Monetize that service!

Over at Boing Boing, they offer comment on something going around the Net, AOL/Yahoo: our email tax will make the net as good as the post office!

AOL and Yahoo have proposed a system to charge senders a quarter of a cent for each email delivered to their customers.

I keep hearing Adam Ant singing, “Stand and deliver, your money or your life!”

This is another potential loss of network neutrality, of course. The large providers are transiting huge amounts of mail, and they could create tiers. I would expect they would develop at least a third tier of expedited delivery and interstitial-like behaviour for an even greater premium.

I think the concern over groups not being able to deliver is a little bit reactionary. I would suspect that non-paying e-mail would be treated like spam, with exceptions for contacts in one’s own address book. In the NYT article, this is pretty much explicit by saying the cost of the stamp is “if they want to be certain” and the the system “gives preferential treatment” to paid deliveries. This is essentially a way for a company to buy a way around spam filters.

The danger comes not from the stamp charge, but if the rest of the e-mail is treated differently than it is now when the stamp cost is put into place. Do I trust that they won’t try to incentivize sources to upsell by treating unpaid mail poorly? Not really. Do I trust that they will not treat paying senders preferentially by delivering corporate spam wrapped up in a cloak of respect, like AOL’s old pop=up ads? Not really.

I notice that the NYT article does make an explicit connection between this topic and the broader issues of network neutrality.

Update: Boing Boing has updated their posting to better reflect the source material, and now say:

AOL and Yahoo have proposed a system to charge senders a quarter of a cent for guaranteed delivery on each email delivered sent to their customers.