I have an alternate view of the AOL email stamp hooha. It’s not about money. It’s about identity. How about this:

I don’t want to get email from anyone who does not have a verifiable identity. And I want the means to block email from any identity. If someone abuses that identity, then we can all share it and block them at will. Then they can lose their identity.

And identity is the real precious commodity, not .25 cents per worthless email or .25 cents for the valuable email I don’t get.

  • htom

    I think that AOL has it backwards. People should be charged for emailing spam.

    If I report something as spam, I get a penny, AOL collects all of the pennies from all of the reports, plus one, from that post from the mailer. If AOL blocks a spam, they get to collect a penny from the mailer. If I dig in my spambox and find something blocked that should not have been, AOL returns the penny charged to the mailer.

    AOL is motivated to build good filters, users are motivated to report spam, errors get corrected, and the spammers, well, pay. Looks like winning all around to me!

  • Ted Leonsis has made his blog public. He wrote about AOL and Goodmail, how it’s not for consumers to be charged for email, how they won’t allow spammers to buy their way past the filters, etc. He also reinforced that they don’t think they’ll make a lot of money off of this. I suggest reading his thoughts, they make a lot of sense for the company and its users (as long as that’s the stance the company keeps and follows through with).

  • Why is it that users get so much more upset about email junk mail than by paper junk mail?
    The first one can be mostly solved by better software, both at the ISP level and at the end user level. Many such solutions are in use and get better with time.
    The ISP’s should be upset because they need to spend money on equipment to filter this stuff out which (indirectly) drives up the cost of their service to their end users.

    Paper junk mail has no real mechanism for control.One can write to an individual catalog company, and perhaps, they will stop sending their items, but many others will ignore requests or are basically untraceable. Email spam costs a little electricity and some amortized hardware, but paper uses valuable natural resources for its production, delivery and disposal. Odd…

  • Why is it that users get so much more upset about email junk mail than by paper junk mail?

    Because I don’t get 4000 catalogs a day.

  • I want a “do not email list” (like my do not call list) or some such technology from my ISP and I want them to go after serial offenders.

    I’d have the best engineers at my ISP to put time in every week to trace all spam mailers. Then they could use all their cleverness and technology to punish spam mailers ingeniously and ruthlessly. I’d pay extra and I’ll bet so would others to have a bully on our side ruining the spammer’s inbox.

    That’s how companies could make some extra dough. Colluding with bulk mailers (for a fee) will disappoint me. And you know what happens when I am disappointed. (See Jeff’s post on Dell Hell.)

  • I don’t think someone should be charged per email – why not just charge someone once for a verifiable identity certificate? Then you can only allow those on your contact list or those with verifiable certs to email you.

    Chat clients and call software like Skype has this type of funtionality and I dont get charged everytime I use it.

    I think the idea and the time has come — but the structure of cost will need to change.

  • Sam

    There are several salient facts to keep in mind when proposing solutions.
    a. The government doesn’t run email, it’s all private companies.
    b. Technically, email is very cheap to send.
    c. Much spam email is sent using fradulent means.

    htom’s solution can’t work–how does AOL collect? The only time you can collect is before the email is sent. Now, a related idea–once you discover that someone is a spammer, you can start to hold up her email (forever or until they start paying…) But that runs into c. The problem here is that much spam email comes from hacked machines (spammer first breaks into someone else’s computer and uses that to send email) or transient accounts (spammer signs up for an account with an ISP, sends a bunch of email, closes account next day).

    laurence haughton seems to have rediscovered the idea of “spam filtering” in the first part of his comment. However, attempting to retaliate is either futile or dangerous ethically due to c.

    Mike M has rediscovered digital certificates. The main problems with digital certificates is that few people have them or bother to use them and software support. (There are more subtle problems too). However, you are likely to have some experience with certificates: when you connect to a secure web site using SSL, your web browser verifies the identify of the website by checking the digital certificate they offer.

    Yahoo and AOL are implementing an idea that has been discussed among email people for some time–they’re just big enough that they might make it stick. A major reason that email spam is so pervasive is that the cost per message is so low that even miniscule response rates make it profitable. A 0.25 cents/message would probably increase the cost more than 10000 times. I am wondering about the details though–how do people actually “attach postage”?

  • Sam, Does your ISP do as good a job filtering your email as your “do not call list?” Do not call has cut interruptions by 90+% for me. I’d like to switch to a better spam filtering broadband ISP so I’m all ears. I don’t think I should have to do it at my end.

    Are you sure that mustering a counter offensive against all spam is futile? Do you have proof? Could it be marginaly successful?

    And what are the ethical problems with turnabout? I thought it was fair play.

  • Since I’ve switched to gmail for my public email their spam filter catches about 99% of all spam and routes it to a folder for my review, if I wish. This solves the problem with having to set up client filters, but still puts the burden on Google to process all this junk.
    If they rejected it out-of-hand, I’m sure they would get complaints from people about the misidentified emails that got dumped.
    I’m still puzzled about the difficutly with finding the spammers. For a spam message (ignoring viriuses and the like) to be of any use to the sender it has to direct the reader to a merchant. So this is the firm to go after if monetary recompense is going to be pursued. The spammer is operating on the firm’s behalf and so it is the merchant that is responsible.

  • Considering how often I actually send email, I can afford a penny a message. But not 25 cents. AOL is being greedy, and it’ll backfire on them.

    Sometimes by trying to maximize your profits per unit you wind up minimizing your profits over all.

  • I used for about 2 years, until AOL closed it down. That was a challenge/response method and it worked VERY well. I was dissappointed to see it end.

    It blocked ALL spam. The only downside was checking the spam folder for a message that someone I WANTED to hear from – who did not respond to the challenge message.

    I do use GMAIL now and I agree with Robert about keeping out most spam.

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  • Like one of the posters above, I hate postal spam as well, but at least the sender has to pay to send it (think of how much more mail we’d get if they didn’t). I’m happy with any policy that makes spammers have to pay for the mail they send. It won’t stop all of it (so there are still measures that need to be taken) but it will stop some.

  • Andy Freeman

    > Considering how often I actually send email, I can afford a penny a message. But not 25 cents.

    The proposal was for certain mailers to pay .25 cents, that is 1/4 of a cent. It wasn’t for mail sent by individuals.

  • Andy Freeman

    > If someone abuses that identity, then we can all share it and block them at will. Then they can lose their identity.

    Huh? How does being blocked mean “lose their identity”?

    BTW – I note that US bankrupcy law has a time-out period. After it has passed, credit issuing organizations have limited ability to deny credit. Should something similar apply here? Or should bankrupcy law be changed to allow something similar to the “death penalty” advocated here?