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Study Guide

Overview of Paid E-mail

Paid E-mail, as defined by Wikipedia, is a system through which companies would pay a small fee to ensure that their e-mails are delivered directly to the userís mailbox. Through this system companies would pay a fraction of a cent for every message they send and in exchange their message would be guaranteed to bypass all spam filters. At the same time this system would help recipients discern between legitimate e-mails and forged phishing attempts by clearly marking those messages that have been certified.

In February of 2006, both America Online and Yahoo announced their intentions to implement a certified e-mail system in conjunction with Goodmail Systems. At the start of March 2006, AOL stated that it was planning on launching the new system within thirty days.†This decision came despite mounting criticism from numerous sources.

Issues Raised Against the Implementation of Paid E-mail.

(For more details see the following articles from : Mercury News, TechNews, LATimes )

  • The certified e-mail system will lead to an unequal two-tiered internet.

    Critics fear that the new system will disadvantage non-profit organizations and other small groups that use the internet as a window of information to society. Many organizations fear that this system will reduce their ability to reach the public since they would be unable to pay the required fee for e-mail certification. These groups have labeled the system a barrier to free speech despite AOLís claim that free e-mail will continue to work as before.

  • The system is essentially an e-mail tax.

    Some view the certified e-mail system as an electronic postage stamp. Since free e-mail will be increasingly scrutinized by spam blockers and filterers, some fear they will essentially be forced into paying this tax to ensure delivery of their messages. However, AOL maintains that the new program is completely optional and cannot be viewed as a tax. Instead, they claim this system is exactly the same as the post office offering different rates for overnight mail or insured shipping.

  • Monetary incentives for the companies involved will lead to the end of free-email.

    Profits obtained through the certified e-mail system are shared between the e-mail provider (AOL) and the service provider (Goodmail). Critics fear that this monetary incentive will cause e-mail providers such as AOL to put extra pressure on senders to move to the paid system eventually leading to the decline of free e-mail. AOL denies this criticism claiming that the revenues from the program are minimal and will be used to further improve spam filters and other free e-mail security measures.

Issues Raised in Favor of the Implementation of Paid E-mail.

(For more details see the following articles from: Digital-Lifestyles and silicon.com)

  • The system will protect users from spam and e-mail scams.

    The certified e-mail system works on the premise that legitimate companies will be more than glad to pay a nominal fee to guarantee delivery of their mail while spammers will not be able to afford the costs.†Spammers send millions upon millions of e-mails each day knowing that they will only receive a reply from a very small percentage of them.†These tens of millions of e-mails would cost much more money to send than the potential profits of the advertisement.†Also, since certified e-mails will be tagged, theoretically users would be able to discern between legitimate e-mails and forged phishing attempts or viruses. However, there is no guarantee that spammers won't find a way to bypass this system as well. Also, just because a company has bought the right to send out certified e-mail doesn't mean that the recipients actually want to receive this e-mail. There is always the potential of receiving certified spam and not being able to block it.