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Pay-per-email and the "Market Myth"

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the if-you-only-read-one-article-today dept.

295

Bennett Haselton has written a thoughtful piece on the latest developments in the pay-for-email schemes making the rounds from some of the big players in the world of AOL. This one is really worth your time, so please click on and read what he has to say.

AOL created quite a stir in February when they announced that senders would soon be able to bypass the company's junk mail filters by paying a quarter-penny per message to a company called Goodmail, which would split the revenue with AOL. EFF and MoveOn.org argued, in an open letter posted at DearAOL.com and co-signed by many groups including Peacefire, that once the big players were able to bypass AOL's mail filters for a fee, there would be less pressure on AOL to fix problems with non-paying senders being blocked, and that the quarter-penny would become a de facto "e-mail tax" for newsletter publishers if other ISPs followed suit.

At the N-TEN conference last Thursday in Seattle, I had the chance to talk to Charles Stiles, the AOL postmaster, and Richard Gingras, the CEO of Goodmail, after a panel discussion about Goodmail's system, where they clarified some issues. First, if you pay for a GoodMail stamp, your mail not only bypasses AOL's junk mail filters, it also gets displayed to the user with a blue ribbon indicating "This mail has been certified" -- which is a promise to the user that GoodMail has actually done a "background check" on the organization and found them to be a "good actor". (So it's mainly useful for banks, as a way of saying "This is not a phishing attack", and for charities, as a way of saying "We are a legitimate charity".) Stiles said that AOL will continue offering a free whitelisting program for people to bypass the filters, where anyone can apply to join the whitelist (even though this can be easily abused by spammers as well, but AOL offers it anyway because most spammers don't bother). If you're on the whitelist, you don't get the little blue "Certified Email" ribbon, but you do get past the junk mail filters.

So, what's everyone so worried about, if anyone can bypass the filters for free? Well, one problem is that this is where Hotmail used to be, before they started requiring senders to pay a fee to bypass their filters. At one time, if your newsletter was being wrongly blocked by Hotmail, you could fill out a questionnaire with some verification information, and they would add you to the whitelist, which is what we once did to get the Peacefire newsletter un-blocked. However, once Hotmail started using Bonded Sender, a third-party company that requires you to post a $2,000 bond in order to get on their whitelist, Hotmail revoked the free whitelistings that had been given out in the past. If your newsletter is being blocked by Hotmail's filters, no matter how many people vouch for you as a non-spammer, the only way to make sure you get past the filters is to pay the $2,000 to Bonded Sender. (I refused to pay the fee, and of the last seven messages that I sent to our press list, all of them got labeled by Hotmail as "Junk Mail".)

Charles from AOL seemed sincere in saying that AOL's free whitelisting won't go away. But he can't promise or guarantee anything, and someday it'll be someone else's decision. And other ISPs, most of which do not have free whitelists, will be tempted to use GoodMail as a de facto whitelist, such that senders that don't pay will have a greater chance of being blocked.

But I think there's a bigger problem underlying all of this. It's not about specific problems with GoodMail's or AOL's or Hotmail's system. The problem is that many advocates of these systems say that any flaws will get sorted out automatically by "the market" -- and in this case I think that is simply wrong. And in fact the people on Thursday's panel can't really believe it either, because one thing we all agreed on was that Bonded Sender sucks. But has the marketplace punished Hotmail for using it? Have people left in droves because non-Bonded-Sender e-mail gets blocked? No, because if they never see it getting blocked they don't know what happens. Free markets only solve problems that are actually visible to the user.

And this is why groups like EFF and Peacefire are rallying against pay-per-mail. We don't protest bad ideas. We protest bad ideas that could cause harm because by their nature, the marketplace will not kill them. Think about it: if AOL announced that they were going to start charging $100/month for dial-up, would we care? Would MoveOn send out e-mail warnings to its AOL subscribers? Would the EFF start a coalition against it? No, because users will abandon AOL over something like that, and the marketplace will kill it. But people don't abandon their provider over wrongly blocked e-mail if they don't even know it's happening. And thus pay-per-mail could become a de facto standard because it's invisible to customers.

If Microsoft released a new version of IE with huge ugly buttons that were hard to understand, would civic-minded groups and public advocates complain? No, because that problem will sort itself out through browser competition. It's when Microsoft releases features that have bad implications for user privacy and security, that civic groups and experts complain loudly -- because most people can't assess the privacy and security risks of using their browser, and so the marketplace alone won't solve that. (Microsoft knows this, of course, which is why they have sometimes released features that have bad implications for users' privacy and security, but they never made the buttons big and ugly.)

This is what I think people like Esther Dyson don't understand, when she wrote her editorial in the New York Times: Partly she wrote why she thought GoodMail was a great idea, but mainly she wrote that she didn't see why EFF and other groups were so upset, when if the idea turns out not to work, it will die in the market. "If they [AOL] don't do a good job of ensuring that customers get the mail they want, even from nonpaying senders, they will lose their customers." But that's simply not true. Hotmail subjects anyone to random blocking who doesn't pay the $2,000 Bonded Sender fee, and there's no evidence that it has caused them to lose customers.

Private companies do not have the absolute right to do whatever they want with your mail. If you sign up to receive mail from someone, and they send you an e-mail, then that e-mail is your property; if your ISP knows that the sender is almost certainly not a spammer, then they are violating the sender's and receiver's rights if they block the message. (Not First Amendment rights -- those only apply to government laws -- but rights based on contracts and implied warranties, since I think an e-mail address comes with an implied warranty that your contacts will be able to send you mail for free. So stop composing your -- yes, this means YOU -- stop composing your message saying that First Amendment rights don't apply to private companies.) EFF and other advocacy groups are working on anti-spam solutions that respect these rights, and you may agree or disagree with their proposals. But the point is that they should be commended for realizing that the marketplace will not preserve these rights "automatically".

After the N-TEN panel on Thursday, since I had sent a "communication" to Richard Gingras from Goodmail by asking him a question, I handed him a penny and reminded him that, per his agreement with AOL, he had to give half of it to them. I hope I never have to pay Goodmail anything again to get my message through, and I hope you never have to either.

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ISP (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017738)

Guess I'll stay with Road Runner.

Me too - no filters for me, please (2, Interesting)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018050)

I guess I'm a luddite, but I have never been a fan of "managed email services". I don't want filtering, and I don't want to leave my messages on someone else's server.

All I want is a data pipe, please. Don't filter my content, just give me a pipe with as much speed as I can pay for.

I don't use email filters because I don't trust them to not block important content. When one email address starts to attract spam, I just delete it and create a new one. I put an auto-responder on the old account that says, "To my friends: this account has attracted too much spam - please contact me offline for my new email address". Within a month, everyone important has my new email. I do this ritual about once every six months.

If I didn't have to give out my email address for every damn thing on the web I could go a lot longer.

Steve

Re:ISP (1)

DesertWolf0132 (718296) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018139)

Hate to break it to you but Road Runner is owned by Time Warner, or should I say AOL/Time Warner... While Time Warner has yet to do any real filtering you can assume it is coming down the pipe.

This is why I use my own web server to host my corporate email and GMail for my personal stuff. ISP's are under pressure to filter junk mail while not annoying advertisers. If they can let some advertising through while making a quick buck to them it is win-win. Looking at it from an ISP stand point it is far easier to whitelist a few corporate clients while blocking all others. They would only get complaints from the few people who actually know they are missing out instead of the myriad of SPAM complaints they get now. With hosting your own email, you decide what gets filtered. Of course this is not a viable solution for non-sysadmin types.

It is our job as the educated on the topic to protect the end user by speaking out against stupid decisions made by pencil pushers looking only at the bottom line. In "protecting" the client from "spam" they whore themselves to the highest bidder.

the real problem (0, Troll)

scenestar (828656) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017742)

Is that e-mail was really just a quick late night hack that eventually became extremely popular.

now we have to deal with the consequences.

look it up if you don't believe me.

Email was not a "late night hack" (2, Informative)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017798)

look it up if you don't believe me.

You insinuate that hardly any work at all went into the creation of email. This says otherwise [livinginternet.com] .

Re:Email was not a "late night hack" (1)

Minwee (522556) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017847)

No, he's insinuating that email was a quick hack that became very popular.

This even says so [livinginternet.com] .

Maybe you should read it.

Re:Email was not a "late night hack" (2, Interesting)

davecb (6526) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017861)

Interesting, but it doesn't go back far enough! Back in the dawn of time, a colleague showed me the mail option in ftp (!), before sending me off to write GCOS Internet Mail in my choice of B or C (;-))

--dave

Re:the real problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15017852)

And tell me, what does that have to do with spam?

Re:the real problem (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018029)

. . .what does that have to do with spam?

By virtue of the fact that the early developers of email never thought that you might well get email, lots and lots of email, from people you not only didn't know, but didn't want to know; and thus did not take this scenario into account when developing the protocols.

Whether or not they wanted their penises enlarged I leave as an exercise for the student.

KFG

Re:the real problem (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017913)

Would a long, slow design done in broad daylight be any different?
My take on the situation is that email was first rolled out amongst liberal academia with self control and ethics who honestly beleive that if you can just make technology available to "everybody" we would all somehow benefit - that is, that believe in some innate 'goodness' in people to do The Right Thing® and the only reason for crime and mischief is want and poverty, etc. Now that anybody can get into a system where they can reach out and anonymously be a jerk just because they want to, it's a problem.

Re:the real problem (3, Interesting)

kimvette (919543) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018223)

I think you're referring to spam as the consequence?

Well, the reason mail is the way it became is that a few universities, defense contractors, and government organizations needed to communicate, and given the reliability of network equipment of the time, open relays were a necessity to ensure that email got through. The reason that something along the lines of SPF didn't come into play from the beginning is multifold; DNS wasn't around (hosts were maintained in host files at each site), every organization on ARPANET was 100% trusted, and there was no incentive to forge emails nor to do what we now call "spamming" - in fact the few early advertisements which went out in targeted emails were heavily criticized.

When ARPANET became the Internet and DNS came into being due to the volume of hosts going online, open relays were still the standard, not due to network reliability (which had significantly improved) but due to legacy support. To maintain backwards compatibility SMTP stayed pretty much as-is from day one, and with the harsh criticisms that followed early email advertisemtns from trusted organizations, no one really anticipated a number of things:

  - Internet access becoming a commodity (Quantum Link and Compuserve were just coming into their own then, and dial-up to proprietary online services was the wave of the future beyond private BBSes)
  - Everyone having multiple, multiple email addresses
  - Commercial entities abusing the network

In hindsight it was quite obvious that things like SPF would be required but given the Internet's early history (and computer networking in general) it's clear why they didn't think of security and sender verification when first implementing an email solution.

What AOL, Hotmail, and others SHOULD do is not use that GoodMail crap (it's not good sense to do that!) but to make SPF required rather than optional. If you want to send email to AOL recipients, on your authoritative servers, you must list which hosts are actually allowed to send emails from your domain via an SPF record, and all emails from your host not meeting the SPF rules will be regarded as spam and not even make it to the receiver's inbox.

This puts the onus totally on the senders. Want your mailing lists to make it through to the receiver? Make sure your listserver is listed in your SPF rules.

This is why SPF was proposed in the first place; to overcome issues arising from legacy support, to work around open relay-originating spam without having to block legitimate email from open relays, and to avoid the need for whitelisting.

Want to learn more about SPF? Check out http://www.openspf.org/ [openspf.org]

Posting this reminds me: I need to update our SPF records. Oops! :-/

Email taxes (1)

liliafan (454080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017744)

Why are aol worrying about spam we are living in a 'spam free world' now Bill Gates [cbsnews.com] promised sheesh another example of AOL jumping on the bandwagon with to little to late.

Seriously though I really object to the idea of any system that requires any form of pay to use for email, it opens up a very worrying reality of email tax, lets face the US government started charging for the phone system to pay for WW1 [tea-circle.com] whats next email tax to pay for the war in Iraq.

Re:Email taxes (1)

ect5150 (700619) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017793)

But the issue here is there is no real way to police a tax on email, where as phones, there are. If I send an email via some server in Poland over some random encrypted port, how are they to know? Then there is the issue that other forms of comuncation exist. If the tax is high, they'd kill off email, and lose that tax revenue. Its just not likely to happen for numerous reasons.

Re:Email taxes (1)

liliafan (454080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017851)

If I send an email via some server in Poland over some random encrypted port, how are they to know


This is true but then there is always ways around this isn't there, if your ISP is required to tax you on all traffic on port 25 and they see traffic on this port they can automatically add the .5c email tax, they don't need to see the content of the mail they just need to know the communication took place.

Re:Email taxes (1)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017937)

GP: ...over some random encrypted port...

P: ...traffic on port 25...

It is rather easy to set up servers to run on nonstandard ports. I could see many people doing this as a way to bypass a "tax firewall" if it ever got that far.

Re:Email taxes (1)

liliafan (454080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017959)

It is rather easy to set up servers to run on nonstandard ports. I could see many people doing this as a way to bypass a "tax firewall" if it ever got that far.


Of course it is, however, lets face it does your grandmother know how to do this? How about the other 99% of the internet users that do not know how to do this? Yes there would be ways to circumvent this tax, there is ways to circumvent the telephone tax but the vast majority of the population wouldn't know how.

Re:Email taxes (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15017807)

Punctuation. Learn it. Love it. Use it.

Market Solutions (3, Interesting)

w.p.richardson (218394) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017773)

If you aren't getting emails that you are expecting, you would know about it. This would piss you off and you would find another way of getting the messages.

If you aren't getting emails that you aren't expecting, oh well, that's spam.

I disagree with the assertion that the market would not kill off this idea. If you aren't getting emails you expect (as has happened to me in the past) you will seek an alternative solution. If it's really important, there's this device called a telephone whereby you can actually speak with someone else in urgent situations.

Re:Market Solutions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15017803)

If you aren't getting emails that you are expecting, you would know about it... If you aren't getting emails that you aren't expecting, oh well, that's spam.

Actually, you might want to check your network cable...

Re:Market Solutions (1)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017951)

If you can connect to the mail server over the network and fail to receive email you are expecting, especially if you know through another channel that you should have that email (e.g. telling a professor you emailed a project but he didn't receive it), I don't think the network cable is to blame.

Re:Market Solutions (4, Insightful)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017853)

They gave an example in the article of an email you want but aren't expecting: anouncement newsletters that you've signed up for.

I'm on the OpenBSD-security-announce list for example: Where OpenBSD announces when they've found a security bug. I never expect an email from them, but if they send one I want it.

The problem, as they see it, is that if I didn't get an email sent by that list I'd never know. I don't know when or if it was sent. But I still want the email.

This is one of the most common uses of email. It is something spam tries to hide as. A good spam-fighting solution must be able to handle it. Sender-pays doesn't, espcially for small/free projects.

Re:Market Solutions (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017993)

Have you considered that email lists like that might just be a bad idea in general? It seems to me that that kind of thing would be better implemented using RSS instead.

Of course, it doesn't change the fact that pay-per-email is a bad idea anyway...

Re:Market Solutions (3, Informative)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018165)

I can see why reading it using an RSS reader might be better (and most email clients these days can do the same things), but I'm not really sure why sending it that way would be better. At the very least it means everyone who wants to check to see if there are new messages will have to hit your server every time they check. If people are on a lot of these annonuncment lists (which I am) that would mean hitting a large number of servers very day to check for one-two messages a month (total). Email, at the very least, would generate a lot less internet traffic.

As far as I can tell it would be the same info either way, so the less load on my connections is preferred.

Re:Market Solutions (1)

SpaceCadetTrav (641261) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018155)

Compare the Goodmail system to signed SSL Certificates that EVERY commerce website uses to establish trust. NOBODY complains about having to buy a certificate from a trusted authority who is supposed to verify that you are a legitimate company. If you don't buy a certificate, you can still sign your own certificate, but your users will be warned by their browser that your certificate is not "Trusted". This is almost identical to the Goodmail system. If you do not pay to be certified by Goodmail, your email can still get through. It will just have to go through the normal spam filters that we already deal with EVERY DAY.

Re:Market Solutions (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018252)

But the point is that there's no guarantee that the free certification won't go away, causing your email to simply vanish into the aether. Even if browsers stopped supporting self-signed certificates it would be obvious to the user that something was going on, as they'd surf to a website and not get what they were expecting.

That's the difference - in the former scenario, there's an excellent chance that the user would be none the wiser, while in the latter, it's obvious that something's going on.

Re:Market Solutions (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15017858)

Except that if you don't get emails you're expecting, it's always the sender's fault.

I work with a clinic that does email notifications of appointments, and when someone signs up for our email and doesn't get their reminder, it's never their fault for forgetting to whitelist us, it's always our fault for typing in their address wrong or forgetting to write them their email.

Fortunately, when people are barfing all over the floor or their baby's got a fever of 105, they don't get so pissy when you tell them to look in their spam folder because it was their fault for forgetting to whitelist us.

Re:Market Solutions (4, Insightful)

Mr Guy (547690) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017860)

This is obviously spoken as someone who has never had to manage a mailing list. Having helped my father, a missionary, in touch with his supporters has caused me no end to heartache and heartburn as people on AOL and Hotmail have constant trouble with everything from opt-in confirmations to receiving the letters, to casual communication between them getting blocked because the mailing list was already blocked. Then you have the idiots that opt-in and decide they don't want it anymore and actually do hit the "Spam" button.

The users just don't understand that their ISP is hiding their email from them. For whatever reason, they are convinced their email is just fine, it's got to be a problem with the list.

Re:Market Solutions (4, Insightful)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017910)

The obvious solution is to refuse to add hotmail or AOL addresses to the mailing list. Explain that hotmail wants to charge missionaries $2000 (or whatever) in order to accept their mail, start a letter writing campaign, etc.

If enough people do that, well that's a market solution.

Re:Market Solutions (3, Insightful)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017865)

It's not just an assertion it's an observation - hotmail is doing just fine.

A lot of the time legitimate email is unexpected.. sales and support queries for example. And their replies... if an aol customer sends you a sales query and aol blocks the reply it has cost *you* money as you have lost a customer. AOL user thinks you didn't bother replying and buys from someone else. It's worse with support - AOL user things you can't be bothered replying, tells all is friends that you suck because you never reply to support queries and you lose multiple potential customers. None of this hurts AOL - the market does *not* kill it off.

Re:Market Solutions (1)

mlouie (942492) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017998)

My thoughts exactly. I don't use AOL myself but my ISP filters spam and I have to look carefully through my spam list every day to find e-mail from customers and potential customers that it has filtered out, to unblock it and add to my whitelist. I'm also involved in some organizations and the first time any group member e-mails me, the spam filter usually blocks it (even though I have it set to the minimum aggressiveness possible). So for anyone involved in organizations or running a business, you have to be able to receive e-mails from people that have not e-mailed you in the past, where you may not be expecting e-mail from them and where you probably don't know their phone number and they may not know yours so calling is not an option. And for customers who have AOL, it is a real problem if I can't reach them because they will think I didn't respond to their query. We have a very small home-based business and can't afford to pay for sending e-mail (such as paying Hotmail $2K).

Re:Market Solutions (2, Funny)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017869)

If it's really important, there's this device called a telephone whereby you can actually speak with someone else in urgent situations.

Yeah, it's called "VoIP" I hear.

Re:Market Solutions (1)

twofidyKidd (615722) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017905)

When my friends or family email me, I may not be expecting them to do so, but I certainly expect the email to get to me.

Also, in the case of listservs and such, if I sign up for a newsletter, and then forget later that I have, when none of the messages have reached me, I won't know that I should have been expecting them until I remember later. I should, however, have expected the service provider to deliver them to my inbox.

Re:Market Solutions (1)

taskforce (866056) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017908)

To an average Joe Sixpack, they would probably assume it was a problem at the other end and that the person didn't send the email properly. Either that or they have a "virus".

Re:Market Solutions (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017912)

If you aren't getting emails that you aren't expecting, oh well, that's spam.

Umm, wouldn't the failure of getting emails that are not expected be considered spam protection instead? I mean, if you're not expecting an email, and you're not getting it, that seems to me like you've got good filterng setup, or at least have a good whitelist.

I call BS, not all legit mail is expected (3, Insightful)

gentimjs (930934) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017961)

College room mate from 10 years ago finds you online and decides to say hi, City hall emails you a reminder to re-register your car, there are plenty of examples of unexpected emails that are legit and could be blocked.
From my own personal experience, I recieved unexpected email in 2002 from my father whom I had not heard from in almost 12 years.... I'm kinda a little happy that "the market" wasnt the arbitrating factor if I recieved that mail or not ....

Re:Market Solutions (1)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017978)

If it's really important, there's this device called a telephone whereby you can actually speak with someone else in urgent situations.

The first thing that popped in my head was the scene from Terminator 3 where the evil terminator is making modem sounds over a cell phone to get at data in a remote system. Telephones may work for simple messages, but anything more complex such as files just doesn't make the transition.

Re:Market Solutions (2, Insightful)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018143)

So, your definition of "spam" is "any e-mail I wasn't expecting to get?" I won't belabor the ridiculousness of that argument, but lots of people get lots of valuable, "unexpected" mail all the time.

But I will belabor the wastefulness of trying to use a phone as a substitute for e-mail. Say my organization wants to announce an event. Instead of using e-mail (and ignoring cases where I have an e-mail address but not a phone number), I have to spend days calling people up, determining whether they're interested, waiting while they run and get a pen, dictating all the information that they need to get to the event, etc. That is time and energy my preferred non-profits shouldn't have to waste. They could just write up the info, choose a good heading that lets me decide within two seconds whether I'm interested, and send it to everyone.

There are organizations I'd like to hear from, who will have a great deal of trouble using e-mail to reach me if this goes into effect.

Re:Market Solutions (2, Funny)

Foolicious (895952) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018225)

What is this "telephone" you write of? By your use of "speak", it's sounds like some sort of device that may require social skills that we have not mastered. How am I to pretend I am smart and important and not a shy, sweaty loser if the person on the other end can actually interact with me without the social, soft and hard firewalls to which I've become accustomed? And this "telephone" is real time, too? Yikes!

It will affect us more than them (3, Interesting)

Metatron (21064) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017781)

From my experience working for an ISP, business is more likely to be affect ed for organisations that don't pay for Goodmail certificates. End users just see one thing - email you sent me doesn't get to my AOL account, but email that othercorp sends me does. They don't care about the technicalities of what systems AOL is using that are getting in the way, all they see is service works from x but not y. Large email providers like hotmail and AOL hold everyone else in the palms of their hands, either we play ball, or we lose business.

Re:It will affect us more than them (1)

emptybody (12341) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017960)

This is analagous to SSL.
I have to pay a "verisign tax" to get a CERT that will validate with the pre-installed roots distributed with IE and FIREFOX etc.

I cannot simply self sign.

In the case of this email,
I will not be able to get the blue ribbon without paying an "aol tax" to get their solution du jour.

Re:It will affect us more than them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018171)

That is exactly the whole point. Only the bigger businesses will be able to afford to send email in the future. What about non-profits? What about your friendly bug-tracker lists? What about your daily junk mail from your friend about postings on /.?

This solution really doesn't solve any of the problems....it only makes it more expensive for real businesses to do business with you.

Was there a story? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15017782)

Was there a story here? My web filter might have deleted any story that might have been here.

New heights of disingenuousness from Peacefire! (1, Interesting)

YU Nicks NE Way (129084) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017783)

Wow! The EFF and associates have managed to trump their past inanity.

The author complains that his organization is unwilling to pay $2000 to send bulk mail past Hotmail's filters, and then complains that it is a violation of the sender's and receiver's rights to block the resulting mail as junk mail, basing this on an implied contract with the receiver. That reaches new heights of disingenuousness.

First, it ignores the possibility of the recipient creating a new account somewhere else. If AOL gives people free whitelisting, and MSN doesn't -- and there's a solid market for that -- then recipients will add AOL accounts to which the whitelisted people and organizations can send. The market in recipient mailboxes is highly competitive because there's no reason for a recipient to only have one online identity.

Second, it claims an implicit contract which is not present. There is an explicit contract between account holder and account provider: that non-spam email as viewed by the account provider will be delivered. Those are the TOS for all free email providers, to which the user acceeded when he or she signed up for the service.

Third, there's no implicit contract whatsoever with the sender -- and it is the sender who's complaining here, not the recipient. Peacefire.org is free to collect donations for its two grand -- but it won't. OK, but that's a demand the sender has made, not a choice the email provider has sanctioned. In a word...tough. Form a coalition of organizations which will prestamp the mail, if that's an issue.

Re:New heights of disingenuousness from Peacefire! (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017886)

Market forces require market knowledge.

If your mother sends you an email saying your dad's in the hospital and you don't get it because it was sent from a hospital computer instead of their usual account, you're going to rush right out and get a new account so you can get this email? Or are you going to live your life blissfully unaware of the fact that important messages are being dropped on the floor?

Re:New heights of disingenuousness from Peacefire! (1)

YU Nicks NE Way (129084) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017939)

Turn it around -- if you get an "important email" about, say, your PayPal account from a hospital computer, do you want it delivered? No, you don't.

Re:New heights of disingenuousness from Peacefire! (1)

bhirsch (785803) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017982)

Personally, my family is still not socially inept enough to opt for email over the telephone for communicating news of medical emergencies.

Re:New heights of disingenuousness from Peacefire! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15017903)

..... with the receiver. That reaches new heights of disingenuousness. ....

Someone went overboard with the thesaurus. For those without one, it means insecure or insecurity.

Saw that word and was like well, I don't need coffee now. I am awake. That or I am still in bed and having a SAT nightmare...

AOL == Internet (For AOLers) (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017986)

First, it ignores the possibility of the recipient creating a new account somewhere else.

Any AOL customer that does is essentially an extreme outlier.

Second, it claims an implicit contract which is not present.

That contract is present. Very, very, very much so.

It all goes back to what AOL actually is to the end customer. AOL isn't just their ISP. AOL, quite literally is the internet. For the vast majority of AOL's customers, there is no distinction between the concept of "The internet" and "AOL". To suggest that other ISPs exists, or that other email providers can be used, would be akin to suggesting a third dimension to residents of flatland.

AOL customers get an aol email account. To them, this is email, full stop. There is no other way to get email. What AOL does, is how email works. If AOL charge them $0.25 per email, they will pay and/or email less, as to their minds, there is no other way.

Now you could say; "Well AOL aren't to blame for their customer's being 'clueless lusers'!". But you see, that's where you'd be wrong.

AOL, as an ISP, as a company, has succeeded by promoting this false world view. It has become the number one ISP in America by actively and consciously perpetuating, both in the minds of existing and potential customers, that "AOL is the Internet".

It has engineering its software and systems to reinforce this idea into the heads of its customers, going so far as to provide an AOL browser for its customers to access both websites and email, and of course the AOL IM client. For the AOL user, the entire concept of any electronic communications over IP is inextricably linked to AOL.

And that's why this statement:
Third, there's no implicit contract whatsoever with the sender -- and it is the sender who's complaining here, not the recipient.

Is not entirely correct. When you send an email to an aol address, you know, ninty nine times out of one hundred, that the user on the other end is not just using AOL as an ISP. They are using AOL as a kind of internet care worker. They expect AOL to help them where they cannot help themselves, i.e. help them use email and browse the web.

It's rather like the relationship between a senile, invalid senior citizen and their health care workers. Their is a large element of essentially blind trust on the part of the AOL users towards AOL. They implicitly assume your emails will get through because AOL is "good", and will not even question if they do not arrive, and will also hesitate to complain if they suspect treachery for fear of being "cut off".

AOL have consciously and actively brought about this situation. The implicit relationship is real, and so too is the requirement that AOL act in good faith to their online invalids. Hence, the plan to tax email is a breach of good faith, and an clear example of AOL duplicitously taking advantage of people they have actively decieved.

Re:New heights of disingenuousness from Peacefire! (1)

hal9000(jr) (316943) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017992)

First, it ignores the possibility of the recipient creating a new account somewhere else. The market in recipient mailboxes is highly competitive because there's no reason for a recipient to only have one online identity.

Your assuming that people even want to have multiple email accounts. I will make the assumption that the majority of Inernet users have at most, two accounts. One provided by thier business and possibly one provided thier ISP, free account service, etc, for personal email.

I think the message here is if a sender is being blocked by an email provider provider like AOL or Hotmail, then chances are that is not enough to move "customers" to another provider and therefore market forces won't change the bahavior of customers.

Besides, you think that change your phone number is difficult, try changing your email address. Ugh.

AOL is free? (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018084)

Anyway, the primary lameness I see with the argument is that the spam filters no doubt are filtering out bulk email, that is, those with a truckload of cc: and/or bcc: addresses. If they simply sent out individual emails--which I would prefer as I scream bloody murder at people who stick my address in a visible CC: line with 987 of their closest friends--I'm betting it'd pass the filters, no problem. I just can't see how a true "newsletter" format could otherwise be reliably identified...unless it involved l33t$P34|<, V14GRA and pr0n.

Two dots not connected (5, Insightful)

Southpaw018 (793465) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017784)

There are two dots that are not connected in this article: the little "blue ribbon" thing and the de facto tax. The author claims that the fee would become a de facto tax due to less pressure on AOL itself to fix problems.
The connection not made is that there is another reason it would become a de facto tax. I work for a nonprofit organization. If an AOL user knows that organizations and companies who have become certified get a blue ribbon, and we don't pay up, then the customer's question becomes this:
Why don't you have a blue ribbon, too?
That hurts us. And it's yet another reason this amounts to extortion.

Re:Two dots not connected (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018146)

The bottom line is that AOL and Hotmail customers insist on receiving email from their friends and family, and from Amazon and EBay. Getting newsletters from you and Bennett Haselton is a bonus, but given a choice between giving them up and having to deal with spam while "EFF and other advocacy groups are working on anti-spam solutions" (because, y'know, that'll be done any day now), they'll live without your email.

Defining customers not leaving Hotmail because they can't get email from Bennett Haselton as a "market failure" seems like a peculiar defintion of "market".

Phew the junk will be marked (3, Insightful)

wile_e_wonka (934864) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017787)

At least we know now that we'll be able to easily recognize junkmail that paid its way passed the filter--it'll have a "blue ribbon." Blue ribbon=certified junk mail.

Thoughts (2, Insightful)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017796)

I see several possibilities:
- Spammers copy and paste the blue ribbon into their spam templates in 1/100th of the time it took Goodmail to come up with and implement it.
- Spammers sign up for Goodmail to send some of their spam out, in quantities that will allow the cost to be worth it. The spam folder in your e-mail just became worthless.
- I refuse to use Goodmail, and my legitimate e-mails start ending up in Spam. I encourage users of services that do this to switch to "a better e-mail service with better filters", namely one that does not support Goodmail.

Re:Thoughts (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017892)

Got it in one. Spammers are far more likely to pay for this than legitimate businesses.

And spammers can hide behind legitimacy real easily... I've seen some that had all the (fake) references, 'opt in' policies, the works... and they still spammed mercilessly.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15017971)

(no text...) Murphy's law -- never seem to have mod points when you want them.

Re:Thoughts (2, Informative)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018193)

How ignorant can one person be? If ignorance were radioactive, you would have achieved critical mass.

  1. images are turned off by default in anything that remotely looks like spam.
  2. Goodmail customers have to *pay* to have a background check done on them.
  3. Goodmail will have competitors. They already have competition in the form of AOL's whitelist and enhanced whitelist.

Tell me that this is not an April fools joke (0)

Advocadus Diaboli (323784) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017801)

Sorry, but this is ridicolous. If this is true than I'm happy that I'm living in a country that has a law that communcitation carriers are NOT allowed to NOT deliver communication.

Re:Tell me that this is not an April fools joke (1)

wile_e_wonka (934864) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017871)

So email providers may not provide spam filters in your country? And you are thankful for this? I must be misunderstanding something. Do people in your country like to receive spam? What country is this--I think this is of interest to spammers--the country where every spam makes it through.

Additionally, is AOL and Goodmail, etc only available in the US?

Email your property?? I'm not so sure. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15017806)

Private companies do not have the absolute right to do whatever they want with your mail. If you sign up to receive mail from someone, and they send you an e-mail, then that e-mail is your property

I'm not sure that this is the case. IANAL, but I'm pretty sure that, in the UK, "snail mail" immediately becomes property of the crown when you put it in a post box (and it used to be a serious criminal offense to tamper/steal it, since you were effectively tampering with / stealing crown property). However, when you send an email, I know of no such similar legal statute for email. My guess is that, although you'd like it to be different, the contents of your email become the "property" of the service provider as soon as you hit "send". If any lawyers out there want to correct me, I'm fine with that.

Real mail (1)

matt328 (916281) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017816)

Lets compare email to real mail, using the USPS as an example. Imagine if postage was free and paper/printing was also free. Your mailbox would be exploding with junk mail. (Some days mine does anyway, even with costs of postage and paper and printing) This fictional scenario, I think closely (but not perfectly) mirrors the current email system. The whole spam problem should have been forseen.

Re:Real mail (3, Insightful)

robertjw (728654) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017943)

This fictional scenario, I think closely (but not perfectly) mirrors the current email system. The whole spam problem should have been forseen.

That is a great analogy but I'm not sure your conclusions are right. As the price has went UP over the last 15 or so years I have noticed that the concentration of legitimate letter mail I get has went down. Bulk advertising or 'Spam' mail has actually increased in percentage. Individuals and companies I actually do business with have started using email rather than pay high postage rates. Many companies offer incentives so you can get your bills deliverd in email format.

If postage and paper was free we might get significantly more advertising, but we also might see more people drop a card in the mail once in a while with a written note. Cost is a significant factor for me in wanting to pay bills online and send email to friends rather than written notes.

The USPS has done exactly what AOL is trying to do. They have catered to big business that can see an ROI on their investment. Everyone else that sends letters 'First Class' and isn't trying to spam postal patrons gets screwed.

Re:Real mail (2, Funny)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018023)

Sure, but in that hypothetical situation, the junk mailers' boxes would be full, too. As it is I use those postage paid envelopes to return all sorts of interesting stuff. Usually I just return the contents of the original envelope, but sometimes I pick up random junk off my desk that will fit in there. Used kleenex, shredded paper, page from a playboy, etc. I figure eventually they'll figure out that I don't ever want to hear from them again. If they don't figure it out, I get more free entertainment. Yes, I am easily amused.

Re:Real mail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018091)

Your entertainment worked for me. I've been doing this, but just returning their mail and other flyer type crap to overload their return postage costs. Gradually our just mail has been reduced to be from those companies we've actually done business with.

Re:Real mail (2, Insightful)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018039)

You cannot compare the two things. E-mail is more akin to an extremely decentralized mail system where everyone can turn into a postman at their whim. The absence of a huge central infrastructure makes it so that the cost of delivering your mail does not fall on the system itself; rather, on your own mailservers. If my ISP asked me for money to send email, well 1. I'm already paying a flat fee for always-on and 2. I'd set up my own server and be happy with it. Actually... I'd probably do it even if nobody forced me.

You mean: commercial email (2, Interesting)

ccozan (754085) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018147)

Mind you the original email had nothing commercial in it. It became so, and thus giving birth to spam because some of the companies offered it as a product. The only way out of spam would be creating a kind of VPN of SMTP servers, so that one accepts email only from an "authenticated" SMTP. It's wrongly to solve this problem in a commercial way, because it creates corruption, while the democratic way would be to solve it technically. Maybe an SMPT authority needs to be created, an subdivision of ICANN maybe.

 

It won't work! (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017825)

Well, AOL are joking. I first came into the locus of email in 1997 with Hotmail. When Microsoft bought them off, I found myself recieving tones of spam and junk. Out went Microsoft's hotmail and in came Yahoo!

Over the years, I became bored with Yahoo since they could not offer their Launchcast service on anything other than Internet Explorer and Windows. I dumped them in and now GMAIL is the answer.

The point is, there are many providers willing to provide email sevices for "free". If a provider "fools arround", folks (myself at the forefront), are very much willing to jump ship!

Re:It won't work! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15017872)

wow! that's great!! Google has a music service now? That's good to know. I just pray you don't get too bored with gmail.

Re:It won't work! (1)

ndg123 (801212) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017984)

but changing your email address every couple of years is really annoying.

Hotmail, do they really? (3, Interesting)

RingDev (879105) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017828)

"Hotmail subjects anyone to random blocking who doesn't pay the $2,000 Bonded Sender fee"

Do they actually block the email, or do they just send it to your junk mail folder? I am on numerous email lists, and I find it hard to believe that any of them would have coughed up the $2k to avoid getting blocked. Those emails all go to my junk mail folder by default (I have my in box set up with a white list), which is right where I want them to go. They sit in there for 7 days for my review and get deleted on their own, no need for me to hold tri-mag build questions or Microsoft news letters for more then a one time read. So if the "blocking" is just getting sent to the junk mail folder, I say who cares.

On the other hand, allowing a company to stick their emails in my in box against my wishes (like some MS and Hotmail newsletters) really annoys me. It bothers me in the same way a two tier internet bothers me. It takes away the level playing field and turns the system itself into a capitalist entity.

But I do like the idea of a certified white list and verified emails. Anything to cut down on the number of phishing emails and exploitation of the uneducated computer using masses.

-Rick

In the meantime, I use the perfect spam solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15017920)

I just have my hotmail set up to block everything without a certain word in the subject line. Just pick something unusual that won't appear in spam (such as your initials. If you've never posted your middle name online, there ya go, instant "word"). Tell it to filter everything not containing that to the filtered mail.

Then, on your website if you have one, or tell your friends to have that in the subject line. I haven't seen a single spambot be able to read, understand, and follow the instructions I've listed on my webpage to include that word in the subject line. Problem solved.

Find a solution, another problem pops up (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017834)

If someone gets your email address, you will be spammed. Gmail's spam filters work very well and so does Yahoo. So far, spam filtering is the only working solution I have ever seen.

Massive spammers should be punished, but the problem is that once they are gone, another spammer moves in to take their place. People should know better about responding to spam mail, phishing attacks and the like...but unfortunately, there will always be people who don't.

The market doesn't solve all... (1, Redundant)

danpsmith (922127) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017849)

...that's what a lot of these new age libertarians don't understand. Like was stated above, the market can't solve problems the consumer doesn't know exist. If the problem isn't addressed in the media or apparent to the end user, the customer stays with the company. The market can't solve things like this, sweatshops, the commercial exploitation of all available land, and the list goes on. It's an important point to understand that there is a public interest in regulating some "market activity."

I wonder (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017856)

Will I still be able to mark certified mail as spam?

Just because some company has paid to send me mail does not mean I requested it.

It would be quite nice to see little blue ribbons in a spam folder.

Re:I wonder (3, Informative)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018233)

Will I still be able to mark certified mail as spam?

Yes. Certified Email only bypasses site filters; not an individual's filters.

Your Property? (1)

noseplug (831719) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017867)

"If you sign up to receive mail from someone, and they send you an e-mail, then that e-mail is your property"

Has this person read Yahoo's Terms of Service agreement?

E-Mail protocol needs to be redesigned (2, Insightful)

LinuxDon (925232) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017874)

As I've written before, the only way this spam stuff will be sorted out is when they redesign the SMTP protocol. All the legislation and 'pay-per-email' stuff won't solve anything. What e-mail requires is authentication in the protocol combined with black/whitelisting.
They should have the domain registrars hand out domain certificates with which e-mail communication has to be signed. In which case domain spoofing will be impossible and you could create domain block lists that work.

Re:E-Mail protocol needs to be redesigned (2, Interesting)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018259)

You mean, they should invent DomainKeys [yahoo.com] ?

Email tax breaks (1)

WisC (963341) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017878)

What they should really do to eradicate spam is give tax breaks for receiving junk email. That way we would be paid to receive government endorsed messages! In AOL Russia, email taxes you!

Blue Ribbons... (1)

rapturizer (733607) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017882)

To show the spammer really does want your business. Really though, will those that use AOL really know what the blue ribbin stands for. My relatives that use AOL are usually lucky if they can figure out how to get thier e-mail and/or open atttchments and the like. If AOL does this, I will just make it a point to move as many of them, and anyone else I know, to an ISP who doesn't charge or block e-mail.

There's only one person who knows.. (1)

PaulMdx (936509) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017895)

..whether the email I receive is solicited or not: me.

I refuse to use a provider that accepts money to whitelist messages that I may well consider unsolicited.

Spam => unsolicited commercial email.

AOL receiving some money does not make an email solicited.

Bennett Haselton? (0, Flamebait)

michrech (468134) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017907)

The same Bennett Haselton of peacefire.org [peacefire.org] ? The same Bennett Haselton with which I've exchanged email after email trying to get him to understand that, while it is his right to provide proxies to get around web filters, it was also my right to block what *I* want on *MY* connection? The very same Bennett Haselton who REMOVED me from the stupidcensorship mailing list (the one email account I was using anyway) so I would no longer receive notifications of new proxy web pages?

That Bennett Haselton?

Too bad for him that I'm signed up to that list with so many email addresses that he'd have to completely shut the list down to be 100% sure I'm not on it any longer.

If this is the same Bennett Haselton, well, I couldn't give two-shits less about *anything* he's got to say. As far as I'm concerned, he can kiss my shiny metal ass.

Re:Bennett Haselton? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018067)

That Bennett Haselton? - who also has not updated piecefire.org since 2003?

Mass senders have to MAKE users aware of issue (1)

debest (471937) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017934)

For every mail service that blocks received mail that does not pay the extortion fee, customers of those services need to be made aware of what their provider is doing. The problem of users not knowing what is being blocked goes away when you tell them up-front that it's going to happen!

There should be well-known list of providers (like Hotmail) that use this practice. Then there should be a standard page that can be freely used by anyone who offers a mailing-list subscription. What this page does is examines the email address entered by the interested end-user. If it detects a domain on the list, then it forwards the user to a page which explains plainly and simply that their provider will block the mailings they are signing up for, that their provider is asking for money from what should be a free service, and that they should sign up with another provider if they want to receive your mailings.

Then, you might see more than a few people complaining and/or leaving their offending service over this issue.

There is a precedent (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017940)

I read somewhere there was a time when snail mail costs were born by the reciever. This meant that the cost of the snail mail had to be recovered by the deliverer. Often times the reciever refused to pay; causing often vain attempts to recover costs from the sender; leading to the change to where a person has to buy a stamp to pay upfront for snail mail.

Currently the costs are carried by the email reciever, but there is no indication as to what it costs the reciever and there is no charge back mechanism. This is one reason free market solutions will not work, no one knows his/her costs. The sender essentially gets a free ride.

In order to 'fix', at least somewhat, the spam problem the person sending the email must bear the cost. There would still be junk email, but the change would drive a lot of 'fly by night' operators out of the market, force legitimate operators to be more selective and to reduce the cost burden for the user.

I am not sure how it would all work. But the sender would have to deposit, say for example, $1,000,000 into an account to obtain 100,000 certificates. Then each email would have to be 'stamped' with a numbered cert. The recieving ISP could then submit the cert to the issuing 'bank' for reimbursement.

The cost to the ISP and user would be reduced. The sender would have to carefully budget and target the email for maximum effectiveness.

As part of their account, the user could recieve 'stamps' to send x number of personal emails. Much like cell phn minutes (would a cell phn paradigm work better?).

There are a host of technical and trust issues involved, including email from overseas. But until the sender is charged there will be no progress on spam (IMO).

I've got a solution for spam (1)

danpsmith (922127) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017950)

Make the thing actually authenticate the e-mail address of the sender. If you could make it so the sender e-mail was more than just a "fill in the blank" type of field like a name or anything else, it would be very easy to trace where this stuff comes from and get it to stop.

why shouldn't receiver get the money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15017957)

If receiver gets the stamp money, two friends emailing back and forth net zero on cost. Add a whitelist for newsletters etc and it's all good. Seems to me AOL would do it this way, if they were interested in fixing email instead of just imposing a tax.

People are forgetting... (3, Insightful)

casualsax3 (875131) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017965)

... that it costs $.39 now to send a letter in the mail, but countless companies are willing to send thousands of pieces junk mail at a price MUCH steeper than a quarter of a penny. E-mail tax is a silly idea with nothing to offer.

Not even an externality (0)

Distinguished Hero (618385) | more than 8 years ago | (#15017987)

Saying that the market does not work because the consumer does not have perfect access to all information is akin to saying that democracy does not work because the voter does not have perfect access to all information. Furthermore, the fact that the voter does not have perfect access to information does not give anyone the right to abolish democracy. Likewise, the fact that the consumer does not have perfect access to information does not give anyone the right to abolish the market (or meddle with it, as may be the case). If you think the consumer (or voter) lacks information that they should have, write about it, contact the media, or take out an add in a news paper. (Competitors (/opposition parties) offering other products (/platforms) not suffering from the deficiency you are concerned with should already be doing this, but somethimes they make mistakes and it never hurts to help them out if you believe in the cause.)

As long as freedom of speech exists, meddling with the free market directly (through the use of coercive means) is not the optimal solution. Anyways, remember that the most important freedom (aside from freedom of speech) is the freedom to make mistakes (which applies to both consumers and voters).

Narrow View (1)

greysky (136732) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018001)

This is a narrow view of the problem. It's not like most people are using their email to read bulk mail list messages. My mailbox on a given day is 99% spam, which I have to run through 2 filters, and then sort through manually after that to get to the meat. If I lose a couple of bulk mail lists in exchange for getting rid of even 90% of the spam in my mailbox, I'll be a happy person, and will take that solution over one that makes me lose time every day trying to filter my email.

Pay per email fails basic economic tests (1)

CFD339 (795926) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018008)

Author: Andrew Pollack
Story Date: Feb 28, 2006 10:56 PM
Subject: Proof that "Sender Pays" will not stop spam even one little bit

Category: Geek Stuff

For those who don't know, the idea of "Sender Pays" is to make the cost of sending an email slightly higher than zero for bulk emails -- some say for everyone. Say a penny a message or less. AOL and YAHOO are talking about using this method for public bulk mailing lists. While neither is saying they'd charge users directly, the idea is that if bulk mail comes it without paying it would be treated with a higher degree of suspicion.

Along comes this article about reputed "spam king" Adam Vitale being busted by the Secret Service. Allegedly, Vitale charged an undercover agent $6,500 for equipment then sent spam out to as many as 1.5 million people in return for an agreed price of at least $40,000 off the top of the first revenue generated plus 50% of all proceeds. Do the math, at that price the going rate for sending the messages already well exceeds 2.5 cents per message -- plus the threat of jail time.

At a rate of 2.5 cents per message, sleazy sales pitches for porn, pills, and promises are still extremely profitable. The techniques of spam are so effective in fact, that now many of those products have "upscaled" and we're seeing the same products and scams advertised on radio, direct mail, and late night television. If THAT's true, its a hell of a lot more profitable than 5 cents, or even 25 cents per message is likely to stop. Unless you believe consumers are willing to voluntarily make email cost more than that, you can only conclude that "Sender Pays" is a nonstarter.

Then use RSS to send newsletters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018011)

If you're afraid that newsletters are going to be blocked by spam filters, then try using a different technology to send out newsletters. Why not RSS?

Oh, right, because THAT would involve hosting your OWN infrastructure and not leaching off someone else's. My bad.

Seriously, there are other ways to send out newletters now. The market may not kill the "pay-for-mass-mailing" but it may invent (or have already invented) OTHER solutions that solve the problem. RSS is the perfect way to provide newsletters without having to worry about being blocked as spam.

Time for an ego adjustment (2, Funny)

ElNotto (517377) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018030)

Haselton tries to dismiss the argument that the market will sort things out by saying
But people don't abandon their provider over wrongly blocked e-mail if they don't even know it's happening.
and
"If they [AOL] don't do a good job of ensuring that customers get the mail they want, even from nonpaying senders, they will lose their customers." But that's simply not true. Hotmail subjects anyone to random blocking who doesn't pay the $2,000 Bonded Sender fee, and there's no evidence that it has caused them to lose customers.
But really, if your newsletter is important to them, they will notice it isn't coming anymore. If they don't notice, it's not important to them. If they notice and don't complain to their ISP or switch ISPs, it's not important to them. What you're seeing in the case of hotmail is people who don't get a newsletter they didn't really want in the first place. That's why they don't leave, because they don't care.

Get over yourself!

Missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018035)

"Private companies do not have the absolute right to do whatever they want with your mail. If you sign up to receive mail from someone, and they send you an e-mail, then that e-mail is your property; if your ISP knows that the sender is almost certainly not a spammer, then they are violating the sender's and receiver's rights if they block the message"

If I sign up for an email from someone (or several someones) and it did not get through the filters for my email service, I will use another email service.

Let AOL tighten their filters all they want, it will simply drive people away from their service. The article's claims that people will not notice smack of the words of a spammer. If people are requesting an email, they will know when they are not getting it.

If they do not notice an email is not getting to them it means they were not expecting it in the fiorst place.

The most important question wasn't answered. (2, Insightful)

merc (115854) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018068)

HOW DOES THIS HELP YOUR CUSTOMERS?

The problem wasn't that your customers are receiving advertisements that weren't blessed by AOL -- it's that they were receiving too much junk mail -- PERIOD. Your clientele are already paying AOL their hard-earned money for connectivity, how does stuffing their $INBOX full of junk mail help them?

Wasn't this one of the things your customers originally whinged about a few years ago?

The good news is that the market will address this issue and correct itself.

Transport vs Content (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018101)

The problem is that we can't afford to have transport providers selecting content if we have any expectation of maintaining open communications. As soon as transport providers are allowed to define the type of content, their self-interest, typically monetary but frequently political, overrides any other concern.

This isn't to say that content can't or shouldn't be 'regulated'. There are situations where this is clearly desireable, however, the providers themselves should not be allowed make those decisions.

Living in a time when communications is so widespread, not only amplifies it's effect, it also makes it's antagonists more desperate. Governments, corporations and numerous other groups have repeatedly demonstrated their intolerance of open communications. Combine this with the temptation to profit by creating classes of service within the transport system and you have an ugly mix.

Classes of service are a de facto process of discrimination. Build the features to support classes of service for profit, and their use for information suppression will not be far behind.

Do you really want AOL or News Corp deciding what contetn is fit for your consumption?

The only nature-conforming solution to spam is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018157)

... is paying for outcoming traffic rather than incoming.

And don't complain immediately. In real world, it is usually the sender of cargo who pays. And in real world, it works.

They don't get it. (2, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018180)

I run the email relays for a large financial institution. Spam is a bigger problem than they realize. If my users don't get an email, they let me know about it.

The example given that you might not get some important email that announces some security issue is bogus. If you are expecting to get your security announcements through *AOL*, you get what you deserve. AOL's service level agreement with its customers basically says that if we're unavailable, we won't charge you for that time, you have no other rights than that.
Email in general is not reliable enough for important stuff. Normal email filtering systems catch legitimate email all the time.

The market *will* sort this out. I don't know anyone who has a hotmail account, let alone considers it important.

No-one's listening to you, Bennett. (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 8 years ago | (#15018185)

There are two types of people on the Internet - those that take responsibility for their own personal information & those that don't.

Those in the latter group will therefore happily pay someone else to take that responsibility or just not bother (in which case they're an ideal target for spams, scams & viruses). It's therefore safe to assume that no-one in this group is listening to what Bennett Hasleton is saying because they either pay someone else to do that listening or just can't be bothered to listen.

However, those of us in the former group who do take responsibility for our own information go to great lengths to preserve our privacy.

Personally, I don't believe that it is possible to take 100% control when you rely on closed-source commercial products or OSes made by big, bad corporations who have no interest in you, just their bank balances. However, before anyone flames me for that comment, I recognise there are a lot of highly-skilled Windows sysadmins and IT personnel out there who do a very good job in securing personal and corporate data with the tools that they have available to them - I just don't accept that, with any closed-source software, you can never be 100% sure what that software is doing unless you analysing every single packet of data that software sends out onto the Internet.

Therefore, if you're in this group of people, you're either a very diligent closed-source user or an Open Source user who chooses very specific, trustworthy tools to store and distribute your personal information. In either case, you know what you are doing, are confident in what you are doing and therefore have no need to listen to any advice from the likes of Bennett Hasleton.

Quid pro quo - nobody is listening to Bennett Hasleton's advice so he might as well just shut the hell up.

Relating to everyday people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15018263)

I think the the paragraph about an email recipient not knowing they are suppose to get an email is hard for the general public to understand. How do you know what you don't know?
The second to last paragraph I think hits it on the head. If you can relate the email to a physical object that the recipient is entitled to, something that is already theirs. They are more likely to feel deprived and take notice. I'd like to see more discussions headed in this direction. I notice it gets a better responce from the other person.
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