!" and taunt him or should I weep and sympathize for him because he's missing the crassness of the entire Superbowl program. The whole Superbowl IS nothing but a deplorable stunt. Between the overpaid athelete's being paid to destroy their bodies and the overpriced advertising space, I can say, it's truly not something to sit down and watch with your families while your teachers-- the force of the future-- are being underpaid.

Just enforce the damn laws!!!! (2, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163523)

Geez. Why the heck can't these fat-walleted companies fork over a few bucks or a few of their own employees to help the local and federal government bust some heads? All I see is talk-talk-talk. Let's get some action and stop it with these stupid schemes. Seriously, the purveyors of spam are fraudsters, can't they be reigned in on that alone?

Oh, maybe if the postage goes to further line the pockets of M'soft and Y'hoo, as a likin worked, I can see their true motivation.

I hate spam but... (4, Interesting)

dolo666 (195584) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163524)

How will this affect websites sending their users emails from requested sources?

Like I'm the programmer of Gemsites [jcomserv.net] , a Slashdot clone. When we register a user, we shoot them an email. So are we going to have to pay money to do that?

Because that would be totally stupid, and it would possibly put an end to discussion websites that require logons to validate users, unless there was a method to bypass the charge for sending email.

The way Microsoft will turn it, would be that we all *should* be paying per email, because of this reason or that reason. Bottom line is Billy Goat Gates on his mountain of cash, trying to pile up more of it.

Postage hasn't stopped Junk mailers (4, Insightful)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163533)

Everyone, please go home and open your mailbox. Now tell me if having to pay for postage has cut down on the level of unsoliceted mail arriving in you snailmail mailbox.

Re:Postage hasn't stopped Junk mailers (1)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163614)

With snail mail they have found that it can make money. Like with internet service. On average with their mailer adds they get enough people to buy the product that after about a year they start making a profit on the customer. Spam would cut down because they couldn't afford it but it would not go away.

Re:Postage hasn't stopped Junk mailers (1)

Trejkaz (615352) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163638)

Postage hasn't, but a "No Junk Mail" sign seems to cut it down quite a bit.

(... so I propose we invent a .no_junk_mail file to drop into our home directories to indicate we don't want spam.)

Re:Postage hasn't stopped Junk mailers (1)

bear_phillips (165929) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163677)

I get about five pieces of junkmail a day. I get about 40+ spam emails a day. So yes, paying for postage has cut down on the level of unsolicated mail arriving in my snailmail mailbox.

I think I have a better solution. (4, Interesting)

mikeophile (647318) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163534)

Instead of billing the sender of bulk email, why can't the receiver bill the service provider who permitted the bulk email to be sent in the first place?

What you say? Microsoft would get huge bills because of the abusers of it's Hotmail service? That would be a pity, wouldn't it?

Re:I think I have a better solution. (1)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163615)

'Cept that all of those spammers are generally using forged headers from all sorts of third-world locales, hijacked desktop machines, and other legal, semilegal, illegal, and otherwise extra-jurisdictional relays.

The Internet is not a closed system. They would throw a satellite into orbit and shoot their spam in from space... through hijacked TIVO boxes connected to satellite TV subscribers jacked into a DSL line for broadband.

Wipe away to the satellite subscriber being led away in chains...

(6 Hz voice) Now doesn't cable sound so much better?

Re:I think I have a better solution. (1)

AKnightCowboy (608632) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163647)

What you say? Microsoft would get huge bills because of the abusers of it's Hotmail service? That would be a pity, wouldn't it?

I've never seen a spammer using a Hotmail account to relay spam. It's be pretty impractical since it's web based. They may or may not forge the from address to appear to be coming from Hotmail, but that doesn't make Microsoft guilty of anything.

Already working? (2, Interesting)

pen (7191) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163536)

It seems that both Yahoo, and lately Microsoft, have discovered a pretty good solution for spam. My YM mailbox has been largely spam-free for a few months, and in the last week or two, Hotmail has been doing a pretty good job as well. Every now and then a spam gets through, but that's about it.

Re:Already working? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163651)

I closed down my hotmail account last year, when I reached the limit on spam filters. The only option they gave me was to pay for a upgraded service. Considering the amount of spam coming through hotmail, I declined, as I already pay for spam, and don't need to get hit twice.

I now use my own mail server, fully tested by ORDB as secure, with RBL checks, which has severly curtailed spam reaching me. HotSpam can take a hike, I will use my own proven secure, stable, and trusted system instead.

sounds silly to me (5, Insightful)

Matt Ownby (158633) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163537)

What is wrong with migrating to a replacement for SMTP? What is wrong with developing better challenge/response systems?

If email gets a postage fee applied to it, people will stop using it. If I have to pay to send mail to someone at yahoo or hotmail, I would tell that person to get a different email address. No one is going to use email if it has a mandatory fee attached to it. Then again, maybe that's what needs to happen to give people a reason to stop using SMTP ...

This is a great idea! (1, Redundant)

mir@ge (25727) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163541)

I mean, paying for postage has stopped advertisers from sending marketing materials to my home. Oh wait, sorry. This is a terrible idea!


stop linking to articles requiring registration (-1, Offtopic)

Sivaram_Velauthapill (693619) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163543)

Should stop linking to articles requiring registration... Unless it's a big breaking story, or an innovative article not found elsewhere, there is no point linking to these sites. For most generic stories, the wire services (AP, Reuters, etc) or other print media will have the story at the same time (or even earlier).

Sivaram Velauthapillai

Question... (5, Insightful)

JoeLinux (20366) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163544)

Wasn't one of the hallmarks of a doomed .com company the fact that they tried to get people to pay for something they usually got for free?

Just spitballin' here..


Re:Question... (5, Funny)

doorbot.com (184378) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163671)

Wasn't one of the hallmarks of a doomed .com company the fact that they tried to get people to pay for something they usually got for free?

Like SCO's "Linux license"?

Postage on Email won't stop spam anyway (1)

Djarum (250450) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163547)

Think about how much junk mail you get in your post box already? You think charging is going to eliminate it? I just checked my mail. I got a bill, the new issue of Rolling Stone and 6 pieces of junk mail sent to "Current Resident" which promply went straight to the trash.

I wonder how many trees would be saved if people stopped sending junk mail.

Why can't DNS solve spam??? (5, Interesting)

clusterix (606570) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163550)

Why can't MX records become required to list all in AND out going official SMTP for a domain. From then on, SMTP servers could reject non matching MXed sender IPs and if spam does get through - you know you to blame.

Reg-free link (1)

Joey Patterson (547891) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163554)

Here. [nytimes.com]

Bah, article text (1)

Joey Patterson (547891) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163609)

Gates Backs E-Mail Stamp in War on Spam

Published: February 2, 2004

hould people have to buy electronic stamps to send e-mail?

Some Internet experts have long suggested that the rising tide of junk e-mail, or spam, would turn into a trickle if senders had to pay even as little as a penny for each message they sent. Such an amount might be minor for legitimate commerce and communications, but it could destroy businesses that send a million offers in hopes that 10 people will respond. The idea has been dismissed both as impractical and against the free spirit of the Internet.


Now, though, the idea of e-mail postage is getting a second look from the owners of the two largest e-mail systems in the world, Microsoft and Yahoo.

Ten days ago, Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman, told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that spam would not be a problem in two years, in part because of systems that would require people to pay money to send e-mail. Yahoo, meanwhile, is quietly evaluating an e-mail postage plan being developed by Goodmail, a Silicon Valley start-up company.

"The fundamental problem with spam is there is not enough friction in sending e-mail," said Brad Garlinghouse, Yahoo's manager for communications products.

The company is intrigued by the idea of postage, Mr. Garlinghouse said, because it would force mailers to send only those offers a significant number of people might accept. "All of a sudden, spammers can't behave without regard for the Internet providers' or end users' interests, " he said.

Neither Yahoo nor Microsoft have made any commitment to charging postage, in part because the idea still faces substantial opposition among Internet users.

"Damn if I will pay postage for my nice list," said David Farber, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who runs a mailing list on technology and policy with 30,000 recipients. He said electronic postage systems are likely to be too complex and would charge noncommercial users who should be able to send e-mail free.

"I suspect the cost of postage will start out small and it will rapidly escalate," he added.

In the meantime, the big Internet providers, including Microsoft and Yahoo, in recent weeks have renewed talks that stalled last year about creating technological standards to help identify the senders of legitimate e-mail. That way, spammers would either have to identify themselves or risk that users would discard all anonymous mail.

But for the big Internet access providers, or I.S.P.'s, the prospect of e-mail postage creating a new revenue stream that could help offset the cost of their e-mail systems is undeniably attractive.

"Sending large volumes of e-mail involve costs that are paid for by the I.S.P.'s and eventually by consumers," said Linda Beck, executive vice president for operations at EarthLink. "Should there be some sort of financial responsibility borne by the originators of these large volume programs? I think there should." E-mail between private individuals, she added, ought to remain free.

Differentiating among classes of e-mail is one of the substantial technical difficulties that e-mail postage proposals face. In wrestling with this matter, academic researchers have proposed complex stamp systems in which each e-mail recipient sets the price for a message to enter his or her in-box. Mr. Gates talked at Davos about a system that would allow users to waive charges for friends and relatives.

Goodmail, founded by Daniel T. Dreymann, an Israeli entrepreneur, is developing a system that it hopes will be easier to adopt. It proposes that only high-volume mailers pay postage at first, at a rate of a penny a message, with the money going to the e-mail recipient's Internet access provider. (The company suggests, but does not require, that the Internet providers share the payments with their users, either through rebates or by lowering monthly fees.)

The Goodmail system is designed to work even if not all senders and not all Internet providers participate. A mass e-mailer would sign up with Goodmail, buying a block of stamps - actually an encrypted code number - that it would insert in the header of each e-mail message. If the Internet provider of the recipient participates in the system, it decrypts the stamp and submits it to Goodmail. Only then is the sender's account charged a penny and the receiving I.S.P. paid the penny, minus a service fee by Goodmail for acting as a clearinghouse.

Senders do not pay for stamps that are not used, but they do pay whether an e-mail recipient reads the message or not.

Under this plan, Internet providers would still accept incoming e-mail without stamps. But that mail would be subject to the same sort of spam filters in use now, which can at times divert legitimate mail. The Internet providers would deliver all stamped mail without any filter. Goodmail does not require that stamped mail be requested by the recipient, the so-called opt-in requirement of most other anti-spam systems.


"The very notion that I have to get permission to send you a marketing message doesn't make sense and is not good public policy," said Richard Gingras, Goodmail's chief executive. Even so, he said that Goodmail would require mailers to verify their identities and to take people off their mailing lists if such a request was made.

This kind of approach would require major policy changes by Internet providers, which all ban unsolicited e-mail even if they have little ability to block it.

In fact, some experts worry that big spammers will indeed pay the postage. Charles Stiles, manager of the postmaster department at America Online, said he was concerned that such a system might restrict the wrong mail, adding, "It is the spammers who are the ones with the big pockets."

AOL is taking a different approach and is testing a system under development by the Internet Research Task Force. The system, called the Sender Permitted From, or S.P.F., creates a way for the owner of an Internet domain, like aol.com, to specify which computers are authorized to send e-mail with aol.com return addresses. That allows a recipient's e-mail system to determine whether a message being represented as coming from someone at aol.com really is from that address. Most spam being sent now uses forged return addresses.

Microsoft has been floating a similar proposal, labeled "caller ID," that could be expanded in the future to accommodate more sophisticated anti-spam approaches including Internet postage systems. Discussions are under way among the backers of S.P.F., Microsoft and others involved in e-mail to reach a compromise sender notification system.

All these proposals can run into problems because there are legitimate cases when mail sent by one domain claims to be from another. For example, online greeting-card services will send messages with the return address of the person sending the card, even though the message does not go through the sender's e-mail account.

People taking part in the discussion say that companies like greeting-card services may need to change their e-mail software to comply with the new standards.

"Every proposed scheme will break parts of the way e-mail works today," said Hans Peter Brondmo, a senior vice president of Digital Impact who has represented big e-mailers in the spam technology negotiations. The challenge, he said, is to find a system that will require as little retrofitting as possible to e-mail systems.

Federal BIll 602p!! (-1, Troll)

rjamestaylor (117847) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163555)

Federal BIll 602p
Guess the warnings were true. Federal Bill 602P 5-cents per E-mail sent. It figures! No more free E-mail! We knew this was coming!! Bill 602P will permit the Federal Government to charge a 5-cent charge on every delivered E-mail. Please read the following carefully if you intend to stay online and continue using E-mail. The last few months have revealed an alarming trend in the Government of the United States attempting to quietly push through legislation that will affect our use of the Internet. Under proposed legislation, the US Postal Service will be attempting to bill E-mail users out of "alternative postage fees". Bill 602P will permit the Federal Government to charge a 5-cent surcharge on every e-mail delivered, by billing Internet Service Providers at source. The consumer would then be billed in turn by the ISP. Washington DC lawyer Richard Stepp is working without pay to prevent this legislation from becoming law. The US Postal Service is claiming lost revenue, due to the proliferation of E-mail, is costing nearly $230,000,000 in revenue per year. You may have noticed their recent ad campaign: "There is nothing like a letter." Since the average person received about 10 pieces of E-mail per day in 1998, the cost of the typical individual would be an additional 50 cents a day - or over $180 per year - above and beyond their regular Internet costs. Note that this would be money paid directly to the US Postal Service for a service they do not even provide. The whole point of the Internet is democracy and non-interference. You are already paying an exorbitant price for snail mail because of bureaucratic inefficiency. It currently takes up to 6 days for a letter to be delivered from coast to coast. If the US Postal Service is allowed to tinker with E-mail, it will mark the end of the "free" Internet in the United States. Congressional representative, Tony Schnell (r) has even suggested a "$20-$40 per month surcharge on all Internet service" above and beyond the governments proposed E-mail charges. Note that most of the major newspapers have ignored the story the only exception being the Washingtonian which called the idea of E-mail surcharge "a useful concept who's time has come" (March 6th,1999 Editorial).

Do not sit by and watch your freedom erode away! Send this E-mail to EVERYONE on your list, and tell all your friends and relatives to write their congressional representative and say "NO" to Bill 602P.

It will only take a few moments of your time and could very well be instrumental in killing a bill we do not want.

I went on US house of Representatives to e-mail my State Representative.


Is all spam destined to become true? I better stock up on credit card debt busting male member enhancing pharmaceuticals...

The Real Question. (1)

Neck_of_the_Woods (305788) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163557)

Who profits? Who will regulate the size and the postage on that? Would they still agree that this is a great Idea is the US postal service was the one that made a profit?

I am still surprised to this day that there is not a better solution to e-mail. Maybe that is the next killer app....the race is on boys they are just trying to figure out how to make the most money on it.

International Problems (2, Insightful)

glpierce (731733) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163563)

Exactly how will this work outside the US? Considering that $0.01 is a lot of money in third-world countries, and not much in the UK, you can't just make it a flat rate. But if you make it a sliding scale, what's to prevent a spammer from using an address in Somalia to make it cheaper?

Re:International Problems (1)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163643)

I would have to say the rest of the world would ignore us. So they put something into effect here.... foreigners would all go down to the local pub and have a beer while laughing at us.

After looking at the possible solutions (2, Informative)

Sheetrock (152993) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163565)

It's clear that sender-pays is the only technological scheme that is effective and can be guaranteed effective in the long term.

Other proposed solutions involve lengthy computations on a sender's machine, which can be trivially verified on the receiver's machine. These will be overcome with faster machines, and spammers can afford better hardware than the rest of us anyway. Legislation is no solution, as the only sort that respects the First Admendment rights of emailers provides the same rights to unsolicited email.

As the saying goes at our local Mensa chapter: wise thoughts may go into your mind, but pultem calidus invado pantorum. At the end of the day postage is the cheapest option, given the cost of enforcement or technology updates.

didn't HE write thsi already (1)

bvdbos (724595) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163571)

I remember HE who's name shall not be spoken on this site predict this already in the 1995-book The Road Ahead? It's been a while since I read it so I don't recall this exactly, but I do remember something about this is in the book... gr Bas

Worst non-solution ever (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163583)

If that worked, then regular mail would have no junk mail, because no one would pay the postage. Yet every time I open the mailbox, I am greeted with a fistful of unsolicited advertisements. The only way to "block" email spam is to not have an email address. For every measure put in place, there will be someone willing to work around it.

Reading without account (using google) (1)

Marco Krohn (254334) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163589)

1. copy link location (here: "http://www.nytimes.com/2004/ and so on...")
2. google search for the URL: search for "http:// and so on"
3. ignore that you got no search results and click on the link below "If the URL is valid, try visiting that web page by clicking on the following link: " (and yes, it is the same link!)
4. enjoy reading :-)

I better start practicing... (2, Funny)

PaulK (85154) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163593)

my tweezer skills. It's not enough that I've spent decades removing paperclips, business cards, broken diskettes, credit cards, diskette labels, coins, and other assorted crap from drives and systems....

Now I need to worry about stamps too, just as my eyesight is diminishing.

Score one for the hardware folks! Best idea ever!

Postage -- even more spam! (2, Interesting)

Mad Bad Rabbit (539142) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163602)

Oh, great. One of the proponents is a bulk-emailer called "Goodmail", who wants this system because if they pay to send out spam (with the postage going to ISPs), the ISPs will have a financial incentive not to block them.

Re:Postage -- even more spam! (1)

Dukael_Mikakis (686324) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163661)

the ISPs will have a financial incentive not to block them.

It's sort of a sly trick that ISPs already have a financial incentive not to block spammers. Spammers pay lots of good money to use the ISPs' servers for distribution.

More like... (3, Insightful)

tubabeat (605286) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163604)

...A scheme to encourage spammers to send out even more trojan laden viruses to send their spam from compromised machines at the expense of the victim.

I fail to understand how a scheme that involves the schemes administrators making a profit for every mail sent is going to reduce the amount of mail sent.

Choice Quote (1)

nate1138 (325593) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163605)

Heh, here's a choice quote, from an exec at Goodmail, one of the postage schemes that would allow postage paid spam right into your inbox:

"The very notion that I have to get permission to send you a marketing message doesn't make sense and is not good public policy,"

I think it's GREAT public policy. If I don't want your ads, tough shit.

Yahoo supports this? (2, Interesting)

mblase (200735) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163606)

Yahoo! Mail already has a spam filter engine, and it's ridiculously effective for a freemail provider. I rarely use my Yahoo account, but still tend to check it daily for email that should go to my new email addy and doesn't.

On a typical day, Yahoo! Mail will have around 100 new spam messages for me, and only two to six of them will make it to my inbox. After a quick setup a month or two ago, I can now check them all with one click and have them identified and deleted as spam with a second click.

While I understand Yahoo! wanting to lessen the burden on their filtering software by supporting postage, I think the sheer cost of such postage would eliminate Yahoo! Mail as a free service and wipe out most of its users in the process. I honestly can't imagine why they would want to use it instead of their already very effective spam traps.

Hash Cash and standards (1)

GeorgeH (5469) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163608)

I heard some guy from Microsoft talking about some of MS's spam plans, after billg committed the company to stopping spam by 2006. They seem to really like the idea of hash cash [hashcash.org] , which certainly seems like the most reasonable bolt-on solution.

I think the best bet for Microsoft's anti-spam campaign would be to be as open as possible with the process. If they could come up with a standard for hash cash, enable it on every Exchange server, as well as provide it for every Sendmail, Qmail and Postfix server, they would have a huge PR victory. Everyone would be focusing on how Microsoft cured spam and they could start to shake their buggy image.

They've got two temptations they'll have to avoid if they want to win this battle though. The first is their culture: they're notorious for only using standards when it suits their needs. They need to be political about getting the standard accepted everywhere, which means playing nice with the Internet as a whole. The second is to try and use this to throw their monopoly weight around. If they say "only Exchange servers can user our powerful anti-spam techniques" people will turn off the spam protection so that they can get mail from Linux mail servers. I'm pretty sure they're too smart for the second one.

Basically, this is intuitive to most Slashdot readers. Open networks are bigger than closed networks and a network's value is exponential of its size. If MS can make an open spam solution they'll have helped build a very valuable network.

Re:Hash Cash and standards (3, Insightful)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163679)

Why am I not going to be shocked when in 3 years my Postfix box will be ignored by Exchange servers because it's open-source and thus and open relay. This is such a shameless grab, almost as bad as their campaign to paint Linux boxes as unsecure. Any linux users remember THAT back in '99? Talk to any MS admin about a Linux box and they swore it was virus infected.

Spam solution (1)

BeemanH2O (718832) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163616)

Yahoo wants to find a solution to stop spam? Stop offering free e-mail accounts. Half of the spam I get comes from yahoo, the other half is from Hotmail.

Maybe if they would charge a dollar or two a month and make it an even better service such a problem wouldn't exist with them.

Still wouldn't stop all spam (1)

Necroman (61604) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163650)

Many spammers hijack other peoples email accounts, or use fake/stolen credit cards to get email address from big providers (like Earthlink).

So this same person will go on Earthlink with their stole credit card, rack up some huge postal bill on the credit card from all the spam he/she sends out, but never actually get stuck with the bill.

Hacking/backdoors would also become more predominate on people computers, so the hacker/spammer can spam from valid email addresses without getting charged. This would just cause more problems then already exist.

Who gets the benefit from the postage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163654)

How about the RECEIVER? If someone sends 100 e-mails, make it akin to sending each recipient a nickel (for their time/etc).. So next time I open my inbox and have 1000 new messages, I just made fifty bucks.

Sounds like you don't use Yahoo/Microsoft (1)

Ironstud (134877) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163656)

Like spam people use their web front end. Yahoo and Microsoft have open relay servers. Maybe they should only allow people to access their accounts via the web.

Then make sure a person can not past a large number of recipients (like thousands) into the To field.

I don't use Yahoo and Microsoft free accounts because they are CRAP -- spammers can hack into their flawed business logics. (Just too many spammers use them from them).

as CBG might say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163657)


Goodmail just wants to eliminate all free spam (3, Interesting)

Thagg (9904) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163658)

The Goodmail "solution" is the worst of all possible worlds. What they want to do is convince people doing spam filtering that paid-for spam should still go through. They want to raise the quality of the spam, not get rid of it.

Please. That's not the answer.


In the Workplace (2, Insightful)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163665)

This would put a huge damper on collaberation with companies. If it cost me for all the eails I send for the projects I work on then I wouldn't send them. It would make my job harder and make the products I work on more costly and and take longer to due just due to the fact of it slowing down my work or i have to wait longer for things.

List owners can raise cash for stamps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163668)

...by selling their lists to:


Grief, adding 'postage' to email is gonna totally kill the 'new economy'. A technological solution is needed, not an economical one.

Microsoft is revisiting failed "solutions" of the (1)

Black Art (3335) | more than 10 years ago | (#8163673)

None of the proposals by Microsoft and Yahoo are new. They have been suggested on mailing lists like Cypherpunks for over five years now.

Every time they get posted, the same reasons get pointed out why they will not work.

What it has proved is that people are willing to cling to an idea long after it has been proven to be false.

The anti-spam crowd can now be officially declared a religion.

What again!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163675)

This joke comes around every couple of years and always manages to reel in a few suckers... a journalist as well this time it appears!

pay (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8163676)

I fully agree with Farber. Why on Earth should we have to pay for a service that works perfectly fine while free, or almost free(pay to get the address to which mail is sent). I get spam everyday, I also get a credit card, DVD, CD, or some other offer in my snail mailbox everyday. I'm not really a big save the trees guy, but for me it is easy and less guilty to put email in the trash than it is to put real letters in the trash.
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