Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 5, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

THE FUTURE OF EMAIL?....From the New York Times today:

America Online and Yahoo, two of the world's largest providers of e-mail accounts, are about to start using a system that gives preferential treatment to messages from companies that pay from 1/4 of a cent to a penny each to have them delivered.

....AOL and Yahoo will still accept e-mail from senders who have not paid, but the paid messages will be given special treatment. On AOL, for example, they will go straight to users' main mailboxes, and will not have to pass the gantlet of spam filters that could divert them to a junk-mail folder or strip them of images and Web links.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? The answer isn't an easy one.

AOL and Yahoo actually announced this program several months ago. It's an alliance with Goodmail Systems and its operation is pretty simple: First, companies sign up with Goodmail, which makes sure the company is a legitimate enterprise that has agreed to follow a set of good conduct rules. Goodmail then embeds a cryptographically-secure token in all the company's email that tells AOL/Yahoo (and the recipient of the email) that the message is a genuine one.

The downside, of course, is that if you don't pay for this service, then you're running a risk that your email will get sucked into AOL's spam filters and never delivered. The potential for abuse is pretty obvious: pay up or risk email oblivion.

On the other hand, I never even look at email from my bank or from PayPal, even if it gets through my spam filters. This means that neither of these companies has a way of communicating with me via email. This is a problem that really does beg for a solution of some kind, and Goodmail just might be it.

On the third hand, this may also turn out to be yet another front in the "network neutrality" war. Will everyone have equal access to the internet in the future, or will the rich and powerful get preferred treatment in the form of faster downloads, quicker connections, and fewer delays, while the rest of us plod along in increasing frustration? Stay tuned.

Kevin Drum 1:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (82)

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Comments

For some time now, I've not been able to get e-mail through to any aol address -- not via my Comcast account, yahoo, or gmail. None.

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on February 5, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

E.g.:

A message (from ) was received at 5 Feb 2006 18:58:21 +0000.

The following addresses had delivery problems:


Permanent Failure: Other address status
Delivery last attempted at Sun, 5 Feb 2006 18:59:27 -0000

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on February 5, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

America livesin a post-socialist model, in many aspects. get used to it. free anything? free is the equivalent of slavery. Not paying for a service is the equivalent of being the plantation owner. Would you want to work for free? would you want your services to be reduced to a "right" rather than a privilge? of course not. People only value that which they pay for. create value, and make people pay for it, or have them choose not to. paying for a service is the ultimate form of equality.

Posted by: Chris on February 5, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

there is another answer that you didn't mention: don't use aol or yahoo email for mail you care about. of course I already have a provider for that kind of email: hotmail.

Posted by: supersaurus on February 5, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see how this is not a pay to spam service. All Yahoo and AOL had to do was require digital authentication of a sender. That is, buy digital signature from verisign for all their users, and treat digitally signed mail as preferred. The result would be that everyone would go out and a digital signature, and spam, which relies on anoymity, would go away.

This is not a difficult problem to solve. The fact that they haven't chosen to solve it has perplexed me. I know why MS wouldn't want to--they send out a lot of spam. But AOL?

Posted by: JayAckroyd on February 5, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, Kevin, that's not the only abuse. What happens when someone malicious (either inside the company that has paid Goodmail or hijacking their mail servers from outside) uses this "trusted" email system to send a virus or phishing email? We'll be right back to the situation before spam filters, except that people will have been *assured* these emails are trustworthy. There won't be as many emails since there's a cost to sending, but offering "you can pay us not to spam- and virus-filter your email" is a *terrible* idea.

Posted by: Jade on February 5, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

we live in a world where people are allowed to create markets. Windows (TM) has brought about an entire industry of anti-viral software, much of which creates new businesses. So now, why would AOL want to restrict spam? why not see it as a goldmine? make companies pay to get their emails through. Better yet, make customers pay to block spam, and perhaps, allow spammers to pay for spamming? All around, moeny is made, lifting people out of their poverty imposed by socialism.

Posted by: Chris on February 5, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see how this is not a pay to spam service.

Because pay-to-spam ruins the economics of spam. The return on spam is very, very small, but because it's essentially free right now that doesn't matter. If it costs even a fraction of a cent to send each piece of spam, the whole venture becomes unprofitable.

Posted by: antid_oto on February 5, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds kind of like the pre-cleared "fast lane" for airport inspection. I know some people who get loads of e-mail who have set up kind of an informal "secret word" thing that greases the incoming mail to the top of the stack.

There are so many competitors for e-mail service that I'm not sure it's a problem.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 5, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Will everyone have equal access to the internet in the future, or will the rich and powerful get preferred treatment in the form of faster downloads, quicker connections, and fewer delays, while the rest of us plod along in increasing frustration? Stay tuned.

"Yeah, why the heck should someone who pays for a service get a better product than someone who gets that valuable service (that didn't even exist a few years ago) dropped into their laps for free?"

Geez, who thinks like this?

Posted by: tbrosz on February 5, 2006 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Let me see if I have this right, AOL and Yahoo are going to allow spam if they are paid by the spammers.

Does that about sum it up.

I am so happy they are looking out for their users.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 5, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

This is a very bad thing.

Administering email especially with acces to real time black lists is a zero effort job. The wires and routers the packets travel over are already paid for. Yahoo and AOL are just trying to impose a tax on the rest of us.

This is both outrageous and unethical and must be stopped.

Posted by: patience on February 5, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not defending this concept, but get used to it: companies are in the business of making money, when it comes down to it. And everyone shoudl have to pay. Do rich people drive more expensive cars that go faster? sure they do. Do they live in more expensive houses? Sure they do. Do they drink more expensive water? sure they do. Do they get better (more timely and personalized) health care? sure they do. this is the Zeitgeist we live in. Adapt and survive, or die.

Posted by: Chris on February 5, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Heh. In 1980, the rich and powerful had 300 baud modems and CRTs while the rest of us plodded along with 110 baud teletypes. If you were really rich you got lower case.

Posted by: JamesP on February 5, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

patience: it's not a tax. it's a user fee. If you dont' use the email functionality, you don't pay. Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

Posted by: Chris on February 5, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

The whole protocol which has made the internet a giant noise machine will eventually be redesigned in a way that abolishes spam in the way we know it. The crux will involve being able to identify the source of a message. Perhaps we won't need to identify every single message, but the authorities (whoever they will be) will have to be able to back-track to the source of mass emailings. It will also require international treaties that allow for prosecution of spam that crosses national boundaries. Maritime and aviation commerce is regulated by international treaties, so there is no reason a priori that we can't do it along those lines.

I find the reflexive pro-profit postings above silly. We all pay for internet service, and I have heard nothing to suggest that Google, AOL, and Yahoo are losing money this year. The business model by which the internet runs may be due for a redesign (along with the lack-of-security model), but this is not the way to do it. I communicate with several people who have AOL accounts, with a combined monthly payment for all of us that runs into the hundreds of dollars a month, and I don't want to be relegated to second class status as a sender.

Posted by: Bob G on February 5, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

There's another possibility, also dependent on market forces: AOL and Yahoo users will get sick of all the spam - authenticated or not - and simply switch to a service that prioritizes their needs over that of a company.

Abuse 'em and lose 'em.

Posted by: Jonathan Dworkin on February 5, 2006 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

If the blackmail actually takes place, than it's a violation of the RFCs.

I would be surprised if any non-spam producing company will really be willing to pay AOL and Yahoo for this sort of service for fear of the future blackmail involved from AOL, Yahoo, hotmail, gmail, ....

I work for a company with 150,000 people. A large company worth about $50B. How many emails are sent in and out each day, 300,000? divide by 4 divide by 100 multiply by 365 that's 1/4 million each year to send something that the IT department knows used to cost nothing.

And when that 1/4 cent goes up to 1/2 cent goes up to a penny, ....

email is supposed to make a company more productive, not less.

A digital signature of the SPF sort does the same thing, but costs almost nothing by comparison.

AOL and Yahoo like this because it will immediately pump up their bottom lines in a way that will not happen to most of the Fortune 2000, where it will mainly decrease the bottom line.

Posted by: jerry on February 5, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

My impression is that a great deal of spam would disappear if a. they had to pay even a tiny fee per message (.25 per message costs $250,000 if you are sending a million spams) and b. if your identity as mail sender could be verified (you'd be put on blacklists and lose your ability to email anything). In the latter case, buying a "Goodmail" identity would involve paying for the account and (presumably) leaving a paper trail to a real physical address of an actual person that could be prosecuted for fraud if the account were abused.

Over time we will come to something like this, as spammers will eventually make it impossible to conduct business the old way. WRT the "email stamp" cost, I think this wouldn't necessarily be so bad, provided the price were low enough. I think the proposed price (.25 per message) is probably too high. OTOH at, say .025 per message it'd cost me around $50 to $100 per year. I'd happily pay that to get rid of most of my spam.

Posted by: jimBOB on February 5, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

What would you rather have? Free email or food on the table?

I would guess that most of the billions of the people who inhabit this planet would prefer the latter.

No one can guess the limits to which the capitalism-hating leftists will go to hoist their bankrupt ideology on the rest of the rational world.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 5, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get the ideological hostility to the post. E-mail is like highways, or regular mail -- it is a common service, and spurs economic growth precisely because it is common. However appealing it may appear to let the market respond to the spam problem by creating a virtual gated community of e-mail, everyone, including the wealthy, will lose future opportunities for profit because e-mail is no longer universal.

Posted by: Greg Abbott on February 5, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

I'll miss those African swindle emails.

Posted by: elmo on February 5, 2006 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

> For some time now, I've not been able to get
> e-mail through to any aol address -- not via my
> Comcast account, yahoo, or gmail. None.

About 6 weeks ago AOL put in some technical changes [1] related to how it accepts e-mail, presumably in an attempt to limit spam (although it might have also been preparation for this move). I would estimate that 40% of the mail servers out there can no longer send to aol.com addresses as a result. There was no announcement from AOL, and the support documents are only findable if you already know where to look. A real dog's breakfast.

Cranky

[1] Requiring reverse DNS entries for all mail servers. Which is simple if your DNS host supports reverse DNS; a nightmare if it does not.

Posted by: Cranky Observer on February 5, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

One can always go back to snail mail.

Posted by: Mazurka on February 5, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

You mean to tell me that AOL users by default have their email go through a filter that is known to delete legitimate correspondence without their knowledge? Can they at least turn it off or take the intermediate step of having it label messages it believes to be spam as spam?

and fake tbrosz -- I choose free email and damn the poverty stricken americans that go hungry from my greed. I'll volunteer at a university until I turn 95 just to make sure I can keep it.

Posted by: B on February 5, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK


TBROSZ: No one can guess the limits to which the capitalism-hating leftists will go to hoist their bankrupt ideology on the rest of the rational world.

You mean the world where more than half of the population subsists on less than a dollar a day? The world where 30,000 children starve to death every day? The world where creating one more billionaire depends on sending another 100,000 into poverty? The world where survival needs of ordinary people are always subordinated to the financial interests of a tiny oligarchical elite? Yeah, we wouldn't want to give all that up just for the sake of testing its limits, would we?


Posted by: jayarbee on February 5, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Something here doesn't add up. If a business will pay for this service, then it must worry that AOL's and Yahoo's spam filters are either (a) already protecting us from spam or (b) blocking so many "false positives" that there's no way to do business any longer.

In the first case, there'd be no added benefit of the kind Kevin's happy to see, only the likelihood of additional unsolicited advertising. Because of its cost, it may be more targeted than the bogus watches and stock offers, which rely on being able to reach millions free, but advertisers do pay money to advertise. It'd still be spam, and we should be none too happy to look forward to it.

In the second case, there'd be an added benefit, but of a very different kind that of finally getting one's mail (and ok, maybe lots of spam, too), and we should be none too happy at the need for it.

The first, the one Kevin's hopes depend on, is ridiculous on the face of it anyhow. Besides, it affects only AOL and Yahoo people.

Posted by: artcrit on February 5, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

First, let's be clear about something.

E-mail isn't free.

What we're talking about here is not whether e-mail should be free, but how we should pay for it. Because I guarantee you, we *do* pay for it, and will continue to. And I'm getting very, very tired of subsidizing spammers.

I'm with jimBOB: charge the sender a tiny fee, less than a tenth of a cent, for every e-mail. An economic disincentive is, I'm convinced, the *only* thing that will make a serious dent in spam.

Posted by: Bobarino on February 5, 2006 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a question: is there any reason other than greed for Yahoo! and AOL to try to use email as a source of revenue?

Or is this just the equivalent of a restaurant owner charging to use the bathroom?

Posted by: alex on February 5, 2006 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Greed and AOL??? - Pshaw - Try divorcing AOL - They are the slime of the internet.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 5, 2006 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Or is this just the equivalent of a restaurant owner charging to use the bathroom?

Or only allowing customers to use the bathroom instead of anyone just walking in off the street?

Posted by: Scott on February 5, 2006 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

I thought that these two sentences were telling:

...Goodmail, which makes sure the company is a legitimate enterprise that has agreed to follow a set of good conduct rules.

...I never even look at email from my bank or from PayPal, even if it gets through my spam filters.

A lot of email that we get from legitimate firms may as well be spam - it's an unwanted imposition, impedes our use of email, and lowers our opinion of that firm with each email.

Posted by: Wapiti on February 5, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

If it works for e-mails the same pricing strategy is going to be applied to content. Its paytime.

Posted by: aline on February 5, 2006 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

How about we just have the NSA block spam for us. Bush would be a hero.

People that send more than 5,000 messages a day can open an escrow account with X-dollars in it. If they are legitimate correspondence (no complaints pass review ) they keep their money minus an administrative fee. If someone sends 5,000 messages per day and doesn't have an escrow account set up they get their messges blocked. If over 5,000 identical messages get sent from diffuse sources they get blocked.

Posted by: B on February 5, 2006 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

"Let me see if I have this right, AOL and Yahoo are going to allow spam if they are paid by the spammers."

Defends on how you define "spam." Many large providers are already giving preferential treatment to mass emailers that agree to abide by industry standards (i.e., double-opt in), and exclude mail that doesn't qualify. My guess is that unsolicited bulk spam will not be accepted under these pay-to-send programs.

Posted by: Chris K on February 5, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

This has implications far beyond e-mail, and was the subject of a recent Nation article:

The nation's largest telephone and cable companies are crafting an alarming set of strategies that would transform the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything we do online.

Verizon, Comcast, Bell South and other communications giants are developing strategies that would track and store information on our every move in cyberspace in a vast data-collection and marketing system, the scope of which could rival the National Security Agency. According to white papers now being circulated in the cable, telephone and telecommunications industries, those with the deepest pockets--corporations, special-interest groups and major advertisers--would get preferred treatment. Content from these providers would have first priority on our computer and television screens, while information seen as undesirable, such as peer-to-peer communications, could be relegated to a slow lane or simply shut out.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on February 5, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I'm willing to bet that the NSA already efficiently sorts and classifies email as spam so they don't have to overwhelm their data mining computers.

Posted by: B on February 5, 2006 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

In the interest of proper etiquette, the last paragraph of my previous post was also a quote from the linked Nation article.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on February 5, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Tbrosz (or is that fake?) is right in a way, this really is testing the limits of the free market. Jerry really nails it.

This is an action that stands to increase AOL/Yahoo's profit, but more so, it's a direct attack on other companies out there. And that's the key. The end, of course, is utter corporate warefare. The internet just makes it easier.

Of course, it's just a matter of time until an ISP blocks Amazon unless they get a kickback on all sales. Or a power company starts a supermarket chain in their area, and flips off the lights for their competitors.. And so on.

Monopoly is the eventual outcome of what we call "capitalism". It's jsut a matter of time.

Posted by: Karmakin on February 5, 2006 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

The business model I'd like to see is one where the consumer pays a little extra to prioritize peer-to-peer correspondence over corporate spam. How come it's never about making the experience better for the little guy?

Posted by: B on February 5, 2006 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

A lot of folks seem to think this is just capitalism. It's not. Capitalism involves selling something of value to people. This scheme involves taking something everyone has already paid for, removing features, and then selling them again. That's called extortion.

Posted by: CrackWilding on February 5, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, it's just a matter of time until an ISP blocks Amazon unless they get a kickback on all sales. Or a power company starts a supermarket chain in their area, and flips off the lights for their competitors.. And so on.

Power companies and supermarkets have been around a very long time. Still waiting...

I wish to God they taught economics in school.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 5, 2006 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

This seems no different than a special pass to board aircraft directly.

If you don't pay, you get the same service you get today. If you do pay, they can track your account and decide if you're less likely to send spam or viruses and do less monitoring.

MPLS does something similar to Internet traffic, and unless you're video chatting you probably never notice it.

Posted by: Don on February 5, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Tbroz must recall the Communication Act of 1996, when the captialists got a bargain from the government and everyone bills went up. This crew loves taking public property and making sweetheart deals for their cronies - federal leasing for oil, grazing, timber, while claiming it to be in the public's interest. It probably is just a matter of time till they grab the internet.

Posted by: horatio on February 5, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Just like we had too much freedom before 9/11, the internet has made us all too dependent on free content and email and other means of knowledge sharing.

Just as the expectedly prescient George Bush solved the problem of too much freedom by ordering that NSA monitor as moany of our calls as possible, I hope that Yahoo and AOL wean us off the knowledge dole to which we have all become so accustomed.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 5, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

A CHALLEGE TO SAM BROOKS LIES --- CANDIDATE FOR CITY COUNCIL

I would like the DC political community to be more honorable although that is asking a lot.

One candidates website is so riddle with blatant lies it is sickening.

That candidate is Sam Brooks for ward 3 city council.

Brooks needs to explain those false representations on the flashpoint part of his homepage.

Mr. Brooksisnt Tamela Gordon your campaign chair? Didnt Tamela Gordon contribute $500 to your campaign according to the filings you made this past week with the DC Office of Campaign Finance? When you quoted her on your website boasting how perfect you are for ward 3 did you tell the voters that she was your campaign chair, that she had given you $500 and that she is a paid staffer? No you did not. That is dishonest and you need to disclose that fraud you are passing off on the voters of ward 3!!!!!!

Mr. Brooks, here is something you might want to put on your website for all the voters of ward 3 to consider which is a real posting made about you by the Washington Post:

The WASHINGTON POST, September 11, 2004; Page A20 speaking of Sam Brooks
said:

1. The District deserves a better choice for city council.

2. He doesnt come anywhere close in the needed experience overall in representing the city.

3. He is long on energy and ambition but short on community service, and lacks substantive knowledge of the problems confronting the city and ideas for solving them.

4. The District needs someone who knows how the government works, is familiar with the city other than through a political door-to-door campaign and who doesn't need on-the-job training in the basics.

With this kind of fraud Sam Brooks, how can anybody believe a word you speak?

All candidates need to clean up their act!

Posted by: T Roque on February 5, 2006 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

Why not have the spammers pay me? I'll accept the spam, and they pay me to read their advertisement. Much like getting a meal or tickets for an event or some gift, just for sitting through a time share promo. Instead of a gift, I could get a check for my time, that I could apply to pay my Internet provider.

Posted by: chuckie on February 5, 2006 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

I know this is going to come as a shock, but a lot of people still can't afford computers, much less paying for email. This is why I have Mexicans come into the library after 5 p.m. in a small Colorado town. Shall we close down some more libraries, because, after all, it's all going to be on the web. Oh, suddenly the web is charging for what the community was paying for for the common good...after the same library is closed.

Anybody awake?

Posted by: christine on February 5, 2006 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

I get very little spam - and what spam makes it through the technical filters is traceable and persuable.

Of course, I never email anything to AOL or Yahoo, so I don't care.

But what happens when the 'legitimate' companies are the ones sending spam? [b]The spammers are the only ones willng to pay to send out messages, as they're the only ones who make money from the messages.[/b]

Posted by: Crissa on February 5, 2006 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

[i][1] Requiring reverse DNS entries for all mail servers. Which is simple if your DNS host supports reverse DNS; a nightmare if it does not.[/i]

...Which is how actual unixgeeks were authenticating email ten years agos. Funny, huh?

If your DNS doesn't support it, ditch them - they don't want to be traced, they don't want to help cut down on abuse.

Posted by: Crissa on February 5, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

I get very little spam - and what spam makes it through the technical filters is traceable and persuable.

Of course, I never email anything to AOL or Yahoo, so I don't care.

But what happens when the 'legitimate' companies are the ones sending spam? The spammers are the only ones willng to pay to send out messages, as they're the only ones who make money from the messages.

[1] Requiring reverse DNS entries for all mail servers. Which is simple if your DNS host supports reverse DNS; a nightmare if it does not.

...Which is how actual unixgeeks were authenticating email ten years ago. Funny, huh?

If your DNS doesn't support it, ditch them - they don't want to be traced, they don't want to help cut down on abuse.

Posted by: Crissa on February 5, 2006 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

This seems no different than a special pass to board aircraft directly.

It all depends on whether they go out of their way to make the typical path inconvenient with express purpose of increasing revenue through the new bypass.

I wish they taught about unfair business practices, extortion, racketeering, and antitrust law in school.

Posted by: B on February 5, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, I do think it would be perfectly reasonable for Google and Yahoo to charge Bellsouth, Verizon, and AT&T 1/4 cent per search, email, and video provided to their customers. Why should the last mile provider be able to charge a monthly fee for providing only access to the content that is really what we want? So they have a pipe, good for them.

Posted by: jerry on February 5, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

For scifi fans, it is:

"on the gripping hand"

not

"on the third hand"

Posted by: Mark on February 5, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

B:

Charging for a service is extortion and racketeering? There are way too many services out there for any company to get away with charging exorbitant prices for internet service.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 5, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

Building yet another strawman tbrosz? Or are you just distracted by the GoDaddy girl?

Saying I wish they taught something in school is just that -- a wish they taught something in school. And yes, AOL could violate federal laws regulating businesses even if they do have competitors.

Posted by: B on February 5, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

i know the discussion is on e-mail , but what if the next thing that happens is ; to enroll your child into the public school system one will have to show up at the front office with check book or credir card in hand.
WHAT IF ?

Posted by: WHAT IF on February 5, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

On the other hand, I never even look at email from my bank or from PayPal, even if it gets through my spam filters. This means that neither of these companies has a way of communicating with me via email.

Don't they tell you up front that they will NEVER EVER send you email?

Posted by: Jack Lindahl on February 5, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Wake up, the rich already have better access to email and the internet.

Posted by: lisag on February 5, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

The use of refundable micropayments as a way to 'cure' SMTP (aka-currency based charging) isn't a new thing, and it's actually been endorsed by reputable geeky-type people.

Let me see if I have this right, AOL and Yahoo are going to allow spam if they are paid by the spammers.

Yes. At a pricepoint where it's uneconomical to send spam. For once, tbrosz is sorta right. Set the cost-per-spam above the marginal profit-per-spam, and let basic economics take over. The marginal costs mean that while you get text message spam on your cellphone, it's not at anywhere near the rate you get in your inbox.

Except that you may see a migration of commercial to zombie mail servers in Foreign, or other nasty practices.

Posted by: ahem on February 5, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

I wish to God they taught economics in school.

Tbo, Even a degree in economcs doesn't stop fallacious thinking. Remember the Laffer Curve, or St. Allen's support of GWB's tax cuts?

Posted by: Keith G on February 5, 2006 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

Keith:

The Laffer Curve is real. The endpoints are obvious. Where the arguments come is what shape the curve is, and where the peak is located, even assuming there's a single peak.

Republicans think we're on one side of the peak. Democrats think we're on the other side.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 5, 2006 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

The End of the Internet? :

The nation's largest telephone and cable companies are crafting an alarming set of strategies that would transform the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything we do online.
The Nation
Media Channel

The CEOs of the largest cable and telephone companies are hatching a scheme
that would give them control over what content you can view and what
services you can use on the Internet.
Free Press
Psychotic Patriot

Posted by: Den on February 5, 2006 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

Yahoo and AOL, two companies with just about nothing to sell-- one was on some sort of quasi-cutting edge before Alta Vista came along, and the other was never anything but a phoney membership list based on free disks in the junk mail or glued into magaznines. Of course they'll try to charge for e-mail-- what else have they got? I wouldn't fret about the coming charges-- just keep your Bigfoot and your Hotmail accounts up to date and everything will be OK.

Posted by: quninnat on February 5, 2006 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

This means that neither of these (your bank and paypal) companies has a way of communicating with me via email.

And why is this a problem? The fact that companies I do business with are allowed to circumvent the do-not-call list bugs me. If I want to talk to them, I'll call them. If they want to tell me about a problem, let them call me. But having my bank allowed to phone me to pitch life insurance (from a bank!) - no fucking way. That shouldn't be allowed - which is to say, I should be allowed to opt out of that.

Posted by: craigie on February 5, 2006 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

Some very strange comments in this list!

Contrary to popular opinion, it actually consts real money to run an email service. It requires hardware, software, people and bandwidth.

Surprisingly, none of that is free! Google might make you think it is free, but they are giving you a free account using OPM (Other People's Money) and earning money through advertising. They are grabbing market share.

Keeping spam out of a system without stopping valid mail is not as easy as you think. My company manages about 25,000 domains and subdomains and we have at least one person working full time to combat spam and a big part of what the rest of us do is to try to keep the bad guys from getting into the system and sending 419 scam emails and keeping spam out of customer mailboxes.

If it was easy, we would be out of a job and you could have your own email system and manage it yourself, but we have a job and you aren't thinking about managing spam yourself.

The report you are reading isn't telling the whole story. They are not trying to stop mail from coming in. They are trying to make spam a bad economic proposition. Legislators thought that's what they were doing, but as usual, all they did was make themselves feel good about doing something.

The big problem with the discussion above is that most of you do not understand spam. You think it comes from a badguy spammer's server.

The beauty of having spam come from a big company is that you can block it in just a few minutes. When spam comes from thousands of compromized PCs all over the world, that is hard to control. Guess what - thats where most of the spam comes from.

If there were less stupid people on the internet, there would be less spam. Some viruses contain code to compromize a PC and allow it to relay mail to other places. Thats where all that pharmaceutical spam, the porn and penis extensions and some of the software-selling spam comes from - millions of compromized PCs - not from a spam-sending company.

Earthlink has a great solution to help stop spam and viruses. They block port 25 - thats the port that all mail is sent on. So you will never get a virus or relayed spam from someone whose ISP is Earthlink. (no I don't work for Earthlink) Earthlink customers send all their mail through an Earthlink mail relay and to send a message, their mail client has to send the email address and a password to get access. Viruses can't do that.

If all ISPs blocked port 25 and gave their customers an authenticated mail relay, almost all viruses would stop overnight. Most of the garbage spam would stop too.

This issue has a lot of components, but if you could get all the ISPs and the legislators together to agree on a real course of action, then something could be done about it.

As it is, everyone is doing their own thing and some things work and some don't and everyone wants their pet project to be adopted by the rest of the world.

Alan.

Posted by: Alan on February 5, 2006 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

If I want to talk to them, I'll call them. If they want to tell me about a problem, let them call me. But having my bank allowed to phone me to pitch life insurance (from a bank!) - no fucking way.

Yeah! YEAH!

Posted by: shortstop, hopping up and down behind craigie's shoulder on February 5, 2006 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

free anything? free is the equivalent of slavery.

Bring back the poll tax!

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 5, 2006 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

DomainKeys and SPF already solve the problem you describe: Paypal and bank email getting marked as spam because of forgeries. They are simple, no-cost technologies that verify that the email you received was sent by the correct mail server, instead of the mail server of a spammer.

Yahoo mail already implements DomainKeys, and Gmail uses SPF.

There's no reason for these pay-for-email schemes except as an new source of revenue under the guise of "fighting the war on spam". As an unpleasant side effect, smaller businesses will soon be forced to decide between losing customers or paying protection to the emerging internet oligarchy.

If you listen closely, you can hear Jon Postel rolling in his grave.

Posted by: s5 on February 6, 2006 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

If I had heard this story 5 or 6 years ago, I would have just chalked it up as another absurd hoax.

After livingin in the absurd hoax that is the Bush presidency for the past 6 years, this doesn't suprise me at all.

Those corporate fatcats are hungry, and they are eager to feast on the roasted carcass of the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on February 6, 2006 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

The Laffer Curve is real. The endpoints are obvious. Where the arguments come is what shape the curve is, and where the peak is located, even assuming there's a single peak.

So you don't know the shape of the curve and how many peaks it has, and still think it's real.

Reminds me of an old standby. A student, when asked how thick a beam should be to withstand a prescribed load, replied: it should be some inches.

Posted by: economist on February 6, 2006 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

SPF and DomainKeys sound simple, but they are not the only methods. There are so many of them and everyone chooses what they want or what they can implement. Reverse lookup, paranoid reverse lookup (paranoid can't work with multi-domain systems).

How do you handle a system where there is a central service, but ISPs like Earthlink block port 25 and you have to use their mail relay. How do you tell SPF that the 200 people who use a domain have 200 different sending servers (or 20,000). Of course, you can set up a different port, that isn't blocked. But all these things add extra complexity and require management.

That still doesn't stop the viruses and spam being sent, eating up bandwidth and processing power. 90% of all email is spam or viruses.

How long has reverse lookup been available, yet every day, we reject mail because a sender has no PTR record and I write to them and make them set it up. How many years before everyone implements SPF?

Or do we slam the door shut and say no (insert your favorite anti-spam method), no delivery.

Jon Postel will be spinning in his grave. What was so elegant is now a monster.

Posted by: Alan on February 6, 2006 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

Jon Postel will be spinning in his grave. What was so elegant is now a monster.

Postel was on the side of the angels: his imprecation to 'be liberal in what you accept and conservative in what you send' has been exploited horrifically

SMTP is busted. It really is. Most users who get their email through major providers don't see the work that needs to be done in order to flush out the spam and phishing and 419s. It probably takes a much greater percentage of their monthly ISP fee than it used to, or is offset by the cost of advertising on services like GMail. No wonder people have migrated to IM or other protocols for messaging.

Posted by: ahem on February 6, 2006 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Sounds kind of like the pre-cleared "fast lane" for airport inspection. Posted by: tbrosz

I didn't bother to read all the posts, but found it odd that no one in the first twenty or so didn't hit on the obvious response to this. Who gives a shit what AOL or Yahoo do? The are both "servers" for people whose Internet use isn't all that demanding or sophisticated.

On the other hand, if it meant the end of spam, it doesn't cost us, it will cost the spammers. Spam feed on the stupid. You only need respond to one message or not be mindful of where you go on the Internet (that explains all the porn e-mail you get, T-bone) to assure you'll keep getting it by the boat load. I'm down to less than 10 a day from a high (just after changing domains and user name) of about 30 a day. Our corporate server probably snares another 20-30.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 6, 2006 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

I already pay for my email service by using the server of my DSL provider.

Posted by: Ace Franze on February 6, 2006 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

"As an unpleasant side effect, smaller businesses will soon be forced to decide between losing customers or paying protection to the emerging internet oligarchy."

And to emphasize the point comes the news today that Google has blacklisted BMW's website for using tricks to bump its page ranking and thus they will not appear in any search results for the next month.

Now had they done this to several of the pagefulls of pseudo search engines and price comparison sites that seem to clutter the average search then I could understand their position but it strikes me that if I was looking for information on german cars then BMW is actually a useful sort of site.

What Google seem to be doing rather is to send the message out that if you want to be at the top of their listings then the only way to do so is to pay them. Think of it as insurance for all the nasty accidents that might otherwise happen. Capisce.

Posted by: JB on February 6, 2006 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

A simple solution, maybe? Why not have AOL or Yahoo! or whoever, simply charge a penny per email coming into the system, for the first time you email that address. If the user approves you, your money is refunded. If not, the penny is split between the reciever and the ISP (credited to the user's account, that is) ergo, you pay the ISP for the use of the service, and the user for their time reading your email. If I want, say the Washington Monthly to email me, I approve the address and whammo, no stamp needed to get to me. It would be fairly simple to set up pay-pal like accounts to charge the fees to, and since 90% of the people I email I do so repeatedly, all that would remain costless, since I'd approve them, and they'd approve me.

Posted by: northzax on February 6, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

I never even look at email from my bank or from PayPal, even if it gets through my spam filters.

Why not?

Is it because such mail is usually not actually from them, but spoofing their identity? I guess that could be a problem, but why isn't your spam software smart enough to know the difference? That's where the solution lies, I feel.

Or do you not read their email because such communication from your bank and PayPal is generally meaningless advertising? That's the case for me. I never read emails from my bank or PayPal or most online vendors because - get this - I don't want such email. I generally tell them to stop sending it. I regard such "business-to-customer" marketing communication to be spam just like any other. I don't want any marketing delivered to my inbox at all, unless I've explicitly asked for it.

If I were a Yahoo Mail or AOL user, I'd be plenty pissed. Because from those users' perspective, the amount of spam they receive is about to go up.

Posted by: Adam Piontek on February 6, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

E-mail which doesn't perfectly identify it's source is a problem for techy geeks, not accountants.

Attempts to make money off this is being done by pathetic greedy capitalist pigs.

When there are two solutions: one simple and virtually cheap and the other extremely expensive, annoying and yet profitable for someone, expect the latter to prevail -- and ruin e-mail for everybody.

Posted by: MarkH on February 6, 2006 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Well, if *everyone* had to pay 0.25 per e-mail message sent, wouldn't that help prevent SPAM but be only a minor irritant to the rest of us?

Posted by: Neil' on February 6, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Bad.
It is nothing less than an expropriation of the commons and should be punished with a lawsuit and an injunction

Posted by: Nemesis on February 6, 2006 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

Anything you don't pay for directly does not belong to you. Get over it. Spam? Who give a flying squirrel? how much junk mail do you get in your mailbox every day? who cares? GET OVER YORUSELVES!

Posted by: Chris on February 7, 2006 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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