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Internet

Firm offers certified email

Certifiedemail.com rolls out a service aimed at keeping important messages from getting lost in cyberspace.

Certifiedemail.com today launched a service aimed at keeping important email messages from getting lost in the cyberspace abyss.

The Atlanta-based company's certified email service, which costs $2 per individual message or $3.95 per month for 20 messages, alerts the sender when the recipient retrieves and opens an email message. It also offers email communication in an encrypted environment and protection against viruses within email messages, the firm said.

Email so far has been the Net's "killer app," and its ubiquity is often the catalyst that gets people to come online. In June, Net monitoring firm Matrix Information and Directory Services estimated the number of U.S. email users to be 120 million as of January 1998.

As further proof, all the Net's gateway sites offer free Web-based email, as do content sites looking to draw loyal users, such as the Web homes of magazines and newspapers.

But a degree of uncertainty exists in sending email--especially in terms of knowing when a message has been retrieved. Though some email programs, such as Qualcomm's popular Eudora, allow senders to attach a message asking for verification of receipt, there is an option for the recipient to decline to respond.

With Certifiedemail.com, the sender composes the message and sends it through the company's Web site. After sending the message, users can visit the Certifiedemail.com site to check the status of email messages that have been sent--similar to tracking capabilities offered by priority and overnight mail services such as Federal Express.

The recipient receives an email message at his regular address alerting him that he has a certified email message. The recipient then goes to the Certifiedemail.com site to retrieve the message. Recipients must register, just as senders do. The process takes roughly two minutes and is free for recipients, according to Court Coursey, chairman and chief executive of the firm.

Upon registering, the recipient chooses a password. When the recipient opens the email message, an email notification is sent to the sender, similar to the return-receipt function offered by postal certified mail, Coursey said.

If a recipient does not pick up the message right away, he or she will get notifications via email for 30 days. After that, the message is sent back to the sender, the company said.

Certifiedemail.com, which was founded in 1997, is privately held. It raised $8 million through a private placement last year, Coursey said, adding that investors include Guy Millner, Republican candidate for governor of Georgia, and Endeavor Technologies Incorporated, which operates WebMD.com, a communications service for the health care industry.

WebMD.com plans to embed Certifiedemail.com into its service for secure online contact between health care providers as well as between doctors and patients, Coursey said.