The case for User Controlled email postage: Idea whose time has come

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Ask any large company’s IT system and they’ll tell you that email is
the #1 application. Its used by everyone, so its mission critical. The #1 problem with email is SPAM.

Many attempts have been made before to bring the concept of Email postage. Since sending email is “free” that gives a lot of incentives for people to spam. Take the concept of “pay for email” to marketers, I am sure many would sign up.

To solve the problem of spam and unsolicited email though we have to go beyond just charging people to send email.

I believe we need to

give control of email BACK to the “recipient”.

So how do we do that? Provide a system that:
1. Allows each person to setup a “cost” to send email to them. This can be setup by the user. For e.g. I can put an unrealistically high number (say $5). That means anyone that wants to email me has to pay $5 / email. Of course when I receive the email I can “waive” that cost.

2. If any person wants to send “bulk email” to me as part of a list, the email system they use has to connect to the email servers to find out the approximate “total cost” of that email campaign. So if there’s a list of 10,000 names in that list, to ensure “delivery” of email to that list it the sender has to pay the total “price” each person has setup for receiving email.

Pros:
1. Any person can setup their “price” themselves – this removes the administrative barrier for ISP’s. ISP can set a minimum “threshold” but if the user chooses they can increase it or waive it.
2. This system guarantees an email will be delivered . It does not assure the receiver will read it.
3. If you keep a high “price” for your email, you will probably miss certain emails and offers that might be beneficial to you.
4. As a sender you dont have to worry about “CAN SPAM”. Why? If you want to spam people, and still spend a lot of money to do it, I am sure a lot of people are willing to accept payment for “practically doing nothing but deleting unwanted email”.

Cons:
1. Cost of implementing the system is high, especially for all email systems globally, but I’m not sure everyone needs to implement this at the same time. I am sure users will drive their companies / ISP to implement it.
2. Reduces “democracy” of email & “free flow” of communication – Not sure that’s a bad thing.

Like some other opinions / pros / cons: Robert Scoble, Chris Carfi, Ross, Jeremiah, Shiv & Vinnie.

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