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What Happens If You Don't Pay for Goodmail?

CmdrTaco posted about 7 years ago | from the something-to-think-about dept.

Communications 379

Bennett Haselton has written in with his latest report. He starts "Goodmail has announced partnerships with four new ISPs who will charge for "reliable" delivery of your e-mail messages if you want to bypass their spam filters. The news will probably generate another round of editorials like the ones written a year ago about AOL's plan to use Goodmail, including this one from Esther Dyson (for it) and this one from the EFF (against it)." Follow the magical clicky clicker below to read the rest of this story.

If I could ask one serious question of anyone who was defending pay-per-email, or sitting on the fence about it, this would be it: Suppose you sent an extremely urgent e-mail to your doctor or your lawyer, who for the sake of argument you're not able to reach by phone. The recipient's ISP owner happens to see the message before the user retrieves it, and realizes how urgently you need to get it through. So he moves it to the recipient's "spam" folder, and then calls you up and says: pay me $1,000 to move it to the recipient's inbox, or they'll never see it.

Does the ISP have the right to do that? If not, why not?

Perhaps you'd say that Goodmail's 1/4-penny-per-message is reasonable, but $1,000 for one message is too much. But then who decides what is "too much"? The marketplace? Then isn't the ISP admin just another player in the market, and $1,000 is what they want to charge? If you don't like it, you can go somewh... oh, wait, you can't, because there's no other way to get through to the recipient. If you ever get through to your doctor or lawyer, they might switch ISPs after they hear what happened, but should that be your only recourse?

The problem with the ISP charging $1,000 to deliver your message is not that $1,000 is "too much", but that they're charging for a service that has already been paid for. If your doctor or lawyer pays for an e-mail address, they're doing so with the understanding that their ISP will make a reasonable effort to deliver the non-spam e-mails that people try to send them. If their ISP then turns around and asks you for $1,000 to deliver the e-mail, then they're trying to double-bill for the same service, and if they block the message because you don't pay the $1,000, then the ISP is cheating the recipient out of a service that they've already purchased. And it's not just the recipient being cheated; if the recipient has an arrangement with you, as your doctor or lawyer would, then the ISP is interfering in their business relationship with you.

Now, if an ISP using Goodmail offers to let you bypass their filters by paying 1/4 penny per message, how is that different from the doctor example? Well, on the face of it, it's different in at least two ways: first, because the ISP is charging "only" 1/4 penny per message instead of $1,000, and second, they're not saying that your mail will be blocked if you don't pay, only that it might be. But are these qualitative differences, or just differences in degree?

Take the cost-per-message. I have a (verified opt-in) mailing list of about 50,000 people that I send mail to twice a week. In the aggregate, it is just important for me to get mail out to those subscribers, as it is for some people to get a single mail through to their doctor or lawyer. Also, in the aggregate, it would cost me about $1,000 per month if the ISPs collectively asked for 1/4 penny per message and threatened to block them otherwise. So is there any real difference between requesting $1,000 to unblock 50,000 e-mails, and requesting $1,000 to unblock a single e-mail, if you're just doing it because you know the sender urgently needs to get them through? (It's not a reflection of the ISP's costs -- downloading and storing 50,000 messages at 3 K each, costs almost nothing, certainly not anything close to $1,000. And again, I would argue it's a moot point anyway, because those services have already been paid for.)

And how much difference is there, really, between saying that a message (or a group of messages) might be blocked, and saying that a message definitely will be blocked? If it's bad for your doctor's ISP to call you up and say, "Give me $1,000 or there's a 100% chance that your message doesn't get through," what if they say, "Give me $1,000 or there's a 50% chance that your message doesn't get through," isn't that at least 50% as bad? You could say that in my doctor example, the blocking was deliberate, but in the case of the spam filter, it's accidental. But if an ISP chooses not to fix problems with its spam filter, then in a way it's still deliberately creating a certain percentage of cases where the spam filter will block legitimate mail, even if those cases occur at random.

There is one more difference between Goodmail and the scenarios I've described, which is that Goodmail not only lets you bypass an ISP's spam filters, it also certifies that you are trusted and not a phisher. If an ISP like AOL controls the user-interface that a user uses to check their mail, it can display the blue-ribbon "CertifiedEmail" icon next to a Goodmail-certified message. In this case, an ISP can plausibly claim that they're letting all legitimate e-mail get through, but they're still offering a benefit to Goodmail senders. The problem with this is that since phishing only works on users who are gullible to begin with, a phish could just as easily display the CertifiedEmail icon in the body of the message to try and gain a user's trust. It's all very well to say that a user should know that the CertifiedEmail icon only "counts" when it's displayed in the inbox, not in the message itself. But a user who knows that, would probably also know that their bank's Web page is not 209.211.253.169. And besides, most users of Comcast, Cox, RoadRunner and Verizon will be using their own mail clients like Eudora which won't display the "CertifiedEmail" icon anyway.

So it seems pretty clear that the main benefit of using Goodmail will be deliverability. And that's the basic Catch-22: If an ISP gives the same deliverability to non-Goodmail-certified messages, then who's going to use it? On the other hand, if an ISP gives better deliverability to Goodmail-certified messages than to other messages (much more likely), then they are to some extent misrepresenting the services they sell to their users, since users expect an ISP to make the best effort to deliver all legitimate e-mails, not just the ones from paying senders.

Goodmail likens their service to FedEx or UPS for "enhanced delivery" of paper mail as a way of getting the recipient's attention. But the difference is that if you're trying to reach your lawyer, then the office complex where he works (or the city that maintains the streets to his house) is providing the service that he expects and has paid for, namely, allowing different companies to deliver stuff to him there -- and because you have different choices, that means FedEx, UPS and the USPS have to compete with each other, and that keeps the delivery prices down. On the other hand, if an ISP blocks you from mailing their customer unless you pay their fee, then the ISP is going against what the customer expects them to do, and it is precisely that betrayal of trust that gives the ISP a monopoly on your ability to reach the customer -- which leads to them charging monopoly-style prices, like $1,000 to receive and store a few tens of thousands of messages.

There is a lot of debate about whether "the market" would fix problems of legitimate e-mail being lost. Esther Dyson's editorial was a classic libertarian defense of the free market as the arbiter of systems like Goodmail: "If it's a good model, it will succeed and improve over time. If it's a bad model, it will fail. Why not let the customers decide?" Actually I don't think the free market does fix most e-mail deliverability problems -- I've been involved in a few business that sent bulk e-mail (to subscribers who requested it and confirmed their subscriptions), and have had conversations with dozens of others, and we've all had problems sending to Hotmail, AOL, and Yahoo, and I've never, ever heard anyone say that their deliverability problems were solved by "the market". (Usually the problems just come and go, and nobody knows why.) But in a way this is all beside the point. Even if the market would stop more egregious abuses, what gives ISPs the right to charge senders for e-mail services that their customers have already paid for?

I actually met Richard Gingras, the CEO of Goodmail, and Charles Stiles, the postmaster of AOL, at a conference in Seattle last year where they were on a panel defending against the Goodmail controversy. They seemed like nice guys who were genuinely blindsided by the criticism that Goodmail had been receiving. It's easy to see the point of view of Goodmail's defenders -- if Bob wants to pay Alice to "certify" Bob, why would it be anybody else's business? It isn't, until it leads ISPs to steer people towards a system where if you want to be treated like a non-spammer, you have to pay -- even if, strictly speaking, the recipient is already paying to receive your mail.

As for the much-vaunted free whitelisting privileges that non-Goodmail senders will continue to enjoy, in the pre-Goodmail era I once found that AOL was blocking some of my mail to their users, so I called their postmaster department and learned the following facts:

  • The first person I talked to, said that he checked the logs and our mail was being blocked because we didn't have reverse DNS set up. I thought this was odd because we did have it configured, but I thanked him and hung up.
  • Then, I called back and got someone different. I asked them the same question and they said that according to his logs, our mail was being blocked because someone else at our ISP was sending spam. I asked him why they were blocking our IP address, if it was different from the IP of the alleged spammer; he paused and said, "Is there anything else I can help you with?", and this repeated several times as I thought my phone or his headset wasn't working, before I realized he was just being a dork.
  • Then, I called back and got yet another person, and this person said that he could see our mail was being blocked because it contained banned content. I was pretty sure that was wrong, because you get a different-looking bounce if you're sending mail that contains a banned string, but I took a note of that anyway.
  • Then, I called back and got a fourth person, who said that our mail was being blocked because some of their users had flagged mail from our IP address as spam. He paused for a brief conversation in the background, then came back and added, "This has already been explained to you, sir." I said that since I had gotten four different explanations in four different phone calls, I figured I could just keep calling and tallying the votes that I got for each explanation, until one of them emerged as the winner.

Much later I found out from someone else about the AOL whitelisting program, which I'm currently trying to see if it prevents us from getting blocked. But if none of the people answering the phone at the postmaster department knew or told me about it (and I confirmed that it did exist at the time), how many other organizations or businesses don't know?

ISPs adopting Goodmail say that while Goodmail senders can bypass their spam filters, non-Goodmail senders will continue to enjoy the same deliverability rates that they have in the past. That's what I'm afraid of.

cancel ×

379 comments

Huge purple penis (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19491873)

In your butt. [goatse.cz]

The big deal about spam... (4, Interesting)

danpsmith (922127) | about 7 years ago | (#19491877)

I don't get the big deal about spam. Honestly, you get more junkmail than regular mail on a daily basis, but yet there's no big call to outlaw regular postage and allow only confirmed 3rd parties to send you mail. Why the hell should e-mail be any different? If you want my opinion they should make Internet access a utility just like phone, electric and other things and regulate the piss out of ISPs so they can't start payola practices such as "send us $100 dollars or the e-mail gets it." Spam isn't a bigger deal than junkmail, it's actually less costly, so why do we care so much that we'd let them ruin e-mail?

Re:The big deal about spam... (5, Insightful)

aicrules (819392) | about 7 years ago | (#19491989)

I only get around 10 parcels of mail a day. It is typically 70% "spam" but it's relatively easy to sort because there are only 10 parcels. If each day I received 500 parcels with still only 3 being things I requested (bills, letters from home, etc..) then I would be severely put off and would definitely be causing a stink. It costs money to send snailmail spam though, so it ends up not being worth the cost in many cases. And I have never received a viagra/penis enlargement ad in the snailmail either...probably something to do with the questionable legality of most of those offers.

Re:The big deal about spam... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 7 years ago | (#19492149)

You need to have a computer sorting your parcels for you. With things like spamassassin, you don't need to weed through the 500 spam messages to get the three requested emails. It's all done automatically. I get lots of spam directed at my email address, However I don't actually have to see that much of it because I have good filters.

Re:The big deal about spam... (1)

Maset (190867) | about 7 years ago | (#19492975)

I've received a 419 by snailmail before.

Re:The big deal about spam... (5, Insightful)

Spy der Mann (805235) | about 7 years ago | (#19492045)

Spam isn't a bigger deal than junkmail

YES, IT IS. It wastes YOUR ISP's hard-drive, it wastes YOUR time, and it wastes YOUR ISP's BANDWIDTH.

In snail mail at least the junkmailers pay for the mail. With SPAM, they're using YOUR resources to do business. Not to mention promoting the use of botnets and viruses and spyware. They're disrupting the whole e-mail system, don't you get it? About 90% of e-mail I get is spam. That's 10-to-1 ratio. If you don't consider that a big deal, then you've gotten so close to garbage that you forgot how "clean" smells.

Re:The big deal about spam... (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 years ago | (#19492327)

YES, IT IS. It wastes YOUR ISP's hard-drive, it wastes YOUR time, and it wastes YOUR ISP's BANDWIDTH.

Paper spam wastes the environment. So does spam (through energy consumption; internet hardware has had to be significantly expanded to accomodate spam.) It's all bad.

Paper spam (3, Informative)

benhocking (724439) | about 7 years ago | (#19492731)

This seems like an excellent place to remind people that they can opt out [ftc.gov] of much of that "paper spam". In addition to helping the environment, you're also helping to protect yourself from one vector of identity theft.

Re:The big deal about spam... (2, Informative)

danpsmith (922127) | about 7 years ago | (#19492345)

Spam isn't a bigger deal than junkmail YES, IT IS. It wastes YOUR ISP's hard-drive, it wastes YOUR time, and it wastes YOUR ISP's BANDWIDTH. In snail mail at least the junkmailers pay for the mail. With SPAM, they're using YOUR resources to do business. Not to mention promoting the use of botnets and viruses and spyware. They're disrupting the whole e-mail system, don't you get it? About 90% of e-mail I get is spam. That's 10-to-1 ratio. If you don't consider that a big deal, then you've gotten so close to garbage that you forgot how "clean" smells.

Telemarketers call you on cell phones, and I would assume that they pay a phone bill. Same thing. You aren't going to prevent e-mail spam by even charging a nominal amount for e-mailing, you are just going to maybe lose the less profitable spammers. If people have to pay to annoyingly advertise now over existing mediums with established and real costs and still do it, do you really think you'll be able to prevent all spam? Obviously not, as is with other mediums. Bits are cheap, that's why there's more of it. So what?

People talk about ISP costs, obviously they are still in business so I guess they must be covering costs. By charging ordinary customers to send e-mail you are essentially double-dipping them to "save" them from spam, something that most certainly will NOT happen anyway. You'll still get, maybe just a little less spam from "preferred" visa offerings and trips you've already won. We don't see this same crackdown on any other type of spamming, including fax spamming, which uses your own toner, etc, so why must we molest email in order to "fix" it?

Re:The big deal about spam... (1)

plague3106 (71849) | about 7 years ago | (#19492641)

Telemarketers call you on cell phones, and I would assume that they pay a phone bill. Same thing.

You're right, it is the same thing, and we have laws providing opt-out lists for those that don't want telemarketing calls.

Re:The big deal about spam... (2, Insightful)

B'Trey (111263) | about 7 years ago | (#19492925)

Telemarketers call you on cell phones, and I would assume that they pay a phone bill.

Uh, no, they don't. I've never received a telemarketer call on my cell phone and if I were receiving the calls, I'd add the number to the "Do Not Call" registry.

You aren't going to prevent e-mail spam by even charging a nominal amount for e-mailing, you are just going to maybe lose the less profitable spammers.

Not true. Spammers operate because of the enormous economies of scale that exist with email. You can send out literally millions of emails for practically nothing. A tiny return rate - say .001% is profitable. If it costs even a little bit to send spam, then such minute return rates will no longer be profitable. Mind you, I'm not in favor of charging for email. I agree with the thrust of your post that this is a bad idea.

Re:The big deal about spam... (3, Insightful)

futuresheep (531366) | about 7 years ago | (#19492557)

I get 3 expected items in the mail every month, along with items ordered an delivered. They're the only bills I have that don't have an electronic only option yet. Everything else I get is junk mail which has a hidden cost as well. The post office has to use more fuel to carry all the extra weight in their vehicles. I have to get it from the mail box, shred it, put it in a garbage bag, and have it picked up by the garbage man. The DMA companies didn't buy my shredder for me, they don't spend 15 minutes shredding junk every week, and they don't subsidize the cost of fuel for the garbage truck that stops at every house to pick up what most likely amounts to tons of extra garbage weight a year. They also don't care if some meth head stops by my mailbox, steals my junk mail, and uses one of the dozens of free credit card offers to steal my identity and start me down the road of a ruined credit rating. So the cost of junk mail is time, fuel, space, and security.

Re:The big deal about spam... (1)

Darundal (891860) | about 7 years ago | (#19492607)

Junkmail wastes my time. It wastes the post offices time, it wastes space in my mailbox, it costs the government money, and junkmail has a greater environmental impact than email. With snail mail, the junk mailer pays for the mail, in the same way that everyone else pays for the mail. With email, the mass mailer (in many cases, spammer) shouldn't pay, because there is no cost for anyone else to send an email. Not all spam promotes botnets, viruses, and spyware, in the same way that not all spam or snailmail promotes scams that rip people off for hundreds of thousands of dollars. They aren't disrupting the email system, because they are using it essentially how it was meant to be used. They are, however, disrupting the system as the user sees it, but I am sure that it was the same way originally with junkmail as well. 90% would be a 9:1 ratio. And not agreeing with the use of Goodmail is hardly forgetting how "clean" smells, just believing that it is just as dirty.

Re:The big deal about spam... (1)

mooingyak (720677) | about 7 years ago | (#19492681)

Junkmail wastes my time. It wastes the post offices time, it wastes space in my mailbox, it costs the government money

No quite. They have to pay to send the junk mail, so it's no more a waste of time than anyone's bills.

Slashdot's mod system is ridiculously broken... (0, Offtopic)

howardd21 (1001567) | about 7 years ago | (#19492913)

How can the parent of this, and its parent both be modded to +5 Insightful, when they are opposed? I would think one is insightful and the other is not.

Re:The big deal about spam... (3, Interesting)

packetmon (977047) | about 7 years ago | (#19492091)

Less costly according to whom. Ever had to buy a Barracuda spam filter? Set up Spamassasin, etal. If you've ever worked at an ISP, spam isn't as cheap as you'd think. Imagine receiving and having to filter 1million plus messages of spam a day. Imagine as that ISP your NSP is passing off the extra charge to you. You do realize that inside those annoying spam messages, many are often images. Image_size * Amount_Of_Mail = Amount_of_Extra_Bandwidth_You_Don't_Need.

Re:The big deal about spam... (5, Insightful)

daeg (828071) | about 7 years ago | (#19492339)

If they are unable to operate e-mail for customers based on their current price, they need to raise prices, lower operating costs, or stop providing e-mail altogether. I pay my ISP for a service and I expect to get it without them extorting the websites I chose to do business with for additional "fees" for e-mail delivery or "fees" for preferred content delivery speed (the whole Net Neutrality thing).

If they aren't able to offer the services demanded at the market price, change or get out of the market and make room for someone who can.

Re:The big deal about spam... (1)

CaptainZapp (182233) | about 7 years ago | (#19492105)

Honestly, you get more junkmail than regular mail on a daily basis,

Speak for yourself, please. I can guarantee you that I get more then 100 times more spam then regular junk mail. There is one huge difference, though which makes spam so despicable:

If you want to send me junk mail you have to print it, package it and most important: pay postage for it. So sending junk mail to 10'000'000 recipients at 29cents a pop is friggin' expensive. Sending the same amount of spam is virtually free.

A few people get rich by shitting into the communal water supply. And that's pretty much socially unacceptable.

Re:The big deal about spam... (1)

That's Unpossible! (722232) | about 7 years ago | (#19492181)

I don't get the big deal about spam. Honestly, you get more junkmail than regular mail on a daily basis, but yet there's no big call to outlaw regular postage

My ratio of junkmail to regular mail is not on the order of 100:1, like it is with spam. Otherwise, believe me, I would be picketing the post office.

Re:The big deal about spam... (1)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | about 7 years ago | (#19492221)

I was getting 200,000 pieces of spam mail a month at my domain until I started blocking all connections from outside the USA, as well as any address which resolved to something that looked like a cable or dsl address.

My regular mail is NOTHING like that. I get maybe 10 pieces of junk a day at the most.

Just so you don't have to do the math, that was almost one spam a second arriving at my domain. My spam filter was extremely effective, but it was getting to the point where a significant part of my bandwidth was being consumed with receiving and rejecting mail.

My regular mail is NOTHING like that. I never received so much regular junk mail that the mail delivery truck couldn't carry it all.

Re:The big deal about spam... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19492915)

I was getting 200,000 pieces of spam mail a month at my domain [...]

Just so you don't have to do the math, that was almost one spam a second arriving at my domain.
Somebody's got to do the math, since you didn't.
You were getting about 4.6 spams/minute. You'd need 2,592,000/month to average 1 spam/second.

Re:The big deal about spam... (1)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | about 7 years ago | (#19492223)

The main problem seems to be from people with "popular" email addresses. With my regular account (first.last@company.com), I get a fair amount of SPAM. My support account, support@company.com, gets *tons* of SPAM. However, this is not a problem for me. I am active in my community (RC Helicopters), and I post in the popular forums. The people there know me. Many know my cell number and will call me directly with any problems.

The main problem here seems to be that *huge* companies have problems dealing with doing business online. They can't figure out how to keep that "mom and pop" feel while still servicing millions of hits per second.

Well, tough shit!

First, stop using first.last@company.com. Every org worth shit uses some form of directory services. Internally, your name is hidden. In most cases, your position should be your email. I get so tired of emailing thom.jhonston@company.com for personnel issues. He should be using !QAZ2wsx@company.com aliased via Active Directory to "Personnel Manager". And he should *not* share that with family. If he wants to talk to Aunt Martha, let him fucking start a "martha_s_nephew_thom@gmail.com" address. Hell, after about 20 minutes, anyone can understand the concept of thom+aunt_martha@gmail.com and a little filtering.

So, companies should obfuscate internal email addresses and use AD (or whatever the *nix world uses) to assign positions.

Individuals should use name+whatever and filtering (or, better yet, use whitelisting) to reduce SPAM.

It isn't that hard. A few spots on MSNBC, Fox, CNN, and the major networks could solve the problem. In fact, the Gov could declare SPAM a "terrorist (draining on the economy==terrorist) entity" and demand that EVERY NETWORK show an ANTI-SPAM spot once per commercial break.

Re:The big deal about spam... (1)

plague3106 (71849) | about 7 years ago | (#19492723)

He should be using !QAZ2wsx@company.com aliased via Active Directory to "Personnel Manager"

Yes, he should be unreachable, especially to people that may not know the address for sure, like new hires. I wouldn't even apply to a company that had that for their HR email..

Re:The big deal about spam... (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | about 7 years ago | (#19493019)

He should be using !QAZ2wsx@company.com

Try telling a partner / vendor your email address over the phone using something like that. Good luck. Hell, most have trouble with the domain name portion despite spelling it to them...

Re:The big deal about spam... (2, Interesting)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 7 years ago | (#19492243)

you get more junkmail than regular mail on a daily basis

I don't encourage that either - in fact you can go to Direct Marketing Association [dmaconsumers.org] and pay a buck to get on a kind of 'do not mail' like (voluntary by DMA members, not enforced by law like on telemarketers).

Another thing I had to stop was a local newspaper trying a new business model. I had canceled subscription to the regular newspaper, but they started delivering a small printing of ads and a few articles - so once a week I had to walk out on the lawn and pick up a yellow bag, what is basically garbage a motor route guy tossed there, and put it in the trash. I just went ballistic getting that stopped. I didn't ask for it, I don't want it - get off my lawn!

Re:The big deal about spam... (2, Informative)

frooddude (148993) | about 7 years ago | (#19492329)

FYI - it is not voluntary to DMA members. It is required of DMA members. DMA will put the smackdown on any member that doesn't follow through on the DNM list. I used to work for a mailing list company and every single list got run against the DNM for collisions.

Re:The big deal about spam... (1)

Tofystedeth (1076755) | about 7 years ago | (#19492545)

I think he meant the DMA does it voluntarily as a whole. Members are required, but the organization is not.

Re:The big deal about spam... (1)

pasamio (737659) | about 7 years ago | (#19492635)

I believe he meant that the DMA members volunteer to do this, unlike other laws which are enforced upon all people. Sort of like a gentleman's agreement, you pay us a dollar and we agree we don't bother you (and a dollar a year to maintain a list is fine by me, imagine if it was per letter you received or sent!). If you're not a member (e.g. you don't volunteer to join) then you're not bound to it, unlike law which binds all. I believe this is the usage of volunteer, not that the members could opt out but groups could opt-in to join.

Re:The big deal about spam... (1)

kithrup (778358) | about 7 years ago | (#19492447)

Postal mail is paid for by the sender. The spam you get... the sender pays nothing. Neither does the non-spam sender. That is both the beauty and curse of email.

Some estimates I've seen place spam at over 70% of all email traffic. And this while non-spam email use has been growing significantly. Who do you think pays for the network bandwidth and disk space?

The EFF is complicit in this. For years they (especially John Gilmore) have been decrying any blocking of traffic by ISPs. The direct result of this attitude is that now, in order to ensure delivery of email, you have to pay.

I don't like it, particularly. But if you're going to expect "the free market" to solve a problem, then you should not complain when the "solution" involves paying money.

Re:The big deal about spam... (1)

plague3106 (71849) | about 7 years ago | (#19492633)

Spam isn't a bigger deal than junkmail, it's actually less costly, so why do we care so much that we'd let them ruin e-mail?

No, it simply shifts costs from those sending it to those receiving it.

Honestly, did you just write this post because you knew it would annoy people?

Yes but you really can opt out of junk snail mail (1)

laing (303349) | about 7 years ago | (#19492793)

I get about items of USPS mail per year at my home address. That's because I use a PMB for all of my mail, and because my home address has been submitted to the DMA (Direct Market Association) as an "opt-out" address. It costs nothing and it really works. You must send the DMA a letter every 5 years to "refresh" their database. If you don't, you will start receiving junk.

There is no similar method to opt out of unsolicited e-mail so your conclusions are flawed.

Re:The big deal about spam... Software vs. Server (1)

sonnejw0 (1114901) | about 7 years ago | (#19493081)

I agree with the parent. I currently sort my own snail-junk-mail, and I do get around 60% spam in my smail. I can also sort through my own email, but far more effectively. Why is the impetus for email spam filtration all server-side? Why not make it consumer, software side? My email server keeps all of the spam I receive and I download it all to my computer, where my computer will then sort it and mark it as spam fairly accurately. There are huge industries for anti-virus, anti-phishing, and firewall programs, why not also for spam? Let the consumer decide what to do with their email and stop touching it. One may in fact argue that spam filtration on incoming and outgoing email is a breach of a privacy agreement you have with the ISP. Does anyone know of a legal expectation of privacy in cases like this? It is quite similar to a mail-person opening your mail and deciding if this or that letter be delivered in a timely fashion based on the content of the mail. It is my preference that I get to choose my preference as to the usefulness of the mail I receive, that same with email.

What happens? (0, Troll)

ivan256 (17499) | about 7 years ago | (#19491909)

1) Goodmail doesn't get your company's money.
2) Your spam doesn't get through

No big long overthought article required.

It's a bit more than that. (3, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | about 7 years ago | (#19492171)

Yep, you are correct about the spam issue.

But the larger issue is whether your ISP can or should be filtering your email (or prioritizing it).

I have no problem with INDIVIDUAL users signing up for such a service.

But when ISP's start signing up, it breeds abuse.

Re:What happens? (5, Funny)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | about 7 years ago | (#19492259)

This is great for spammers. Target their emails better, and htey KNOW that they're going to be seen, and not just silently dumped.

They should be forced by truth-in-advertising laws to call it SPAM-mail.

Better yet, is there any way a user can set it up so that all GoodMail is automatically marked as SPAM? Or better yet, sent back to the sender with a:

This is the BogoMaster mail daemon at yousuck.com

Your message is undeliverable. Here is the output:

***** MESSAGE REJECTED BY SPAM FILTER *****

Your message has not been delivered because it has been marked as SPAM by our filters. Reason:
HEADER-GOODMAIL Spam Index: 100%

That ought to get people to drop GoodMail.

"Nice email message ya got there ... (4, Funny)

Bearpaw (13080) | about 7 years ago | (#19491947)

... it'd be a shame if somethin' happen to it. Know what I mean?"

Re:"Nice email message ya got there ... (1)

CaptainZapp (182233) | about 7 years ago | (#19492177)

... it'd be a shame if somethin' happen to it. Know what I mean?

Isn't that quite the business model of security software?

Nice laptop you have there, would be a shame if something happens to it!

Re:"Nice email message ya got there ... (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | about 7 years ago | (#19492421)

No.... Nobody forced me to buy Norton or McAffee. You can live without an anti virus and be safe. Especially, if you know what you do. I do use AVG Free (just to be on the safe side), but it has never given me a "you have a virus" message. This means that AVG is either crap, or that I really don't need it because I have common sense enough to operate my computer without an anti virus.

Now, if Norton, McAfee and the like would send some thugs to me to bust my kneecaps when I don't buy their product, then it would be the same business model.

Goodmail = Goodfellas (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | about 7 years ago | (#19492659)

'nuf said.

ridiculous premise. (1, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | about 7 years ago | (#19491951)

The argument here is predicated on the ridiculous premise that can only reach you need to reach your Doctor or Lawyer urgently (not so bad so far), but you can only do so though email.

Huh? Email isn't an urgent communications medium. Furthermore Doctors and Lawyers who need to be reached urgently have secretaries and nurses who do triage. They contact the Dr/Lawyer if it's truly urgent.

Re:ridiculous premise. (4, Interesting)

HappySmileMan (1088123) | about 7 years ago | (#19492059)

The argument of only reaching a doctor or lawyer by email is an example of how important mail could be blocked, that example is made up and the author explained it, he then went to elaborate on how HE needs to send 50,000 people mail twice a week and explained it would cost him about $1000 to do that each month.

But if you need a different example, what if you ran a large shop and ordered 10,000 chairs to sell, but then realised you made a mistake and only needed 8000... This would cost you a huge amount of money, and if the ISP had access to the email the blackmail could be huge, however it still needs to be paid to save thousands more dollars...

That is, it would have to be paid if it wasn't illegal, but there are going to be people who pay quietly without looking up laws or consulting a lawyer.

Re:ridiculous premise. (1)

david.given (6740) | about 7 years ago | (#19492337)

But if you need a different example, what if you ran a large shop and ordered 10,000 chairs to sell, but then realised you made a mistake and only needed 8000... This would cost you a huge amount of money, and if the ISP had access to the email the blackmail could be huge, however it still needs to be paid to save thousands more dollars...

But in this situation, you should not be using email, because email is not reliable and was never intended to be. If you really, truly need reliable communications, you use the phone. That way you get confirmation that someone the other end has received the message, you know when it was received, and you can get a record that it has been received (by, for example, recording it).

That doesn't make goodmail any less of a bad idea, though.

Re:ridiculous premise. (1)

plague3106 (71849) | about 7 years ago | (#19492809)

But in this situation, you should not be using email, because email is not reliable and was never intended to be. If you really, truly need reliable communications, you use the phone. That way you get confirmation that someone the other end has received the message, you know when it was received, and you can get a record that it has been received (by, for example, recording it).

I guess you've never had to send a document to someone across the country Right Now. The only other method would be overnight... which is just overnight.

Re:ridiculous premise. (1)

david.given (6740) | about 7 years ago | (#19493025)

I guess you've never had to send a document to someone across the country Right Now. The only other method would be overnight... which is just overnight.

I have, actually. The correct procedure in this situation is (1) send by email, (2) confirm receipt by phone, (3) if not received within a suitable time send by a different email address, (4) repeat until confirmed receipt.

If you just send the document and don't check that it's arrived, you're doomed. Email is, quite simply, not reliable or timely, and it was never inteded that way.

Re:ridiculous premise. (2, Insightful)

AxemRed (755470) | about 7 years ago | (#19492395)

We have employees at our company who use email as a primary communications medium. Most of these employees are off-site and travel more time than not, and when clients call in and ask for them, we recommend that the client emails them.

Re:ridiculous premise. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19492411)

Huh? Email isn't an urgent communications medium. Furthermore Doctors and Lawyers who need to be reached urgently have secretaries and nurses who do triage. They contact the Dr/Lawyer if it's truly urgent.

Maybe you haven't many doctors & lawyers with their crackberries. Unless they are sitting at their desk, email IS the best way to reach them in a hurry.

Re:ridiculous premise. (0)

Vellmont (569020) | about 7 years ago | (#19492591)


Maybe you haven't many doctors & lawyers with their crackberries. Unless they are sitting at their desk, email IS the best way to reach them in a hurry.

In that case, they should have an email address that's kept private, so there's no spam problem. And has no filtering on it, so it's more reliable.

The premise is still ridiculous. It involves creating a scenario where a doctor/lawyer has chosen an unreliable communication means, and then someone else is taking advantage of it.

Re:ridiculous premise. (2, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | about 7 years ago | (#19492537)

The argument here is predicated on the ridiculous premise that can only reach you need to reach your Doctor or Lawyer urgently (not so bad so far), but you can only do so though email.
No, that was just an example. It was an exaggerated example to "get your attention," but the author makes it rather more concrete when he describes how mailing-list operators will have to spend $1000 per notice to reach their recipients. And although you can phone up your doctor, you can't phone up all the mailing-list recipients.

Email isn't an urgent communications medium.
Why not? Or rather... why shouldn't it be? I know lots of people who use it for time-sensitive communications (maybe not life-and-death, but certainly for important issues where money is involved). Sometimes the only contact details you have are email. You can phone someone to talk about something, but to send that urgent electronic document, what are you going to do? Email is useful for lots of things, when it works. This scheme on the part of the ISPs basically makes email less reliable and less functional. (In addition to all your previous worries, now you have to think about whether the recipient ISP is using Goodmail?) Why should we be favor of something that makes it less useful, rather than pushing email towards being more robust and truly suitable for emergency-communication ... ?

the real reason (5, Informative)

sdnoob (917382) | about 7 years ago | (#19491969)

why high-volume isp's are signing on to this scam....

fta: At least half of the fees go to the service provider

anything to make a buck. sheesh.

ISP supported spam (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19491971)

Goodmail is a service for spammers to bypass spam filters for a fee. It is plain to see. By particpating, ISPs that use Goodmail have in effect become spammers themselves. Such ISPs should be avoided like the plague.

More hassle, less information (1)

Organic Brain Damage (863655) | about 7 years ago | (#19491985)

At some point, does e-mail become more cost than benefit?

The idea that I would communicate anything both important and urgent via e-mail is funny. I no longer trust the incoming e-mail, too much of it is spam. And now the efforts to deal with spam...the filtering and flagging and whatnot kill any confidence I have that the recipient will receive and read the message when I hit the send button.

Re:More hassle, less information (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19492755)

No kidding. Even given all the reliability guarantees in the world, email is a great transport, but still an unreliable medium because it is a disconnected one. You have to set up some kind of ack protocol yourself, because even read receipts don't really acknowledge that someone actually read it instead of glossing over it, or that the intended recipient actually got it, etc.

It's nothing against email, it's the same way leaving a voicemail works. The loop is not immediately closed.

That's great, dude (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19492025)

Take the cost-per-message. I have a (verified opt-in) mailing list of about 50,000 people that I send mail to twice a week. In the aggregate, it is just important for me to get mail out to those subscribers, as it is for some people to get a single mail through to their doctor or lawyer.

Meanwhile, you have a captive audience of hundreds of thousands of people here subjected to your interminable, pompous raving every week. Can someone please give you your own editor account so we can at least opt out?

This isn't Russia, Danny. (3, Interesting)

hal2814 (725639) | about 7 years ago | (#19492051)

"So he moves it to the recipient's "spam" folder, and then calls you up and says: pay me $1,000 to move it to the recipient's inbox, or they'll never see it.

Does the ISP have the right to do that? If not, why not?"

You don't have to use your ISP's email. Not everyone has a bevy of choices for their ISP but everyone on the Internet has plenty of e-mail options. An ISP has the right to do such a thing as far as I can tell but if they actually tried pulling a stunt like that, they'd see how quickly they can get people to jump ship on their email services. I wouldn't recommend tying your email into your ISP anyways. You don't always have the option to take your ISP-based email with you when you move or change ISPs.

And that's not even taking into account that Goodmail is a complete sham. The only people using this will be spammers with money looking to get around your spam filter.

Re:This isn't Russia, Danny. (1)

RoverDaddy (869116) | about 7 years ago | (#19492451)

You weren't paying attention. Your mail has to get through the DOCTOR'S ISP no matter where you send it from. That's the ISP he's talking about. And he even points out, sure the doctor might be willing to change email hosting when he hears that happened to you, but probably not, and by then it's too late.

Re:This isn't Russia, Danny. (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | about 7 years ago | (#19492991)

The only people using this will be spammers with money looking to get around your spam filter.


The damage that ISPs will suffer by purposefully injecting spam into the normal email stream FAR EXCEEDS any payments for doing so. Goodmail's business model is based on reducing the cost to senders of Confirmed Opt-In email. They know they're confirmed, Goodmail knows they're confirmed, the ISP knows they're confirmed, and the user knows they're confirmed. So what is the problem? The problem is that the sender doesn't want to suffer the time or risk of having to carefully craft their email so it gets past any spam filters, AND without having to require the user to set up a whitelisted address. The ISP doesn't want to have to maintain a whitelist because the bulk of the benefit would be doing to someone who isn't their customer. Goodmail's purpose is to certify senders, take their money, and pay the ISP for taking the time and effort to deliver the certified email.

Not AOL (1)

Baavgai (598847) | about 7 years ago | (#19492081)

Most ISPs I've dealt with don't offer the most robust mail clients, anyway. As a result, I usually read mail via an external POP client or have it forwarded. I currently read all my mailboxes through Gmail.

With alternate web clients and desktop options, I doubt this is as much of a lock as AOL's "we are the one true client" style aproach.

It would be interesting to correlate who gets maked as "good" versus other service's spam filters, though.

Re:Not AOL (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | about 7 years ago | (#19492555)

Most ISPs I've dealt with don't offer the most robust mail clients, anyway.

What exactly are you trying to say? That their service isn't robust, or that their webmail interface isn't robust? Because, frankly, if you say "mail client" we are talking stuff like Eudora, Thunderbird, Outlook (Express), Pegasus Mail, etc, etc, etc.... You can't really call "webmail" a "mail client".

All ISPs worth their salt provide POP3 and some even provide IMAP (which is distinctly superior).

Besides, there are many good open source webmail applications around... Most are very robust, and an ISP could easily use those and make a custom theme. Any ISP developing their own webmail application is throwing money out of their window.

But (1)

Mockylock (1087585) | about 7 years ago | (#19492087)

If you don't want their service, they'll spam you.

Whos mail is more precious (2, Interesting)

CryogenicKeen (1088911) | about 7 years ago | (#19492095)

What happens if you need to call 911 because of an emergency like you broke your leg or worse? While email isn't 911 it does seem to me that it more and more can and will be used when either the person is unable to use a phone or otherwise does not want to/can't reach the person any other way. The idea to pay a free email service extra to make SURE your mail gets to where it's going seems great but isn't this a silppery slope? Do we really want to start making extra paying people's mail a higher priority then others? "Oh im sorry sir that you missed your child's recital because the email notifying you about it couldn't be bothered to be fished out of the spam folder because X Y and Z clients already payed their "my mail is more important" stipend and we need to be priority to THERE mail." Are we just seeing the slow phase-out of freemail in the longrun?

Anecdote ... (5, Insightful)

PhxBlue (562201) | about 7 years ago | (#19492191)

This reminds me of an anecdote ... a gentleman was talking to a young lady and asked her if she would have sex with him for a million dollars. After she thought about it for a moment, she said yes. Then he asked her if she would have sex with him for $50.

"What do I look like, some kind of hooker?" she demanded.

"We've already established that," he said. "Now we're just haggling over your price."

Goodmail has established who the hookers are among the ISP community.

So use RSS, not e-mail. (2, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about 7 years ago | (#19492225)

I have a (verified opt-in) mailing list of about 50,000 people that I send mail to twice a week.

Bulk distribution is what RSS feeds are for. If people really want your stuff, they'll subscribe to the feed. Then the recipient is in control. I'm not impressed by people who claim that people need to receive their newsletter / e-mail spam.

Re:So use RSS, not e-mail. (3, Informative)

SQL Error (16383) | about 7 years ago | (#19492481)

Or rather, use NNTP. That's what it's designed for. RSS feeds are a hack.

Re:So use RSS, not e-mail. (2, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | about 7 years ago | (#19492501)

And the rest of us aren't impressed with those who feel everyone set up an RSS feed, regardless of their actual needs. Even as a geek, I just recently found RSS easy enough to deal with that I starting watching feeds. (Google's Reader app is nice and I can see it anywhere.)

The majority of people on the internet don't even -know- what RSS is, but they know what email is, and when you say 'mailing list' they know what they're getting into.

That's not even getting into securing the information. A mailing list only goes to who you send it to. An RSS feed is either unsecured, or a hassle.

Re:So use RSS, not e-mail. (2, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | about 7 years ago | (#19492613)

I'm not impressed by people who claim that people need to receive their newsletter / e-mail spam.

I'm not impressed by computer users who claim that other users should bow to their desired delivery medium. Let's offer a few examples:

1. They use a mobile device that doesn't have RSS reader support (like me). However, they do have e-mail to the device.

2. They are not technically savvy and haven't a clue what an RSS feed or reader is. I guarantee you that this is the majority of web readers.

3. They are like me and find no use for RSS.

Re:So use RSS, not e-mail. (4, Insightful)

rho (6063) | about 7 years ago | (#19492693)

That's a nice thing to say, but email is what people want. I can throw a rock and hit 20 people who regularly use email with confidence. I could probably drop a daisy-cutter bomb and not hit anybody who even knows what RSS is. Hell, I've even got a dingus that will send out an RSS feed over email. Electronic mail is still the killer app of the Internet. It has so many benefits people spend gobs of money and time trying to keep it working.

The spam problem is a virus problem. Spam sent within the US comes from zombied machines. That's a problem the ISPs can fix by blocking outbound port 25 traffic except to the ISPs mail relay. Too much mail from one machine means it gets blocked. Spam from outside of the US is almost certainly from China and Korea. There's not much legitimate traffic going from China or Korea to the US, so mail blocks on Chinese/Korean IPs, whitelisting known legitimate IPs, solves 90% of that problem.

The thing about spam is you don't have to completely eliminate it. You just have to make it less effective. It already has a low response rate. If you cut the delivery rate even by 75% you're making it even less fruitful. Eventually the purpose of spam will simply be to try to entice people to bogus Web sites in order to procure more zombied machines so the spammers can stay afloat. That's a recipe for eventual death.

This is one to one transactional email (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | about 7 years ago | (#19493077)

This is one to one transactional email. Think "Ebay auction notices" or "Bank statements". It's confidential customized email not suitable for an RSS feed.

Workable mail solution.. (5, Interesting)

mulvane (692631) | about 7 years ago | (#19492237)

This is something I have setup and have had great success with. Aside from the spam filters I get that are obvious "P3NI5" and such in the text, I have setup an auto response to anyone not whitelisted. Basically, if you are someone not on my white list and you send me a mail, it goes into a holding queue and sits for 5 days (like a spam folder but different in my setup). Any mail that goes here gets sent a auto-reply that basically ask them to send me another email with a confirmation string or the option to go to a web form and enter the email address they sent it from. This will grey-list the email and allow one from that sender through. From that point, I can see its grey-listed and choose to white list or remove from all list or blacklist. If I remove it, they have to repeat the process to get it through again.

Re:Workable mail solution.. (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | about 7 years ago | (#19492351)

That's a neat setup, though if it became common, spammers would get around it quick I suspect.

Re:Workable mail solution.. (1)

mulvane (692631) | about 7 years ago | (#19492459)

The only way around it is to know who is on my white list. They could fill the hold queue up quick as hell, but I am not worried about that. And I do prefilter like I said for the obvious, and they would have to have an return email address that had a smart enough system to know how to reply to get one mail through at a time. and I would see my inbox getting spammed and blacklist em.

Re:Workable mail solution.. (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | about 7 years ago | (#19492581)

Actually, I was thiking about the reply part

Then again, they usually reply-to's that cant be sent to... But if they caught on, they might change that and have somethign to determine the required string.

Re:Workable mail solution.. (1)

mulvane (692631) | about 7 years ago | (#19492675)

Yes, its a cat and mouse game which would lead me to more complexity in the reply I expect. also, this setup does not work for for mass mailers unless you yourself remember to go in and whitelist the domain you expect to see mail from. Also, periodic checking of the pending doesn't hurt.

Re:Workable mail solution.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19492513)

Yes, like no one has ever heard of this technique before. Challenge-response has been around for years and only appeals to antisocial neckbeards who like simple-sounding solutions to problems under the guise of logic.

In the real world the rest of us inhabit this solution puts a huge burden on the userbase and were it ever to be widespread the spammers would figure it out in about 10 minutes anyway. It works now because not enough dorks use it for them to care.

Re:Workable mail solution.. (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | about 7 years ago | (#19492703)

Ehm, I understand your sentiment.... But, you are being a major pain in the butt for people getting joe-jobbed. As if the bounce messages from inexistent email addresses weren't enough, your messages are filling up mailboxes of innocent bystanders. Or do you really think that the reply-to of those mails are the addresses of the spammers? Let alone the machines of the spammers? Of course not!

Every time you send back a message to an address that seems to spam you, you are actually punishing an innocent bystander. My father was joe-jobbed because he hunted spammers online and reported them. I know what kind of mess it is to clean this up.

My own mailserver has three levels: authorized machines (= whitelist of IP addresses), blocked machines (= blacklist of IP addresses) and finally greylisting [wikipedia.org] . Very efficient and easy to set up. Sure, your mail isn't realtime anymore. (Mail wasn't supposed to be realtime) That's the downside. Well it is realtime for whitelisted machines ;-)

Re:Workable mail solution.. (1)

mulvane (692631) | about 7 years ago | (#19492813)

I see your point and it has caused me to think of a slight rework to how I greylist. The auto-reply is only sent once, after that I whitelist, or blacklist 95% of the time. Sometimes I remove it cause I feel certain enough that it was a zombie machine. I need to work in a weight system to the greylist and whitelist both. For confirmed spam, an auto reply never gets sent.
I would envision having a scale of say 1-10, and anyone above a 7 remains whitelisted if already are. 4-6 send a warning of why future mailings will be decline, 2-3, reject mail with replay, and 1 blacklist.
For the people I remove from greylist, I was thinking of a 3 strikes your out scenario.

Re:Workable mail solution.. (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | about 7 years ago | (#19493027)

You are essentially greylisting manually and you may still be pissing off innoncent bystander. Why do all the work when you can the server do the work?

As an added bonus, you can slow down spammers. (spamd(8) [openbsd.org] - see fourth paragraph of description)

What a stupid article (1)

3.5 stripes (578410) | about 7 years ago | (#19492247)

The point in goodmail is not to charge people for guaranteed delivery, but to save you the time you'd waste talking with the technical department to figure out what went wrong, what needs to be changed, etc etc.

It's basically a fast path through that bullshit. If you don't have the time to waste on these sort of things, pay the fee, if you do, or the service costs more than you're willing to pay, do it the old way.

Silly -- Don't use filters! (2, Insightful)

redelm (54142) | about 7 years ago | (#19492269)

The Goodmail premise is filtering. All filters catch false positives. I'm far more worried about losing mail! that being subjected to spam. So I turn all filtering off. So should anyone with high-value mail. I know a local architectural firm did after a purchase order was false-positived.

As for the strawman, you just sue your professional and their ISP. I have no doubt the ISP would get hit for actual, consequential and punative damages.

On another level, email should not be used for high-value communications without backup/acknowledgement. The internet just is _not_ reliable. Email is far less reliable than people suppose.

Re:Silly -- Don't use filters! (1)

David Jao (2759) | about 7 years ago | (#19492661)

I know a local architectural firm [turned filters off] after a purchase order was false-positived.

The calculation is not as simple as you imply. If you get a million spams per day (like this guy [acme.com] ), then you're probably better off with the spam filter, since without it your chances of catching the one purchase order hiding in 1000000 spams is pretty slim.

Spam filtering becomes worth it when the error rate of the filter is lower than the error rate of a human sorting through the same mail. That level of performance is pretty easy [paulgraham.com] to achieve.

Free markets work, really they do Bennett (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | about 7 years ago | (#19492271)

Free markets work, really they do Bennett. If you're paying somebody for something, you expect to Actually Receive it. If you don't, you kick out that vendor and move on to the next. Yes, there may be some pain for the first few people who discover that, but we're a connected society. Reputations are like glass. One crack and it's gone.

Re:Free markets work, really they do Bennett (1)

Arterion (941661) | about 7 years ago | (#19493059)

Not with the availability of broadband we have today. A lot of people only have ONE option for broadband. Some have two. It's a rare few who have more than two. In a Free Market, there would be many providers all competing with each other. Unless you have that, there's no "free market" and the market isn't going to fix anything.

Goodmail missing the point? (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | about 7 years ago | (#19492281)

I thought the point of a certified email system was not so much that you could "be sure to get through" but that there was a real, identifiable, *sue-able* person or organization that could be sued if the email is in fact spam. Therefore, the email with that label is less likely to be spam, since it's sent by someone already on the hook for punishments if it's spam.

Goodmail is just whoring out the right to spam you, while keeping all the gain for itself. I thought that was the postal service's province?

Free market might work... (3, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | about 7 years ago | (#19492363)

I don't think the free market can solve all the world's problems, but in this case it does have a fair shot.

The dilemma presented in the writeup is that you can't get messages through to someone (your doctor, mailing list recipients, whoever) because their ISP is extorting you. The author then argues that the free market cannot respond because it is the recipient being screwed (by charging others for a service that the recipient has already paid for), but the recipient is unaware of this abuse because they can't receive the messages.

But, that last part is rather unlikely. You will still be able to contact the recipient elsehow: either by paying the silly fee at least once, or by phoning them, or using a recipient email address not linked to the ISP, or by posting something on a web-site.

Take the example of the mailing list. The author worries about the cost of sending mails to thousands of people. So, basically, your mailing-list signup could say something like "We won't send email to people on ISP X" or "We cannot guarantee delivery to ISP X... click here to find out more." If the user really wanted to sign-up to that mailing list, then they will be annoyed by this. Ultimately end-users will find out about what their ISPs are doing, and switch ISPs (or at least switch email providers).

So the recipients will be empowered to change their email provider. And I'm fairly certain this whole scheme will fail for precisely that reason. The end users (senders or receivers) don't get much of benefit from the service--certainly not a benefit commensurate to the cost. So they will not pay the fees, and the scheme will fail. (Notice that some people have called for nominal 'email costs' many times to prevent spam... such proposals never take off mainly because the users of email don't want that hassle or cost.)

I think it will be possible to vote with our wallets, and watch this little scheme die a painful death.

What's so new about this? (1)

siwelwerd (869956) | about 7 years ago | (#19492397)

Suppose you made an extremely urgent phone call to your doctor or your lawyer's office, who for the sake of argument you're not able to reach by email. The receptionist happens to take your message, and realizes how urgently you need to get it through. So he moves it to the bottom of a stack of unimportant messages, and then calls you up and says: pay me $1,000 to bring it to the recipient's attention, or they'll never see it. Does the receptionist have the right to do that? If not, why not? Perhaps you'd say that Receptionist X's 1/4-penny-per-message is reasonable, but $1,000 for one message is too much. But then who decides what is "too much"? The marketplace? Then isn't the receptionist just another player in the market, and $1,000 is what they want to charge? If you don't like it, you can go somewh... oh, wait, you can't, because there's no other way to get through to the recipient. If you ever get through to your doctor or lawyer, they might switch receptionists after they hear what happened, but should that be your only recourse? The problem with the receptionist charging $1,000 to deliver your message is not that $1,000 is "too much", but that they're charging for a service that has already been paid for. If your doctor or lawyer pays for a receptionist, they're doing so with the understanding that their receptionist will make a reasonable effort to deliver the important messages that people try to leave them. If their receptionist then turns around and asks you for $1,000 to deliver the message then they're trying to double-bill for the same service, and if they block the message because you don't pay the $1,000, then the receptionist is cheating the recipient out of a service that they've already purchased. And it's not just the recipient being cheated; if the recipient has an arrangement with you, as your doctor or lawyer would, then the receptionist is interfering in their business relationship with you.

No goodmail for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19492417)

Just for fun, I think I am going to block anything that is goodmail certified. It should only affect tens of thousands of our users, but goodfun anyway. Now I just have to find a way to flag these....... and make sure the bounce says why.....

Like FedEX or UPS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19492443)

That's a horrible analogy.

If FedEx and UPS deliver packages.

It would be like FedEx/UPS if (using a US only example for simplicity)
(A) All packages were delivered by USPS only.
(B) FedEx/UPS put a person by the mailbox of everyone who used their service (or maybe everyone on every street that opted in, regardless of if the individual wanted the service or not)
(C) The FedEx/UPS agent would simply sit their until the mail man came up, and take the mail when the mail man came up.
(D) The FedEx/UPS agent would then look at each mail, and either
( D.1) Put it in the mailbox if it was from a sender that gave him/her money
( D.2) Put it in the mailbox if it wasn't from a sender that gave him/her money, but he/she felt like it (which is apparantly rare)
( D.3) Throw it in a junk box next to him/her.
(E) Go back to drinking his/her beer.

AoL, i've dealt with them before... (2, Interesting)

LullySing (164221) | about 7 years ago | (#19492465)

... and they are complete utter idiots/wankers. This does not even surprise me at all coming from them. While i am sure there exists some people with clue somewhere, someplace within the thing, most of the people manning the phones are ( as per past experience, numerous comments and dealing of associates, other occasions where i've kibbitzed with people having had to deal with them) :

- Insuficciently trained to deal with admins ( where a postmaster/mail line should)
- Don't have enough knowledge about how email works oin the network
- Limited network training
- No power to do shit all to REALLY help you
- Extremely bullshitty. they don't know what they're talking about, they'll just go with whatever.

This is just like their bullshit "mail report cards" they started sending back in the days. It's condescending, badly implemented ( and hence) mostly useless. ( included original rant on that lower behind supersnip). I think the whole " pay for delivery" is a dangerous slope to get onto for networked mail. At least the Sender Policy Framework makes more sense.

Shit man, it's times like these I don't miss working abuse@some.isp

==(supersnip)==

---(start idiotic message from AOL)---
Date: Mon, 5 Apr 2004 09:04:13 -0400 (EDT)
From: postmaster@aol.com
Subject: AOL email concerns for isp-where-i-work-abuse.net
To: abuse@isp-where-i-work-abuse.net
X-Scanned-By: MIMEDefang 2.39

Dear isp-where-i-work-abuse.net,
You are receiving this message via our automated "Report Card" process (which helps analyze AOL's Internet inbound mail) because our available data indicate that isp-where-i-work-abuse has risen above the acceptable threshold for complaints:

Total number of AOL member complaints: 186

AOL takes proactive steps to contact owners of mail servers whose e-mail transmissions are impairing the functioning of AOL's proprietary e-mail system, or causing significant levels of AOL customer complaints.

AOL requests that you take immediate steps to resolve the issues identified in this AOL Report Card. In the absence of a satisfactory resolution, AOL reserves the right to take measures to protect its email network and its member goodwill from any possible damage. These measures may include declining to accept e-mail transmissions from isp-where-i-work-abuse.net through AOL's proprietary e-mail network.

AOL strives to provide the best online experience possible for our members, and we pride ourselves on being intensely focused on consumers and their needs. Email is a core feature of the AOL service, and the proper functioning of AOL's e-mail system is vital to our members' goodwill.

Please review AOL's e-mail policies and guidelines, as well as other technical details concerning e-mail on the AOL network, at http://postmaster.info.aol.com/ [aol.com]
--(end message)--

Ooohhh, AOL's proprietary e-mail network. No information that is gonna be any use in determining WHY people are complaining at all. I guess this should not be a surprise, considering this crap is coming in from AOL! So i do the next available thing , i go to the website. Result : No information that is gonna be any use in determining WHY people are complaining at all. But there's a phone number.

Result of calling 1-888-212-5537:
*dials phone*
"The holding time for the next available consultant will be more than ten minutes." ...( silence )
"Thank you for calling America online ..."
*spits water all over desk, workdesk and papers*
(musak)
(an hour later)
"Hello, this is postmaster helpdesk, can i help you?" ...And here i am explaining to the bloke on the phone the situation, namely that we are getting "Report cards" without any kind of information as to why people are complaining, with no headers or anything at all to help us.
REP:"oh, that's because you don't currently have a feedback loop with us."
ME : "huh? but we received your report cards in the abusemail box."
REP:"Yes, but you don't have a feedback loop with us"
ME :"You know, there are databases on the net where you can get the abuse contact information for ISPs and things like that."
REP:"Yes, but we made our own database"
ME :"Couldn't you have used those as a base for your own database?"
REP:"I cannot comment on that" ... and here are some other juicy interesting tidbits of information from this conversation...

REP: So what are your mail server's IP adresses.
ME : We have several : we're an ISP.
REP: Alright, then give em to me.
ME : That's why we use DNS names for our mail servers : if one breaks, we change the IP to another server while we fix the previous one.
REP: So you can't give me the IPs? ...
ME : So now we're gonna know what the complaints are about ?
REP: Yes, you should receive an email with headers whenever someone clicks on "place a complain" for that email.
ME : What about duplicates ?
REP: What about them ?
ME : Do you group the duplicates ?
REP: No, you should receive an email with headers whenever someone clicks on "place a complain" for that email.
----------------

Needless to say, dealing with AoL "postmaster support" was so much bullshit. And of course the system was rigged so anyone reporting a Joe-job would have us accused by default. Not to add mail spamming virii and other random craps.
===(end supersnip)===

I'd Think the Solution to This (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about 7 years ago | (#19492525)

Would be to set up a mail rule that rejects mail from their customrs with an error that explains that you will not be able to respond to them at that address due to their use of this service and which suggests alternative web based mail solutions.

Sure if you're a company you're rejecting some big names but I don't think it'd be for very long if everyone did it...

Why pay per message? (1)

oni (41625) | about 7 years ago | (#19492615)

I know that the answer is, "because this allows the ISP to make more money" but if we look at it from the perspective of what's best for users, why exactly is pay-per-message the best solution?

Instead, how about I create an anonymous identity including a public key, and I register that anonymous identity with some kind of authority, who charges a very small fee - say two or three dollars. Now I can send all the emails I want. Each email is signed with my private key and email clients can query the authority to verify that I am me. When they see that I am registered, they leave the email in the inbox.

If I start sending spam, then the people who get my email will start telling the authority, "hey, you said this guy was registered but he is spamming me" and then after some threshold, the authority would revoke my registration. Any email without a registration might be spam, and would be filtered just as we filter email today. Any email with a revoked registration is *definitely* spam and goes straight to the trash. Any email with a valid registration is definitely not spam.

From the spammer's perspective, they would have to pay $2 to register, but then they could only send 100 or so spams before they are revoked. That would get very expensive very fast.

Spammers might try to DOS someone by telling the authority, "this guy is sending me spam," and hoping to have that guy's email address revoked, but the authority will only listen to "this guy is sending me spam" messages from registered users - plus, the authority requires 100 or so notifications before revoking. So the spammer would need to pay $200 to revoke someone's key. And after they pay that $200 to revoke your key? All you have to do is pay $2 to obtain a new key.

E-mail is past its useful lifetime... (1)

analog_line (465182) | about 7 years ago | (#19492647)

...at least in its current form. Now, don't get me wrong, I still employ e-mail, but it's not exactly useful to me. When 90% of the e-mail I and my clients recieve is useless crap, the medium that allows that kind of pathetic signal-noise ratio is just plain not useful in my book.

I've got clients that get 10,000+ spam e-mails a day, and we're not even talking large businesses. I'm talking 1 person getting well over 10,000 pieces of useless junk per day, because they don't want to or can't change their e-mail address. The amount of money they've spent on me to try to reduce that is ludicrous, and I feel like some kind of Dick Cheney oil profiteer. They're all quite happy with every little bit of relief I can give them, but it's getting to the point where if something serious WAS done about spam e-mail (in an international/legal sense) I would lose a lot of business, and that concerns me.

Communication is important, but there are a lot less costly methods of communication out there than e-mail. E-mail damn well isn't free now, so I don't know what the "Oh no, don't charge me for e-mail!!" people are complaining about, honestly. Just ask the postmasters of AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, etc, how much they spend on spam filtering. Just ask the restaurant owner and the machinist I work for how much they've spent on my time to teach them how to use spam filtering, and finding a service provider that provides decent filtering options in their management consoles.

Re:E-mail is past its useful lifetime... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 years ago | (#19493089)

"Just ask the postmasters of AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, etc, how much they spend on spam filtering."

So? The email system also allows them to make a boat load of money. Not exactly crying them a river. If the postmaster there doesn't like it, they can quit just like anybody else.

It's like being a cop and complaining you have to deal with criminals. No Shit Sherlock.

What's missing from e-mail... (2, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | about 7 years ago | (#19492715)

...is a way for someone you've opted in to, to prove it. If I wanted to subscribe to a mailing list, I shouldn't send a mail to listmaster@foo.com. I should send an email to mailfilter@myisp.com with the title "whitelist listmaster@foo.com" which would create a keypair, send the private key to listmaster@foo.com and store the public key in a database on the mail server. Then when foo.com wants to send me an email, they sign it with that key, my mail server verifies it and if it's good, it bypasses the SPAM filter.

Obviously I should be able to do a few other things like "blacklist listmaster@foo.com" which would basicly be an unsubscribe which the server would record, then let the mailing list know the next time they try to deliver mail. Same thing if that token is somehow compromised (and/or shared with partners) which start sending you SPAM. That gives pretty much all the benefits of Goodmail, of course without making money for anyone so I guess it won't happen...

Re:What's missing from e-mail... (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 7 years ago | (#19492891)

Oh yes, and maybe I should point out that this is intended for people that send out mass e-mails, like newsletters and the like and will actually set up such a signing system. It's not intended for everyone. The SPAM filters exteremely rarely have trouble recognizing proper personal mail. But they do have problems detecting wanted newsletterish-stuff from unwanted newsletterish stuff.

The real issue (1)

dualityshift (1009271) | about 7 years ago | (#19492763)

Rather than charging to receive the email, shouldn't ISPs be looking at a charge per email sent? If t cost 1/4 penny for me to spam 100,000 people, that's $250 per mailing, not a lot, but when you consider the bigger spammers have lists that top a million people, and if they send out 10 spams each day to each person, that's a lot of coin, and most spam houses would be bankrupt in a matter of months.

With this kind of system, it would be easy for me, joe average user to contact an ISP that sent me spam. It would be verified because it was paid for. In the ISP TOS, Spam could effectively be dealt with by saying "Spamming will get you booted." Who wants to pay to get booted from their net access? We'd be rid of email spammers quickly, but then they will just hit the forums, and myspace pages to spam us again. The difference is, it takes more time and effort to forum spam.

The only problem is logistics. How do you get every ISP to charge for sending, (not receiving) email.

Goodmail seems useful (1)

iabervon (1971) | about 7 years ago | (#19492807)

I'd been thinking that goodmail was bad until I saw that messages that used it would be specially marked in user interfaces. This completely changed my mind about it. Email whose sender is willing to pay money and have list management compliance tests to have not treated as spam is almost certainly stuff I want to delete unread, and it'll be clearly marked for me. This is a big advantage over the current situation where almost all spam is obviously spam, but list mail from legitimate companies is more difficult to eliminate at a glance. For that matter, if you actually want to see any of this email, it should be possible to whitelist the sender if you actually want to opt in.

Will I Be Bypassed (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 7 years ago | (#19492867)

What if I personally declare and mark all "Goodmail" as spam? Will someone else decide I didn't actually mean it? Or don't have the right any more to mean it?

While I applaud having bulk e-mail senders pay a penny or so each to have to send e-mail, it's not like I'm going to see that penny for reading their junk, or get an AdSense payment for clicking on their link.

Wouldn't surprise me to see the ACLU complaining that this hurts the poor, promotes child pornography, or damages Free Speech. How long before there are subsidies for those who can't afford to send e-mail otherwise?

The only advantage of making e-mail more expensive for the average user is that we'll see less of it. 10 billion Viagra spam messages sent for free through hijacked users, bot nets, and China, wouldn't be worth sending if the return per e-mail on average was less than the cost of sending them. And I wouldn't miss them for a moment!

The idea is actually ok, but needs a little tweak (1)

hobbes64 (1106381) | about 7 years ago | (#19492957)

I came up with a similar idea to this years ago but the difference was that I thought it would be good to pay the recipient to read the email and have the ISP get a percentage. So instead of always paying Goodmail 1/4 penny, the sender could decide to pay the recipient $1 or whatever and then the ISP gets 10 cents. This seems to avoid the "extortion by the ISP" issue that was brought up too. Imagine that you could get a producer to read your script by offering to give him $100 to read it. Or pay $2000 to get Bill Gates to read your opinion about something. This sounds crass but it is no different than what lobbyists do. The main problem is that I can't really guarantee that the message was read, just opened...

How will this affect code quality... (1)

benow (671946) | about 7 years ago | (#19492983)

There is an assumption for perfection (or as close as possible) in current email systems. They want to do the job as best they can. They are very complicated systems, and such high expectations means that they must stay active to continually maintain and improve reliability. If there is a 'good enough' level, there might not be the impetus to do as-good-as-possible, rather a good enough for non payers. At worse, it might cause intentional crap code to leak in in order to force payment for use of a system that works. Those pushing this, and many others out there, must realize that the horse is before the buggy, rather than the other way around. If there is not a drive to put out the best possible of products, I have no room for the product regardless of cost. Tieing the systems to a larger system out of the control of most (ie the financial system) is perhaps not the smartest of moves, either.

You're a spammer (0, Troll)

ameline (771895) | about 7 years ago | (#19492987)

You, Sir, are part of the problem.

I don't care if you think they're "opt-in" -- if you're sending 50,000 emails twice a week, you're a spammer. You might call it a newsletter etc, but it's still mass emailing -- ie. SPAM.

I'm sure plenty of the spammers who send me email think I opted in. They're wrong -- and I won't opt out because it only confirms that my email address is valid, leading to more spam -- no, I just permanently block them. I bet plenty of your "opted in" recipients have done the same to you.

AOL's shifting sands of explanation (1)

eggboard (315140) | about 7 years ago | (#19493045)

Whenever I've had double opt-in list or even paid-subscriber list mail bounced by AOL or had servers blacklisted, no explanation they have ever given me nor any instructions they have provided have proved accurate or helpful. I expect there are smart people in the middle, and cheap tech support with scripts on the edge. Probably demoralized now, too, because they're going to lose their jobs any day as AOL continues to shed operations and outsource to even cheaper, less helpful people.

By contrast, I had a problem with a mailing of 3,200 that's tied to blog postings (the list is just an exploder to double opt-in subscribers) with Yahoo, and I posted a note on my blog about it. Within hours, i had received two separate responses from people at Yahoo offering to help. I provided information they needed, they fixed the problem, and we were all done.
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