We've grown so accustomed to freely clicking the e-mail send button, the idea of being charged for such a routine act might feel like a threat to our basic human rights, let alone our freedom of speech.
That's just one side of a sustained conversation among bloggers about a controversial new service America Online and Yahoo plan to launch to in the next several weeks that some liken to an electronic postage stamp. The service, provided by a company called Goodmail Systems, gives preferential treatment to companies that pay a fraction of a cent per e-mail to ensure their messages bypass spam filters and get though to the intended recipients.
Some believe charging for e-mail has been a longtime coming and an appropriate roadblock for spammers. Others more critical, however, say it amounts to extortion and poses a threat to legitimate e-mail messages from senders who don't agree to pay.
Blog community response:
"First, and most importantly, people are paying Yahoo and AOL for an anti-spam filter (OK, they are paying AOL and might be paying Yahoo). If this is a service being sold to the consumer, than it seems more than a little wrong that the same companies would allow certain mail that would otherwise be blocked to go through. I don't care that AOL, Yahoo, and Goodmail have decided that the mail is OK because it has been paid for...last I checked, that was called a bribe."
--PlayNoEvil Game Security Blog
"The not-so-subtle temptation to upgrade deliverability of paying e-mail at the expense of non-paying e-mail will probably be too much to resist, big corporations being what they are--so goes the speculation. The feared result is that those who can't afford CertifiedEmail won't get delivered even as well as they are currently--especially small businesses."
--Web Marketing Today
"This is still spam under a new name and just a fancy way to bilk companies for paying for it. If the emails can bypass the spam filters, then that presents an even bigger problem."
--Massimo Uno on CNET News.com's Talkback
"I like this idea a lot! First, it gives legitimate businesses a way to reconnect with their valuable customers. Second, because there will be a monetary cost, it puts a big roadblock in front of spammers. Spam is a big problem largely because it's so easy to do. In other words, it's free...These companies have every right in the world to charge for certified e-mail. They just don't have a right to force us to use it."