dyson weighs in on goodmail 04.20.2006, 7:32 AM
posted by ray cha
Here is a follow up on the our post about Goodmail. A few weeks ago Esther Dyson wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times in support of the Goodmail service, a start up which charges fees to senders of email to ensure their delivery. She argues that the services by either Goodmail or others are inevitable and will provide value of email recipients by eliminating spam. While I agree that customers should be allowed to chose whatever services they want, many of Dyson's claims need to further examined to see if they make sense.
"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..."
"...In the short run, AOL and others will serve as the recipients' proxies. If they don't do a good job of ensuring that customers get the mail they want, even from nonpaying senders, they will lose their customers...
I'm not clear on how market competition requires additional cost to users. People are already free to chose email providers based on their spam filters. Email earns revenue for providers. Even yahoo, gmail and hotmail earn money through ads and sponored links. Adding another layer of fees will only give email providers an economic incentive to abandon their spam filters, which will make senders of email feel obligated to pay for these extra services. Email providers currently have incentives to continually improve their spam filters, which work rather well. Employing more strategies along the lines of improved mechanisms for users to report spam seem to be a more fairly distribution of the costs of insuring the delivery of email.
"And in the long run, recipients will be able to use services like Goodmail to set their own prices for receiving mail.
In my case, I'd have a list. I'd charge nothing for people I know, 50 cents for anyone new (though if I add the sender to my list after reading the mail, I'll cancel the 50 cents) and $3 for random advertisers. Ex-boyfriends pay $10."
I doubt the practicality of this scheme. It would only work if people receive email, open it, and approve new addresses, in a timely matter. People do not read all their email, as I've seen Inboxes with thousands of emails, many of them unopened. People forget that they have requested information, which would lead to disputed charged. People abandon email addresses and they accidentally erase email from servers. People change their minds on what spam is. Sometimes, email updates which people sign up to receive and later the become spam. If a firm buys an email list in good faith, are they open to these fines as well? The thought of resolving all these disputes of who wanted what email would be a bureaucratic mess.
"If people like those little stamps that mark their mail as safe and wanted or as commercial transactions, then let the customers have them. And let other companies compete with Goodmail to offer better and less expensive service."
Goodmail is not passing on costs to receivers, but to senders. The companies who will feel the most effect are the ones with less resources, for example as she notes, non-profit organizations. Why this has to be true is still unclear to me.
Mr. Waggish on April 21, 2006 10:22 AM:
Agreed. The justification reads like some sophomoric capitalism-uber-alles argument plucked from Atlas Shrugged. There are a fair number of Objectivists in the computer business, alas.