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February 10, 2006
Pay-For-Play Plan To Reduce Spam Doesn't Ring True

Anything that ISPs can do to prevent spam from reaching my inbox is usually just fine by me, except when it bars the door on messages that I was supposed to get. But the recent news that AOL and Yahoo plan to charge bulk e-mail senders for "guaranteed delivery" sort of misses for me.

One gets the feeling that we'll be seeing just as much or more spam and the fact that someone is chipping in a little more to get it sent doesn't lessen the annoyance.

The service, The service, which would be provided through Goodmail Systems, is said to certify the e-mail as coming from the actual retailer or marketer it purports to come. And for its part, Goodmail says the recipients must agree that they wish to receive e-mail from the sender. So in that sense, it's not just opening the floodgates. But hey, you still have to get the e-mail to opt in or out.

I guess what bothers me the most is the positioning of this announcement as a way to reduce spam. It seems more like a new class of service marketers. It really has nothing to do with my need to keep spam out of my inbox and, as such, it puts the onus more on me to prevent unwanted messages from coming back a second time.

I have no problem with a retailer asking me if I want to receive promotions when I purchase something or register something I've purchased online. I always say no but I like the fact that I can say no (I just wish all them would honor my wishes, however). But some critics of this certified sender plan claim that these companies can now pony up a few more bucks and get second shot at me.

I'm not sure that is really the case, but then I don't really have the time or the desire to differentiate between a legitimate company sending me an offer and a fly-by-night scammer sending me an offer. I deal with those messages the same way, and I don't think I'm anywhere near alone in that practice. The fact that the Goodmail system may certify that a company is legitimate may mean something to an ISP, but not to me.

And let's face it, legitimate companies already try a lot harder to keep their lists clean and not send unwanted e-mail. So how is this going to reduce spam again? Do they think the folks who keep trying to sell me Viagra online are going to sign up to get certified?

Let just call this what it is. AOL and Yahoo get to charge a little more to help legitimate companies keep their messages from getting caught in spam filters. And it might turn out to be pretty successful at that. But I'm not buying into any altruistic statements about how it's going to help reduce my spam.

Posted by Mitch Irsfeld at 08:10 PM | Permalink

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