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Communications The Internet

What Happens If You Don't Pay for Goodmail? 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 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.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

What Happens If You Don't Pay for Goodmail?

Comments Filter:
  • by danpsmith ( 922127 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @11:31AM (#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?
    • by aicrules ( 819392 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @11:37AM (#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.
      • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MBGMorden ( 803437 )
          Yes, but those filter ARE good because so many people make a "big deal" about spam, which was what the grandparent was questioning.

          Kinda like saying "Why should I go to work? I have food on my table and all my bills get paid. I'm not busting my ass anymore.". Stop the work and see how fast your rosy situation changes.
        • by kalirion ( 728907 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:25PM (#19493835)
          Do things like spamassassin never get false positives? When you register with a website and don't see the "confirmation" email in your inbox, you know to check the most recent entries in your junk folder and mark it non-spam. But what happens to legitimate emails which you are not expecting this very minute but which are identified as spam by your filter?
      • by guruevi ( 827432 )
        I do regularly receive such snail mail. These days enhancement pills are included in about any paper, flyer, on tv etc.
    • 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.
      • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @11:58AM (#19492327) Homepage Journal

        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 (Score:4, Informative)

          by benhocking ( 724439 ) <[benjaminhocking] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:23PM (#19492731) Homepage Journal
          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: (Score:3, Informative)

            Good reminder, it also reminds me that I don't think this works well. I get daily credit card offers from organizations I have no relationship with even though I'm on this list. The telemarketing one seems to work well, however. The difference might be explained in the financial penalties for junk phone calls, which I don't think exist for junk mail.

            Another off-topic comment - the post office takes offense to the term "junk mail", and actively encourages its creation [usps.com].

          • by mikael ( 484 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:08PM (#19493537)
            The UK's Daily Mail ran a campaign on how to stop junk snail mail [dailymail.co.uk].

            The Post Office responded by informing residents that if they took up this scheme, they
            risked losing delivery of official government letters such as bills, council tax and passports.
        • 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.
          you could say the same about marketing in general, it uses rescources that could potentially be used for more productive things.

          many slashdotters dislike marketing or see it as a "waste". However without it we would have little idea what products were availible. Manufacturers who are unable to find customers (whether direct customers or people
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

            many slashdotters dislike marketing or see it as a "waste". However without it we would have little idea what products were availible. Manufacturers who are unable to find customers (whether direct customers or people who would resell thier product) wouldn't be able to sell thier products and so wouldn't manufacture anything.

            I'm a systems/network admin by trade, but right now I'm a graphic artist, so if I thought advertising was a waste I'd have to kill myself (or quit my job.) I don't feel that way. It's

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by catman ( 1412 )
              Get rid of the "almost" and you're doing fine.

              I, for one, sometimes get e-mail advertising that I do not report as spam, because it is very well targeted and the sender has good reason to believe that I'm interested in the product he's selling. But the spam (even filtered and labelled) that comes through my ISP is getting to be too much - currently I'm running a Postfix server at home and seriously thinking about getting a static IP. cbl and spamcop helps me block almost all spam at the server.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by danpsmith ( 922127 )

        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 t

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by B'Trey ( 111263 )
          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 li
      • by futuresheep ( 531366 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:11PM (#19492557) Journal
        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.
        • by phantomlord ( 38815 ) <slashdot@NoSPaM.krwtech.com> on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:00PM (#19493377) Journal
          The post office has to use more fuel to carry all the extra weight in their vehicles.

          The post office has to do the same route every day whether they deliver you one piece of mail or 10. Even if they don't have mail for you, they have mail for your neighbors so they have to travel down your road anyway. Driving the route is the biggest contributor of fuel expenses, junk mail just makes it slightly more inefficient. I normally get about 22 mpg on my truck. Towing a trailer around with 1000 pounds of weight in it makes me get about 21 mpg even on hilly routes.

          I have to get it from the mail box

          Do you check your mail daily? Does carrying a couple ounces of mail to your dwelling cause you so much wear and fuel that you can measure it?

          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.

          I don't own a shredder. I heat my house with wood (hey, my heat is carbon neutral and cheaper than oil/coal/gas/electric though it is offset by manual labor) and I save my junk mail to use as starter paper to get the kindling going. It saves me from having to buy paper or starter fluid to get my fires going. Also, even with an extended amount of time, good luck putting my mail back together to get sensitive info when it has all turned to a mishmash of ashes in the bottom of my wood stove. As for my garbage, again, it is the same as the post office. The majority of the fuel is spent just driving to my house. The weight of junk mail is a pittance compared to that. I throw away an average of 3 bags of garbage a week. If I threw away my junk mail, it would be a small fraction of that.

          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.

          Opt out of prescreened credit offers [optoutprescreen.com]
          Opt out of all DMA members mailing lists [dmaconsumers.org]
          Opt out of all DMA members phone calling lists [dmaconsumers.org]
          Join the federal do no call list [donotcall.gov]

          These programs really work... smart DMA people don't want to sell to people who don't like them. It wastes their time and resources to annoy you. Since joining just the federal do not call list, my telemarketing has dropped to near zero (only exceptions being companies I've done business with, politicians and political surveys (yeah, I'm one of those people who gets 1-2 survey calls a month)).

          Spam is much, much more annoying to me than junk mail is. Telemarketing probably ranks higher than spam though since it is an immediate interruption in what I'm doing so someone can try to pitch something at me. Email I read at my leisure. It takes me a couple seconds to toss out my junk mail once a day since the envelopes are pretty obvious. I spend much more time making sure spamassassin is correctly classifying spam/ham, setting up whitelists and blacklists, etc than I do dealing with junk mail. Overaggressive filters means I could lose important emails if I don't scan through things carefully. I've never tossed away valid mail (though sometimes I will open a strange looking mail to make sure isn't something important).

          At the end of the day, I'm at least wasting the junk mailers money if they send me crap to my mailbox. Even with a bulk rate, they're limited to how much they can send out by the expense of printing it and putting a stamp on it. Spammers incur almost no cost to send out an unlimited amount of garbage. I get 100 spams a day averaging at least 30 megs a month. I have to spend time making sure my network doesn't turn into a bots, cleaning out friends machines which were turned into bots, etc.
      • 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
        • 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.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          A clarification:

          Junk Mail does not waste the Post Office's time. They make money on it. They actively promote the creation of it.

          http://www.usps.com/directmail/ [usps.com]
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by geekoid ( 135745 )
        "It wastes YOUR ISP's hard-drive..."
        which comes out of the fee they charge me.

        "it wastes YOUR time,"

        So does snail mail spam. A lot more of my time in fact.

        "and it wastes YOUR ISP's BANDWIDTH"
        That comes out of the cost for doing business, which the consumer pays for.

        Snail mail cost me my garbage bandwidth. Meaning I pay to have my trash picked up, and it takes room out of my trash can. Well, usually my recycle bin, but the same thing applies.

        Snail mail is far worse on the environment then Spam. it take physi
    • by packetmon ( 977047 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @11:43AM (#19492091) Homepage
      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.
      • by daeg ( 828071 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @11:59AM (#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.
    • 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 r

    • 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.
    • 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
      • 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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ch-chuck ( 9622 )
      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 la
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by frooddude ( 148993 )
        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.
        • I think he meant the DMA does it voluntarily as a whole. Members are required, but the organization is not.
        • by pasamio ( 737659 )
          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 g
    • 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.
  • by Bearpaw ( 13080 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @11:34AM (#19491947)
    ... it'd be a shame if somethin' happen to it. Know what I mean?"
  • the real reason (Score:5, Informative)

    by sdnoob ( 917382 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @11:35AM (#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 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    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.
  • 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.

  • by hal2814 ( 725639 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @11:41AM (#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.
    • 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

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )
      Actually, once someone develops a service at a certain expectation, suddenly deviating from that can cause legal actions.

      In this case I am pretty sure a judge would frown on this type of extortion.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Anecdote ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PhxBlue ( 562201 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @11:48AM (#19492191) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • 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.

    • by SQL Error ( 16383 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:07PM (#19492481)
      Or rather, use NNTP. That's what it's designed for. RSS feeds are a hack.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Aladrin ( 926209 )
      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 lis
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by garcia ( 6573 )
      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 li
    • by rho ( 6063 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:21PM (#19492693) Homepage Journal

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

  • by mulvane ( 692631 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @11:51AM (#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.
    • That's a neat setup, though if it became common, spammers would get around it quick I suspect.
    • Oh, I see. You're using CRAP (Challenge / Response Authorization Protocol.) Earthlink uses a similar system that works like CRAP. CRAP works really well to keep spam and other email out of your inbox.
    • by grotgrot ( 451123 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:18PM (#19493691)

      This is not workable. In fact it is the single most selfish thing you can do.

      You have no way of knowing if the message you respond to is spam or not. If it is spam then you respond to a forged email address which basically means you are spamming an innocent other person. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Challenge-response_sp am_filtering [wikipedia.org]

      I like many other admins consider these auto-responses spam and report them. Ultimately you will find yourself on email blacklists.

  • 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.

  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @11:54AM (#19492269) Homepage
    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.

    • by David Jao ( 2759 )

      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. 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.
  • 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?
  • by kebes ( 861706 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:01PM (#19492363) Journal
    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.
  • 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 yo
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Taevin ( 850923 ) *
      Cute, but it's not the same thing as the submitter is commenting about. If you're on the phone with someone who is being difficult (something I'm sure we've all had to deal with), there really is little you can do besides ask to speak with their superior and hope they comply. There is nothing you can do but call back later, hoping to get someone else or to talk with the receptionist's boss and report the treatment you received.

      If you stop your thought process there, I can see how you might confuse the
  • ... 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 e
  • 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...

  • 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 authori
  • ...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-
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      "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.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @12:22PM (#19492715) Homepage
    ...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...
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )
      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.
  • 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 diffi
  • 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 be

  • 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 syste
  • 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 pr
  • This entire argument is based on the hypothetical situation where you couldn't (for sake of argument, right?) get ahold of your doctor or lawyer over the phone or any other way.

    That is just a ridiculous argument to propose.

    Based on that you could start naming all sorts of similar hypothetical situations: say you could only get to your doctor through your neighbor's house, shouldn't you be allowed to walk through? You could only send him a message through a McDonalds hamburger but you had no money; shouldn't
  • Hacking goodmail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:10PM (#19493559)
    How long will it take for spammers to add a fake Goodmail header to all of the email they send?
  • One disagreement (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:30PM (#19493915) Homepage

    Remember that Goodmail isn't charging senders to get their mail delivered. The charge is to bypass the normal processing that the receiving ISP does to all e-mail and deliver directly into the recipient's inbox. If you don't pay Goodmail to get your mail certified then it still gets delivered, it just gets handled as normal everyday mail. Now if the receiving ISP starts dumping everything not flagged by Goodmail into the spam folder automatically that'll be another matter, but my problem there would be with the ISP and not Goodmail (unless Goodmail was telling the ISP to do this, but they aren't). That problem is one I'd have to take up with the recipient, though, since I'm not a customer of their ISP. But as long as it's the receiving ISP's choice how to handle Goodmail-marked mail, Goodmail and senders can do whatever they please as far as I'm concerned.

    For myself, I'm a firm supporter of the ISP's right to filter incoming e-mail however they want. I like the fact that my ISP applies some pretty effective spam filters. I also like the fact that they're unlikely to bypass that filtering just because of a Goodmail signature on messages. The only thing I demand from an ISP is that they make it clear to customers what sort of filtering they do, so customers can decide whether they agree with it or not.

  • by josepha48 ( 13953 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:31PM (#19493949) Journal
    If their spam will be guaranteed to be delivered, and they choose to pay for it, what good is a spam filter on a server for?
  • by jratcliffe ( 208809 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:58PM (#19494433)
    If your doctor wants to use an ISP that restricts his email, that's his business. You can certainly go to another doctor, but you aren't his ISP's customer (he is), so if he's happy with an ISP that charges people to send him mail, that's his call, not yours. If the ISP wanted to only accept mail from domains that start with Q, then it could do so - your doctor might have grounds to complain, especially if they didn't inform him of it, but you certainly don't - his service, his payment, his call.
  • wtf? (Score:3, Funny)

    by garbletext ( 669861 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @04:28PM (#19496841)
    "magical clicky clicker?" Sounds like a certain commander took the brown acid.

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein