Cathy Tess July 31, 2012

The question is a rhetorical one – spam will never end. The problem as I see it is if we can limit it to more acceptable numbers, like 5 t 10 percent of messages at most. If we manage to do this, this will be a victory.

Perry White June 19, 2013

Jack Rickard of Boardwatch Magazine had the cure for spam in 1998. Unfortunately, everyone at the time wanted “free” e-mail. Well, they got their wish.

From Boardwatch Magazine:

The concept that there is a place for advertising via e-mail has some bare initial merit. I used to talk about treasure and trash being in the eye of the beholder and it might have been for a brief moment. But the bitter truth is that the spammers have so gruesomely soiled our network that no self-respecting marketer would use it at all as a legitimate advertising medium – at least beyond their own closed customer list. In practice, I DON’T get e-mail from Land’s End, or from Hummer add-on parts dealers, or from anything I would be remotely interested in. I would take it further that I don’t actually get spam even from legitimate companies offering things I’m NOT interested in. The only spam I get is from truly whacky rip-off artists and ne’er do wells offering pyramid schemes, netsex, or the tools so I too can spam. It is a total wasteland. And it comes in such huge numbers it almost makes e-mail unusable. Is anybody actually ordering this stuff?

I’m sympathetic to the role of the network as a great leveler allowing the smallest entrepreneur to work on an even field against DuPont, 3M, and Sears. But in practice, it just draws cranks and wackos who go beyond the quick buck artist level to just slimy. I really am not sympathetic to anyone I can see that is currently spamming. My concern was with the reaction ISPs are taking to SPAM, and the potentially bad effects it will have on them ultimately.

As to solutions, I may have one. I’m still working on it. Basically it takes your concept of free e-mail and turns it on it’s ear. How about we all PAY for e-mail?

Yes, let’s say that to send a piece of e-mail, we’ll pay 32 cents – the same as a first class letter via street mail. But instead of giving it all to the post office, let’s do something creative with it. Let’s give a nickel to the ISP at the originating end, and a nickel to the ISP at the receiving end. Let’s set aside 7 cents to run the clearinghouse and infrastructure needed to keep track of the money. And let’s give 15 cents to the RECIPIENT.

Sounds mad doesn’t it. But wait a minute. Most of us using e-mail legitimately, both send and receive e- mail. If I get 15 cents to read a message, and I spend 32 cents to write one, on balance e-mail costs me 17 cents. But if I want to spray a million messages out on the Internet to advertise my product, there is no offset on return messages, aside from a handful of flames, and I pay the full 32 cents. This sets up a cost differential between abusive use of the e-mail system to market stuff, and legitimate personal e-mail use. Mail is cheap for private use (17 cents) and somewhat dearer for mass marketing purposes (32 cents.)

I think you’ll find end users reaction to spam somewhat different as well. If you send me junk, but I get 15 cents to hit the next key, which I’m hitting now for free, send it on. I’ll take your money. Dufus.

Further, let’s say there WAS a legitimate marketer wanting to reach me, but didn’t want the hit of being associated with SPAM. Since everyone they send their sales pitch to gets fifteen cents for doing almost nothing, it rather puts it in a different perspective doesn’t it. It’s almost like getting flowers, instead of inconvenience.

I would propose this pay mail scheme be entirely voluntary and parallel to the current e-mail service. Nobody should HAVE to do anything. If you want to live in the swamp with the free e-mail service, go girlfriend. If you want safe harbor from SPAM, join pay mail and if anyone has anything sufficiently important to send you, they should care enough to cough 32 cents. If they care enough to cough 32 cents, I’ll read it.

Once in place, the system spews some side benefits. It essentially fills the micropayments economic system that people have been wanting for years. You can sell your recipe’s, poems, nuclear weapons plans, whatever for 15 cents to anyone that will pay 32 cents. The process could be reversed for mailing lists, so that you pay the sender 32/15 cents for each message they send – a kind of el cheapo subscription service. And if they send too many stupid ones, I can resign and join some other list elsewhere. All these guys slaving thanklessly maintaining these lists get a few bucks, and I suddenly find I’m getting a lot better quality messages from the list, which is now moderated as it turns out. You could even extend this to the point of opting out of messages with a certain subject line – turning off entire subjects and discussions from a mailing list you otherwise did want to stay on.

There are some server, distribution, and authentication issues, some of which are probably non-trivial but all doable. All of the numbers can be moved around. The basic point is to set up some ECONOMIC motivators to quell spam, not simply announce (via e-mail usually) that you don’t like it and wish they would stop. Or wish some legislature will magically become wise in netlore and save you by criminalizing it, or by scapegoating ISPs everywhere and holding them severally and as a group responsible for everyone with a dialup account and a keyboard.

Free e-mail sets up a “free” marketing channel. With that kind of incentive, I can send 45 million e-mail messages hoping to get THREE orders at $12.95 each, and I’m in tall clover here. Never mind that 44,999,997 people were inconvenienced – I’ve got my thirty-nine bucks and I like this Internet stuff real well. If it costs me $12 million bucks to send those 45 million messages, $39 doesn’t cut it and I’m outta here.

That’s the heart of the problem. And until you are willing to attack this beast it at its heart, whining and whacking away at its fingers is going to have limited impact.

Jack Rickard

Osama Bin Login July 30, 2013

That’s the way to do it. Even 1c per email (per recipient) would reduce spam. At that price, sending spam would cost $10,000 per million. You’ve got to have some legitimate business reason to do that.

And, no human email user would balk at that. You can send 100 emails a day for just $1.

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