Stamping Out Email

Some of the most popular email services on the Internet are considering the prospect of charging to deliver messages. This initially would be targeted at advertisers and will encourage them to pay a small fee ($0.005 – $0.01) to guarantee delivery of a message. If these business choose not to pay a delivery fee, they risk having the email delivered directly to the users spam folder or even having the message rejected altogether.

The idea is really quite simple. Email consumers register with services like Goodmail Systems and establish an account for billing purposes. Messages filter through the Goodmail service and when they arrive at the destination they are trusted. The best example of this is AOL, when this trusted email arrives it is flagged as CertifiedEmail and appears in your inbox with all external links enabled. Thus, it is possible for trusted email to circumvent the relatively inaccurate spam detection features and communicate a pertinant message to email users.

How much would you be willing to pay to eliminate gigabytes of spam? This model could be extended to individual message communication, imagine if every email you sent had a small micropayment associated with it. You would certainly think twice about forwarding a barrage of broadcast email messages to everyone in your address book. Each recipient would require at least a modicum of personal attention, and this would most likely lead to the most important messages getting sent.

At one time, people sent email messages only when they were absolutely necessary. Bandwidth was limited and it was more important to conserve network connectivity for those times when it was most needed. Today it is quite common to receive 50+ email messages a day with at least 10% of these messages consisting of large bitmap and multimedia attachments.

To make matters worse, more than half of all email you receive is spam. This means we have built a massive email infrastructure to support all of this unnecessary data – imagine if 90% of the storage and bandwidth consumed by major email provides could be eliminated. Not only would this provide valuable bandwidth that could be used for other services, it would also help email systems like Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail save money.

Finally, the ultimate benefactor is the email recipient. It would no longer be necessary to carefully filter through hundreds of worthless spam emails, and while your friends would need to pay a small fee to reach you it would ultimately benefit them. Some fee-based email delivery systems could be run for profit, while others could provide fewer services and let users share the proceeds of email stamps.