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Pay-per-email and the "Market Myth" 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 argued, in an open letter posted at 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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Pay-per-email and the "Market Myth"

Comments Filter:
  • Guess I'll stay with Road Runner.
    • 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,
      • "If I didn't have to give out my email address for every damn thing..."

        You dont. If you're running your own mailserver, just create junk aliases and simply keep them around for as long as necessary. Heck, create separate personal email aliases for everyone of your friends when you're at it, and it becomes their responsibility not to spread their access address to you around, or you'll simply junk it and make a note not to give them a new one.

        In todays overly communicative world, the desireable resource is n
  • Market Solutions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by w.p.richardson ( 218394 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:23AM (#15017773) Homepage
    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.

    • by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:32AM (#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.
      • 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 (Score:4, Informative)

          by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:10PM (#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 (Score:3, Informative)

          by Haeleth ( 414428 )
          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.

          No. For infrequent security alerts, you want to use a push technology like email: the advantages are that (a) it's everywhere (even the most stripped-down BSD server will have a basic email client), and (b) it saves bandwidth (because you don't have people's aggregators constantly probing your site for changes).
      • 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
        • 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.
        • Promise me it will stay that way. Forever.

          Systems like this tend to creep, and creep in the very directions I don't like. Given that sender-pays this way doesn't really do that much to actually stop spam, I'd rather it wasn't used at all. (Then it can't creep.)

          You are going to ask me what I think will work. I think good filtering is already working. It decreases the ROI of sending spam, and there are costs to sending it. In the meantime a good filter means I don't have to see spam. I get 120+ spam em
      • Well when you dont get a message for several months, you will undoubtably check their webpage and see all these alerts you are missing. Then you are free to email aol tech support and bitch at them/cancel your service. The grandparent was right. People know when they are not reciving legit mail. Time will pass, you wont get mail, and youll start complaining.

        Honestly, if you go with a service like aol people expect you to have your hand held. Thats what aol is doing here so i dont know why its surprising or
        • by hurfy ( 735314 )
          Sure, I'll know i didn't get all the legit email when someone asks me why i wasn't at our 25-year reunion :(

          Sorry that really isn't the way I want it to work.

          (that was my filtering, but on criteria likely to be used elsewhere...luckily my work ISP doesn't dump anything themselves)

          My home ISP is annoying enough with dumping attachments, quarantining pictures (interesting way to combat spam tho, you never hit their server for the pic to confirm receipt) but i think they let them all thru. Oddly enough my home
      • by monkeydo ( 173558 )
        The EFF and moveon are barking up the wrong tree (that's not really news). They complain that the market won't correct this, because it's "invisible" to the users. But they've pierced the veil, they've made it visible, they've alerted their members and the media, and this is still going to happen. Oops. It looks like the market heard about it and didn't care. Yeah, it sucks when you throw a party and no one comes. If it makes you feel better to believe that the invitaions got lost in the mail, fine.
      • Yahoo mail uses an interesting term: 'Bulk'. You see many mail providers using various terms- Junk, Spam, Bulk, etc. It's important to distinguish between these and handle them differently.

        Bulk mail plain and simple is newsletters, monthly statements, etc. This is anything sent out en-mass. It can easily be detected by large ISPs by a burst of connections in a short piece of time, or similarly formatted e-mail in sequence. Bulk is subscribed- your bank statement, your annoucement list, your flyers, etc
    • by Anonymous Coward
      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 t
    • by Mr Guy ( 547690 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:33AM (#15017860) Journal
      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.
      • by djmurdoch ( 306849 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:40AM (#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.
    • by Tony Hoyle ( 11698 ) <> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:34AM (#15017865) Homepage
      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.

    • 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.

    • 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.
    • 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".
    • 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.
    • 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 ....
    • 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.

    • 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 intere
    • 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!
  • by Metatron ( 21064 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:24AM (#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.
    • 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.
      • Thawte does have a free email certificate. This allows a community verfication network to validate and certify users in a very real way. Since the identities are traceable via digital signature to the real world sender, this could allow for MTAs to allow though the Thawte certified email automatically. That could become an alternative in some scenarios, especially if popularized in conjunction with GPG/PGP style signing. Add these authorities as "root-level" authorities that are always trusted.


  • by Anonymous Coward
    Was there a story here? My web filter might have deleted any story that might have been here.
  • 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 peopl
    • 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?
    • 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
      • Second, it claims an implicit contract which is not present.

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

        There's no implicit contract, because, as I said in my original posting:

        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.


    • 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 t
    • 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
    • The thing is, how do they tell what is spam and what isn't?

      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

      I have signed up for things (and bought items from online shops) and have forgotten to check the "no
  • by Southpaw018 ( 793465 ) * on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:25AM (#15017784) Journal
    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.
    • 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

    • Actually, it's not like extortion, but like certification. You're free to get (or to not get) an MSCE, or to become RedHat certified.

      There, too, customers might ask if you are certified.
  • by wile_e_wonka ( 934864 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:25AM (#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 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by The MAZZTer ( 911996 )
    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 b
    • 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.
    • Re:Thoughts (Score:3, Informative)

      by Russ Nelson ( 33911 )
      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.

    • Re:Thoughts (Score:3, Informative)

      by hey hey hey ( 659173 )
      - 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.

      Unlikely. The way Goodmail works is every outgoing message talks to their servers to get a token to put in the message, and every incoming message is validated by asking their servers about the token. Each token is unique, tied to a specific message, etc (it is domain keys, but Goodmail servers have the public and private keys). I think there are real issues with scal

  • 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 arr

  • by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:30AM (#15017828) Homepage Journal
    "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.

  • 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.
  • ...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."
    • The real issue is that you need to set up the parameters of the market to favor the behavior you want to see. There's no ideal platonic Market that is inherently the best and which will automatically occur.
    • No libertarian thinks that markets solve all problems. Every libertarian thinks that markets on average, when all is considered, solve problems BETTER THAN ANY ALTERNATIVE.

      Now, you might want to propose "Well, let's have politics solve problems that it solves best, and markets solve problems that they solve best". That's a great idea. How do you tell when politics is solving a problem better? Politicians don't go bankrupt, because it's *your* money they're spending, and you never run out of money (from
  • 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.
  • 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 exa
  • 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. Th
  • 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.
  • by casualsax3 ( 875131 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:48AM (#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.
    • Ah, but you wouldn't be saying that if you were the one getting the 39 cents.
    • Very few junk mail messages come through the mail here. They hire kids or retirees to deliver them.
    • No, we aren't (Score:3, Interesting)

      I get hit with over 1,000 "spams" a day at my personal address. (Yes, my filters catch most of them, but I'm talking raw numbers sent). While some of that is spam, most of it is scams, viruses, etc. And even the spam is primarily from people who aren't likely to pay even a penny for 100 mails, much less 4.

      OTOH, I send and receive a lot of legitimate email. I pay for this when I pay for my connectivity. I shouldn't have to pay agin.

      Now if you let *me* decide how much a spammer has to pay me before s/he
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.


    "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 the

    • Supposing in an e-government initiative, you signed up to allow the county to send you notices when you had to do various things. For example, the county might send you an email to remind you to pay your property taxes, renew your driver's license, or ask you to show up for jury duty. And suppose that email was blocked by your ISP. While you were not expecting the email, it is highly likely that those notices were all important to you, not only because you signed up for them, but also because if you fail
  • by merc ( 115854 ) <> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:01PM (#15018068) Homepage

    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:03PM (#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?
  • 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 oth
  • 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

    • There are two kinds of people in the world: those who categorize others into nice simple dichotomies and those who realize that most people do not fall into neat little categories, but rather consume the spectrum between multiple points of view.
  • I wonder how much opposition we'd see to these "email stamp" systems if every message required a 1 cent stamp, recipients could whitelist anyone (which waived the stamp requirement) with a GUI in their own email client or in the sender's signup page, and the stamp proceeds were shared with the recipient?

    Bulk email would be sent only to very high "welcome rate" recipients. And actual spam getting through would help pay its own cost. Why should AOL get all the profit off the spam it loads into your life?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @12:36PM (#15018420)
    I work for a financial services company who has a clients who are supposed to receive emails from us related to trades. Since I manage our web presence, email deliverability is also my problem.

    Here are the places to start:

    Free Certification
    AOL: []
    Yahoo: l []
    Verizon: rm.asp?id=isp []

    Spamcop: []
    Hotmail: []
    Senderbase: []

    Email Signing
    SPF: []
    DomainKeys: []

    Paid Certification
    Bonded Sender: []
    Habeas: []
    Goodmail: []

    A lot of providers outside the US have many of their own rules and regulations to follow, which makes it quite difficult to achieve deliverability. At the end of the day, we try to follow all the rules that have been laid out from existing companies and then deal with individual providers on a needs basis. The more users that use that ISP, the more we are willing to obey their individual rules.

    Unfortunately, I see paid certification becoming the way of the future. If I can pay to guarantee to have my clients email delivered rather then negotiate with ISPs every other week based on their varying criteria, I'm pretty sure my company will pay for it. I don't like it, but results are the bottom line.
  • If all the mail servers were to bounce messages that they considered spam, then all the improperly classified (non-spam) mail would be returned to the sender and they would know it wasn't delivered. Sending it into a black hole creates a reliability problem.

    The big problem with the whole concept of "pay" e-mail is figuring out who to pay. All the folks who carry the message are already being paid (by both the ISP and the consumer). Where should the money go? Maybe it should go to the receipient of the e
  • This is really a question of choosing between 2 evils. There is no "perfect solution" because we don't live in a perfect world. There are only compromise solutions. so you have to ask which is worse spam or commercial whitelists?

    I have to say that using yahoo e-mail I rarely get large ammounts of SPAM that makes it past their spam filter. And it has been a really Long time since something was mistakenly put in the SPAM folder.
  • 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... 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.

    Of course they find out about these things.

  • The author of this piece is using Hotmail's paid whitelisting as an example of why the market doesn't always fix problems because Hotmail users aren't ditching Hotmail. This is logically flawed because the majority of Hotmail users are not customers in the sense that AOL customers are - most Hotmail users are getting the service for free, so they aren't likely to complain about Hotmail's whitelisting policies. AOL is very different - its customers pay a premium for AOL service, and are therefore quite likel
  • I don't agree. (Score:3, Informative)

    by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @04:21PM (#15020353) Homepage
    Look, one of the MAJOR problems out there is not spammers, but instead the "legitamate" mass mailers.

    Yes, I said it, the legiatamate mass mailers are part of the problem.

    What would you say if a corporation started one of the following as business practoces:

    A) Because of the high crime rate among conveience stores, all clerks will be issued guns and told to point them at the customer at all times.

    B) Our salesman will run up to you, whip out a bottle of perfume point it at you and say PAY ME $25!

    C) When you arrive at our gas car wash, masked men will remove you from your car, get in, and drive it into the carwash.

    Customers would object to this. They have the right to object to this. The problem is that the activities being proposed, while they may be legal, APPEAR illegal. It is both stupid and irresponsible for businesses to engage in activities that are that close to being illegal.

    It is the responsibility of the legitamate mass-emailers to distinguish themselves from spam. If they can't do this, then they should not be engaging in mass-emailing at all. If you can't convince hotmail that you are not spam, then you have an unethical business model.

    Yes, this may force people to STOP using mass-email. There is no right to use it. Yes, you may like it, but it is argueable about ANY of it being 'legitamate', and it is up to you to find a way to prove you are legitamate, not up to the email service suppliers to prove you are not legiatamate.

    There are lots of ways to deal with sending out large amounts of data daily. Message boards work fine. The g-d d-mned adware junk could also be converted to legitamate use, downloading your message once/day instead of via email.

    If you can't clean up your act so your so called legitamate email is indistinguishable from spam, then you business model deserves to go down in flames.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.