Postage Paid

Tom Evslin opines on the attempt by AOL and Yahoo! to charge postage to bulk-mailers: It’s my mailbox; pay me! Paul Hoffman suggests that Any sane ISP will wait to see how badly their competitors fail in introducing this new anti-service before trying it themselves.

There are technical hurdles here, such as positively identifying the sender, which if it could be done reliably today would, and accurately billing him, unless Goodmail is planning that senders would anonymously transfer funds from their off-shore accounts before deluging the recipients with fraudulent messages. I agree that increasing the cost of spam is what will decrease its frequency, but I still get paper junk mail. There will be some who will profit despite the high cost of delivery.

And as far as “adding trust” to e-mail goes, I know who to trust. The Computer doesn’t.

Let me add a historical tidbit to Paul’s observation.

[W]hen customer usage of email accelerated in 1991 [Prodigy] imposed a 25 cents charge for each email above the 30-email limit each month. Customer reaction was swift – complaints surfaced on Prodigy bulletin boards and 18,000 customers joined the “Cooperative Defense Committee” to protest the user fees. [link added]

I suspect that improving the quality of mails received is something that recipients do value. This scheme may, if only by providing someone to execute for sending unsolicited commercial e-mail.