So it was that Bill Gates triggered a firestorm of protest by suggesting that the best way to stem the growth of spam would be to require people to pay money to send e-mail.
Gates--by virtue of his celebrity status--elevated the question to the front pages when he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that a fee-based system within the next couple of years.
The idea of charging to send Internet messages actually has been talked about for quite some time.
To be sure, Gates' comments constituted downright heresy. This is the Internet, after all, not Interstate 80, going west. But is the proposal so off-the-wall that it should be dismissed outright?
The idea of charging to send Internet messages has actually been
This isn't the only idea under consideration. The Internet Research Task Force is working to come up with a sender notification system that better distinguishes between the senders of legitimate e-mail and spammers. The system would let Web domain owners control how their e-mail suffixes get used. In this way, recipients could determine whether someone was faking their return address. Elsewhere, various filtering and legislation have also been put forward in the last several months.
Pretty cool idea. But as promising as it sounds, sender notification remains a work in progress. It is also unclear whether the technology will work as advertised.
Out of desperation, the question of charging money to send e-mail has now been taken up by the digerati.
So, out of desperation, the question of charging money to send e-mail has now been taken up by the digerati. Forrester Research late last year argued that electronic postageof stemming spam. "Even one-quarter of 1 cent per message would crush spammers' business model," Forrester wrote. Maybe, maybe not. While that may take care of the fly-by-night operators, what about the big spammers who have the deep pockets to bear the added expense?
Taxes also have a kudzulike knack for climbing. There's no iron-clad guarantee that electronic postage costs would not subsequently spiral. That would only hurt legitimate businesses and individuals--no fault of their own.
In addition, every Internet service provider on Earth would have to comply--hardly a sure bet. If some refused to go along, spammers could simply switch servers and carry on business as usual.
Still, for all its warts, charging might just be the least bad option. I'm not fully convinced. But after weeding out another several hundred organ enlargement come-ons from your in-box each morning, isn't it time to think outside of the box?