Industry luminary Esther Dyson wrote an op-ed in the New York Times last Friday, titled You've Got Goodmail. Her main point was that we shouldn't get all up in arms about AOL's deal with GoodMail, but she went farther than that.
Of course, the critics say, this is the first step. Pretty soon all mail will cost money, and then the free, open world of the Internet will be closed to poor people, nonprofits and other good guys, while multinational conglomerates fill their ever-growing pockets.
I agree that pretty soon sending most e-mail will cost money, but I think that's only right. It costs money to guarantee quality and safety. Moreover, I think the market will work, and that it will not shut out deserving senders, if we only let it work freely.
Esther has become one of many very smart people, including Bill Gates and IBM's top anti-spam strategists, to jump on this bandwagon. Micheal Osterman, writing in Network World, also took a tentative step onto it last week:
Clearly, for a pay-per-e-mail scheme to work, it would need virtually universal acceptance, such as everyone's e-mail server blocking e-mail that was not paid for by the sender. However, if it was accepted, it could go a long way toward reducing the spam problem. What do you think of this idea that many before me have proposed and even implemented with varying degrees of success?
Fortunately, many other smart people, like Ferris' Richi Jennings, aren't being taken in by this. He, however, just seems to believe that pay-to-send is unnecessary because other countermeasures can work well enough. I agree with that, but it's only half the reason why pay-to-send is a bad idea. The other half is that it just won't work.
To recap my rant: The thing that too many people miss about pay-to-send schemes for email is that spammers are criminals who already sell fraudulent products and who routinely steal access to other people's computers in order to send their spam. Just as they don't use their own computers to send their spam, they will not use their own money to pay for it. What is going to stop them from using other people's money to send their spam? Not their consciences! If there are any whose consciences won't let them do it, there are plenty more ready to step in when they demur. We already know that malware writers are successfully targeting their victims' bank account login and password information. All the encryption, strong authentication and secure protocols in the world won't stop that from happening with email payment accounts, too. Until the tens -- maybe hundreds -- of millions of broadband-connected PCs are running truly secure software from OS to stack to applicatiopns, it will be child's play for the bad guys to sniff their way through whatever security mechanisms control email payments. Pay-to-send will therefore be a fool's errand until there is a worldwide rollout of truly secure desktops.
1. Jon Johnston03/21/2006 11:19:52 PM
How many K-12 districts do I work with??? Hmmmmmm. They going to pay to send email? Be exempt? Who's going to track that? Where's the infrastructure for it?
What do you think she got paid to write that editorial?
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