The true invention of the internet, redux, and Goodmail/Network Neutrality

I wrote an essay here a year ago on the internet cost contract and how it was the real invention (not packet switching) that made the internet. The internet cost contract is “I pay for my end, you pay for yours, and we don’t sweat the packets.” It is this approach, not any particular technology, that fostered the great things that came from the internet. (Though always-on also played a big role.)

It’s time to re-read that essay because two recent big issues uncover attacks on the contract, and thus no less than the foundation of the internet.

The first is the Goodmail program announced by AOL. The EFF has been a leading member of a coalition pushing AOL to reconsider this program. People have asked us, “how bad can it really be?” Why is putting a price on E-mail so bad?

One particular disturbing thing about the goodmail program is that it reminds me a bit of a protection racket. Goodmail hopes its customers will pay it hundreds of millions of dollars because they are afraid of spam filters. They are selling those customers (who are required to be legitimate mailers sending solicited mail) protection from the spam filters of AOL. Problem is, those spam filters shouldn’t be blocking the legitimate mail at all — it is a flaw in the filters that makes people want to buy protection from them. They’re buying protection from something that shouldn’t be harming them in the first place. An ISP, like AOL, would normally be expected to have the duty to deliver legitimate mail to its customers. To serve those customers, they also block spam. Now, unlike the mobster selling protection, AOL’s spam-blockers are not blocking the legitimate mail maliciously, but that’s about the only difference, and part of why this smells bad.

This has been my direct criticism of the program on its own. Goodmail says it’s really a certification program. There have been IETF standards to sign E-mail and get certificates for signers for a long time, and many “Certificate Authority” companies of all stripes who sell such a process. They don’t charge per message, though.

The charging per message sets a nasty precedent which is an attack on the internet cost contract. It violates the rule about not sweating the individual traffic. I pay for my end, you pay for yours. As soon as we start deciding some traffic is good and bad, and some traffic has to pay to transit the pipes or get through the filters, we’ve taken a step backwards to the settlement based networks that the internet defeated decades ago.

In the 70s and 80s the world had many online services you paid for by the hour. It had MCI mail, which you paid to send. It had packet switched X.25 networks you paid for by the kilopacket. They were all crushed by the internet, not just in cost, buy in innovation. AOL, the last of the online services, had to adopt the internet model in almost all respects to avoid a slope to doom.

The idea of a two-tier internet, which many have been writing about recently, has generated the debate on a subject called network neutrality. Sometimes the problem is attempts to block services entirely based on what they are (such as blocking VoIP that competes with the phone service of the company that owns the wires.) Other times it’s a threat that companies providing high-bandwidth services, like video and voice, should “pay their share” and not get a “free ride” on the pipes that “belong” to the telco or cable ISPs.

Once again, the goal is to violate the contract. The pipes start off belonging to the ISPs but they sell them to their customers. The customers are buying their line to the middle, where they meet the line from the other user or site they want to talk to. The problem is generated because the carriers all price the lines at lower than they might have to charge if they were all fully saturated, since most users only make limited, partial use of the lines. When new apps increase the amount a typical user needs, it alters the economics of the ISP. They could deal with that by raising prices and really delivering the service they only pretend to sell, or by charging the other end, and breaking the cost contract. They’ve rattled sabres about doing the latter.

The contract is worth defending not just because it gives us cheap internet or flat rates. It is worth defending because it fosters innovation. It lets people experiment with services that would get shut down quickly if people got billed per packet. Without the cost contract, great new ideas will never get off the ground. And that would be the real shame.

Customer choice is needed

The problem with the two-tiered internet is that customer choice is removed from the equation, instead one company holds the other hostage for access to customers.

Something along the lines of how product shipping is done might work though. For example, I purchase something from Amazon. I can choose next day delivery, 3 day delivery or 5-7 day delivery. When I pick my choice I pay a little more for each option.

If I know I'm going to be downloading a 100MB of MP3 from emusic.com, it would be nice if I could pay an extra $5 and boost the connection speed from them and drop a 10 minute download to a 5 or 2 minute download. But it should be MY choice. Not the ISP demanding money from services I have already paid to be able to access at a particular rate.

If you want something from the AOL PoV

Some statements by Carl Hutzler from AOL, on his blog -
http://carlhutzler.com/blog/?p=6
http://carlhutzler.com/blog/?p=9

And of course several discussions at circleid - including
http://www.circleid.com/posts/future_of_some_email_may_not_use_email/

I do wish you'd stop pushing the blackmail meme. It is not blackmail, or an email tax, as you do seem to acknowledge in that circleid discussion.

There are lots of other ways for bulk mailers to stay on aol's enhanced whitelist, and their regular whitelist as well (such as - dont generate complaints from aol users .. simple, I think?)

Goodmail is going to be targeted at a small segment of emailers who deliver very high value content that is already solicited by the recipients - bank statements, air tickets, online purchase invoices etc.

Their price points are all aligned that way and it is those mailers who would find it most useful to have email displayed in the aol user's inbox with all images displayed, instead of having to click a button to display images [and well, thunderbird doesnt display images by default either - is that blackmail, or an email tax?]

A lot of the EFF response so far has been based on extremely bad data, most of it appears to have been released by other reputation vendors' - that is, goodmail's competitors - PR channels, and some even more distorted versions of the whole thing that have appeared on the website of the direct marketing association, and dmnews.com - again a marketing newsletter.

This is not going to affect person to person mail

It wont even affect the typical political email campaign, whether its left or right wing .. as long as the recipients of those emails actually asked for and signed up to those emails.

Well, I'll stop here. I've already pointed this out on various posts. But is there any problem at all with you, or Danny, actually calling Carl Hutzler or Charles Stiles at AOL and talking to them about these issues?

I'd suggest you or Danny - people with technical clue. Not Cindy, or anybody from moveon.org - I wouldnt trust them to overcome their basic belief that this is all a right wing plot, enough to listen to facts with an open mind.

Not so simple

Political organizations, or any other organizations with enemies, can NOT simply avoid generating complaints from users. Such complaint systems are often used as DOS attack methods against groups that have enemies. You definitely don't want a system where political speech can be shut down because opponents falsely file "complaints."

It's pretty clearly true that if the whitelist were so great, nobody would feel the need to pay large chunks of money for protection from the spam filters. Your point can't be true that there is nothing to worry about or goodmail would have few customers. If there's nothing to fear why does Goodmail project so many millions of dollars in revenue?

Goodmail doesn't plan for person to person mail but I'm surprised you haven't read the scores of proposals for pay-to-send mail (including some that were truly email taxes) over the past many years. One should not be surprised that there is a groundswell to nip this idea in the bud.

This is already happening in

This is already happening in the "real" world. Look at complaints to the FCC about "indencency" 99% come from one group.

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20041207-4442.html

Cost contract?! What about abuse?

Brad,

Where is the “internet cost contract” when a spammer sends 20 million daily unwanted messages and gets none in return?! We are not talking about a symmetrical exchange between ISPs (I’ll send you mail, you’ll send me mail, we’re both happy) but about a terrible asymmetry where some senders abuse the system. As a result, receivers got defensive and false positives became inevitable – legitimate, wanted, messages are mistakenly blocked – a collateral damage of the war against spam and phishing. CertifiedEmail is one attempt to fix part of the problem.

In the email space, the only contract that counts is the one an ISP has with its subscribers: I’ll do my best to give you the messages you want and to block those you do not.

Brad, you repeat here comments identical to those you made on CircleID. I particularly liked the fact you acknowledged there that the EFF is using inflammatory rhetoric not to your liking. May I suggest your readers should be exposed to the rebuttals you got on CircledID from Paul Hoffman, Larry Seltzer, Brett Watson, Suresh Ramasubramanian, Peter Bowyer, and yours truly:

http://www.circleid.com/posts/future_of_some_email_may_not_use_email/#co...

Peace,

Daniel Dreymann, Goodmail Systems

I didn't talk about spam

Everybody wants rid of spam. I’m just saying we should get rid of it by other means than abandoning the systems that make the internet great. Some people act as though fighting spam is so important it trumps all other considerations. It’s important, but nothing is at that level. Abuse will occur, and techniques to stop abuse should be found that are consistent with the values we want to preserve. “The bad guys are abusing our free society, so let’s get rid of the freedoms” is not an argument likely to work on me.

Certifying mail (as opposed to “CertifiedMail(TM)”) is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Standards for signing mail and issuing certificates are well established. They don’t involve per-email costs. I would recommend to Goodmail that it move in this direction, and compete against all comers in this space.

MCI mail and other pay-to-send e-mail systems died for a reason. Will spam send us scurrying back to what we rightfully put in the past?

And while the e-mail tax metaphor may not be so accurate, would you prefer the protection racket metaphor instead? As you say above, people are paying to avoid being collateral damage.

Freedom is about choice

Ah, let's not replace one bad metaphor by another. It’s not an “email tax” because the service is optional and it’s not “protection racket” for exactly the same reason. You acknowledge that legitimate messages are not maliciously blocked by ISPs, so nothing really stands for the protection racket analogy. We both know that, let’s leave the inflammatory rhetoric to others. It’s a new premium service. It was not available a year ago. It now is. No “freedom is gotten rid of” with the introduction of a new optional service.

While standards for digital certificates and for signing message exist (we do use them at Goodmail), there are none (yet) for the additional message tracking we perform. We welcome competition. Rest assured: there will be.

The collateral damage is an established fact. It was not introduced by us; blame the spammers and the phishers. Pretending it doesn’t exist won’t make the problem go away. While many senders have no need for email certification, some face real problems. The American Red Cross really want their donor to know when a message they see is a genuine donation solicitation and when it is a phishing attempt. Senders of high value messages should each decide if leaving their customers uncertain regarding the genuineness of messages they receive is something they are okay with. They can opt to provide a better service to their customers and certify their messages or they can decide the status quo is good enough. Freedom is letting each sender make his own decision – freedom is not about declaring the internet is a one-size-fits-all medium. It is not, it never was.

Brad, I reiterate my invitation for you to visit our offices in Mountain View for a personal guided tour of how the system works and an open discussion on how to make it better and address your concerns.

It's not a premium service

At best the filter bypass is a restoration of the ordinary level of service. It takes quite a stretch to call that “premium.” You can blame the collateral damage on the spammers and phishers if you like, and you can blame the plight of the New Orleans residents in the superdome on Katrina too. Just because spammers are evil doesn’t absolve the filterers from duties of care.

Anyway, your comment about the red cross is beside the point. Nobody has objected to certification — that is a premium service and go ahead and charge money for it and compete in an open market. People are objecting to an artificial per-email cost, and the precedent it implies.

Perhaps you have done this unaware of the history here. I know it well because I was one of the first to bring up the subject a decade ago before I quickly renounced it. Every month it seems somebody else comes up with the idea of putting an artificial cost on e-mail to stop spam. Often they propose it as an actual e-mail tax. People unaware of how often the idea has had to be beaten down often even trumpet it and say “what a great new idea.” Of course it’s neither new nor great, and if Goodmail’s system is adopted, we’ll see more push for artificial barriers to e-mail, including taxes.

Two things would make a key difference. First, price based on the real cost, not per email sent. Complaint volume may be correlated to emails sent, but charge on the complaints, not on the regular mails. Better yet, charge for the real work — certifying.

Secondly, no kickbacks to the ISPs. The kickback to the ISP makes everybody naturally suspicious that they’re paying for delivery, not certification. And it puts the wrong incentives on ISPs. No wonder people were ready to believe that AOL would make it harder to get whitelisted for free! How will people believe AOL is really working for the user any more if they’re being paid by the mailer? The ISP should work for the user. The kickbacks also make it harder to have a free market. Why should AOL work hard to bless other certifiers who don’t kick back money or kick back less, when they get nice money from those who do?

Systems work better when the money flow reflects the duties. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to design systems in other ways, but one must be particularly wary with email, which is arguably the most important new medium of speech in decades. We must take our freedom of speech very seriously, and take extra care in how we architect the systems of speech.

Brad, you keep ignoring the facts

a) You keep ignoring the problem: spam and phishing filters are NOT going away nor are they EVER going to be perfect. Consumers demand a cleaner and safer mailbox. Cry as you want, email providers will make their best to filter out junk and in the process there will be casualties. As Suresh said: Staying firmly in the past just to keep the memory of those days alive?

b) You keep ignoring the economics: Mailbox providers, who derive virtually all their value from the breadth of their customer base, will never purposely degrade the treatment of non-certified messages. If they did so, whatever revenue from CertifiedEmail they might make will be dwarfed by losses stemming from churn with dissatisfied customers leaving their service.

c) You keep using inflammatory terms: first a “tax”, than “protection racket” and now “kickbacks”. Is “right wing conspiracy” next? Can’t we have a dialog free of that noise?

d) You keep ignoring how the system works: no “artificial costs” here. It took millions of dollars to build our systems and it will take millions to operate it (for us and for the mailbox providers). Take a moment to understand how it works (come visit us in Mountain View). No mailbox provider we talked to was comfortable providing the same premium service based on a simplistic certificate system. This is the real world – not an imaginary place in which simple solutions are good enough.

Mailbox providers, who


Mailbox providers, who derive virtually all their value from the breadth of their customer base, will never purposely degrade the treatment of non-certified messages.

They will if they begin making money not from the people receiving mail, as in the current scenario, but from the e-mailers. The flow of money defines who the customer is => people paying you are your customers. If the customer is the e-mailers then it will be in the ISP's interest to ratchet up the spam filters tighter and tighter and when a company complains tell them to pay to get through.


c) You keep using inflammatory terms: first a “tax”, than “protection racket” and now “kickbacks”. Is “right wing conspiracy” next? Can’t we have a dialog free of that noise?

Goodmail pays ISPs some money it takes in per-email charges. How is this not a kickback? The post office doesn't give any of the extra money it charages for certified delivery to the receivers of certified mail.

This system encourages ISPs to block more mail and force e-mailers to go to Goodmail to get around it, which means more money for the ISP.

Let me be clear

I dont hold any brief for goodmail - and nor is my criticism of the "dearaol.com" campaign really an endorsement that goodmail is a good product. I think its a decent idea in certain limited circumstances (transactional email gets auth'd, and certified for reputation .. and the rest of its benefits - message delivery tracking - are not my concern, theyre the concern of senders using that product, delivering to ISPs using goodmail)

But its not blackmail, its not an email tax, its nothing to do with an "internet cost contract"

I do think the EFF is way out in left field on most of its posts about spam over the last several years. And at least some of the tactics adopted by the EFF and supporters (including moveon.org) have tended towards pure FUD .. the first and very simple step being to cite examples of bad spam filtering - yes there are quite a few, and then tar every single spam filtering effort with the same brush (take a bow, Cindy and Annalee.. spreading FUD doesnt become any more right just because its done in the supposed cause of free speech)

Or, as John Gilmore does, run an open relay - and now, an open socks proxy, and claim its all for free speech and that John Perry Barlow cant send out email any other way when he's traveling somewhere in Africa. Surely someone who could write tar way back when can compile a mailserver that does smtp auth. And unless John Perry also needs a socks4 proxy to do his browsing when he's in Africa, I guess the proxy running on radio.toad.com could be turned off - it was being used to mailbomb the full-disclosure list with thousands of posts just the other day.

Yes - not your fault, Brad, I know that. But finding clue about spam issues in the EFF is getting really very rare. Forget clue, finding people who want to engage in a reasoned dialog instead of scoring cheap political points, is getting even rarer.

I know you can do far better than that. I wish you would do far better than that.

It is a violation of the cost contract

E-mail was one of the first internet services (after FTP and Telnet) and the pioneer of the contract in many ways. The commercial e-mail services, as I have pointed out, all charged the sender (and often the recipient as well) per E-mail. World-changing ideas like the mailing list were created because the internet didn't work that way. There are many valued internet services that would vanish or be impeded with sender-pays e-mail. Yes, the spammers are abusing the cost contract, you don't have to keep pointing that out to me. But I don't know many more ways to say this -- that bad guys are abusing a freedom is not sufficient grounds to abandon the freedom. You hunt hard, very very hard, for other ways to stop the bad guys.

You might understand Gilmore a bit in this context. A number of facets of email, including roaming, were made easy and possible by the fact that mail servers would happily relay mail for any who needed it. Spammers abused that. Many reacted by working to shut down the relays, including blacklisting innocent relay owner victims. A lot of people get very upset at the idea of punishing the victim. It makes people like John Gilmore stick to their guns. At this point people have even forgotten that the relay operators were spammer victims, and now think of them as almost as evil. He changed his relay to be open, but limit volume, another way to deal with spammer abuse, but the blacklisters couldn't deal with that, and people got even more polarized.

It's not blackmail, which requires malice, but it creates the same bad incentive structure. AOL's spam filters are obviously scaring mailers enough to pay fat fees to Goodmail. That's not a conspiracy on AOL's part, but once they start getting kickbacks of Goodmail fees, what are the incentives on their part to do a better job, to get rid of the false positives that are scaring the mailers, to improve the whitelist system? Even the most honest people won't do quite as well when the money flows that way.

And it's not a tax, but it's part of a class of artificial-cost spam solutions which have included real taxes and thus as a class get that designation.

However, as for your opposition to the EFF's anti-spam positions, they remain valid. The EFF is a free speech organization first and foremost. It should not surprise you that in examining the choice between anti-spam techniques that preserve free speech and open email values and those that don't, we pick the free speech side every time. You've misinterpreted that as being a pro-spam (or simply an insufficiently anti-spam) view not because the EFF is soft on spam, but because too many in the anti-spam community have been lazy, and gravitated to "easy" solutions with negative free speech consequences.

Many in the anti-spam community happily advance ideas we could never support. They think we should live in a world where you can't communicate with somebody without their advance permission. A world where traffic is theft if it violates your right not to be annoyed. A world where it's OK to punish the innocent in order to get at the guilty. A world where vigilence committees, without proper checks and balances and systems of appeal, decide who can communicate with whom. A world where dropping email on the floor with no diagnostic to the people who care is acceptable software engineering. A world where not delivering valid mail is just the price you have to pay to block the most spam. A world where the government should regulate email, even individual states in spite of email's lack of geography. I could go on.

I'm not saying you personally hold any of these beliefs, but many in the anti-spam world do, and they are anathema to the EFF mission, and thus we've found ourselves disagreeing with some in this area.

Oh I understand his motivation

But being stuck in the past isnt doing him, or anybody else, any good.

And the basic motivation behind allowing open relay - as a courtesy to other users and operators on a trusted network, to provide extra paths in a time of highly limited connectivity, is long gone.

Staying firmly in the past just to keep the memory of those days alive?

I walk a tightrope all the time between blocking spam and delivering valid email. I need to do both. So yes valid email will get blocked from time to time - my team's job is to make my filters as fine grained as is possible (read: feasible and scalable) for me to implement without letting in far more spam than valid email. And to keep an eye out for false postivies, and for reports of false positives from our users, or from people who want to email our users, and get those false positives fixed, or worked around.

I'm actually pretty representative of the typical email postmaster at a large ISP .. I've met most of them, and they hold fairly similar views. You wont find those anathema to the EFF's mission, given that you dont like spam any more than we do, nor would you call spam free speech.

Never mind this discussion about goodmail .. several previous interactions I've had with the EFF leave me with the impression that your policy is that any server side, ISP operated spam filtering at all is bad, and is anathema with your position.

And all the examples that I've had thrown in my face to prove that position has been "bad" spam filtering - poor filtering decisions that are condemned by sensible email administrators as well.

That's about as good a way to argue as to point to a few corrupt cops, say, and then argue that the police shouldnt exist at all, and are anathema to the concept of justice.

-srs

ps: Thanks for giving me an idea. I'm probably going to do a BoF or panel somewhere this year, most likely at a maawg meeting - http://www.maawg.org .. A "top 10 no-nos for a postmaster / abuse desk operator .. and those top 10 no nos would all be quite similar to the examples of bad spam filtering I've seen from the EFF <- save of course the reasoning that all blocking of poorly managed political lists is a right wing plot .. our filters, based on user complaints and a few other things, are not too particular about the political color of a badly managed list.

The principles EFF issued many years ago

Didn’t condemn server side spam filtering as a concept. What they condemned was taking away user choice and awareness. And no, “we told you about it in the fine print of the TOS” doesn’t count much more than it does for spyware installs. If mail is to be blocked, it should be a user’s choice. And when mail is to be blocked, somebody that cares (the recipient or sender) must be aware of it. Admins are often tempted to deviate from these principles, because they are harder to follow than the simple path, and it’s certainly hard to be motivated when all you want is to be rid of the spam.

But the principles have values beyond spam. In the free speech world, history teaches you err on the side of protecting speech by a wide, wide margin. Because if you sit near the line — whatever your line is — you can be sure other forces will start pushing you over it.

As for “spam is not free speech” this is where we get some of the conflict. Spam, like kiddie porn, guys in megaphone trucks, Nazi parades, embarassing government secrets and Mapplethorpe photos is speech. As speech, it gets the presumption of being free, with a very hard standard required before trying to remove those freedoms. In particular because such removals are never surgical, and in a free society, you accept you’re going to take some bad in order to be sure you don’t stomp on any good. When the EFF has stood up to defend much nastier speech than spam, it hasn’t been for a love of that speech, though of course opponents will always portray it that way.

Some in the anti-spam community of course, are with us on this, and agree that spam should be treated as a bulk mail abuse problem, and the contents and purpose of the text should be orthogonal to how to stop it. Others say, “let’s ban E-mails that say one thing but not ban email sthat say another.” Some even want to ban UCE rather than UBE. What’s odd, by the way, is that even if you took the intersection of what everybody agrees should be stopped, rather than the union of all annoying mails, you would still have put your finger on 99% of spam. But it makes people so emotional they forget that.

However, this thread’s on charging for e-mail, and spam is only the trigger that got people into doing that. I still maintain that charging for e-mail is a giant step backwards, and that it will kill a lot of innovation as it becomes more common.

It hasn’t been the driver of my arguments, but I’m working on a software app, for example, that like many web applications, has a form in it which will send email on your behalf. Like most such apps, it asks you for your email address so it can send it in your name. There are a million web sites that do things like this. Most of the sender verification systems proposed would break such a tool, for example. And a trend towards pay-to-send will also break such tools if they want to be free, as most are.

That is of course because I believe the chances of this trend stopping here are extremely low, close to nada, unless we put up the big fight we’re putting up.

Cindy seems to disagree...

Ref the latest dearaol.com release criticizing Esther Dyson's NYT article, and Esther's / Cindy's followup posts on the IP list.

It is fun to see that "your girlfriend is going to get charged for sending you email" meme trotted out time and again. Once, possibly.

Somehow, it seems to get a lot less funnier as that tired old meme (or should I say red herring) is dragged on and on.

Goodmail (or, as the simplistic rabble rousing goes, "email tax" or "pay to send email") seems to be targeting senders of bulk email as far as I can see. [and yes I am sure someone from dearaol will trot out the Pastor Martin Neimoller quote, or maybe drag out that other old favorite, the slippery slope argument]

And the dearaol coalition is somewhat concerned that CDT, and Esther Dyson are taking a more balanced view of the situation. The horror, the horror!

Esther felt she was misquoted by dearaol.com's press release on the subject - I dont exactly blame her. This campaign has degenerated into pure astroturfing of the sort that routinely gets decried when the neocons engage in it.

-srs

Server side spam filtering, user choice and awareness

> Didn’t condemn server side spam filtering as a concept. What
> they condemned was taking away user choice and awareness.

Call it one man, one vote, brad .. with a report as spam system replacing a ballot box (or even one of those diebold machines with their wonderfully chancy chads). So while you, or I would rather not see Bush in the white house, the man did get some votes, possibly even enough to put him there, given that he's there now.

User choice and awareness does come into play. As I said - most ISPs that filter spam do have an obligation to listen to their users, and to give a fair hearing to email / calls from people whose legitimate email they've blocked. Most ISPs do just that.. we certainly do.

A substantial part of our spam filtering (and AOL's, and yahoo's) is keyed to spam reports from our users.

But giving a fair hearing after blocking means that you do have a right to raise some issues which in your opinion led to the block. Could be a compromised script on a webserver, could be a mailing list that's generating complaints.

The feedback loops that AOL and we (and at least some other large ISPs) provide to bulk senders / ISPs is a way for them to stay on top of any complaints about email that they are sending, or their systems are originating, and to deal with them fast, before the volume of complaints gets high enough to trigger a block.

Just like elections, there's likely to be some dispute about filtering decisions as well, which is where actually listening to complaints about valid email getting blocked comes in. Have any of the people who have been fulminating about aol taxing email actually been blocked by AOL? And if so have they used the contact info - 1-800 number, email addresses etc - at http://postmaster.info.aol.com to contact the AOL postmasters? They are a wonderfully clued and responsive bunch of people, I must say, having met and interacted with most of them over the last several years

Spam and free speech

Spam's never been a content issue. It is speech - but the sort of speech (or shall we say communication) where the recipient bears most of the costs, and the setup and incremental costs for the sender of spam are trivially low.

e-postage and micropayment schemes of one variety or the other are just not new, and Daum Korea (as big a name among email users in korea as AOL is stateside) has long been using what they call an "e-stamp" scheme, where bulk senders buy online stamps to send email to Daum users, and where Daum users can click on the stamp displayed in email from these bulk senders, to vote on whether or not they actually want / solicited the email .. with some provisions to provide free stamps to nonprofit senders, and to discount / make stamps free to a sender if lots of Daum users said they wanted their email. Sorta kinda like goodmail.

But Daum found it rather difficult to apply that system to senders from outside korea, and to even senders within Korea. AOL is not even trying to extend goodmail to try and charge Aunt Tilly ... they're targeting bulk senders of email as I said.

In other words, this or any other "pay to send email scheme" is NOT going to scale to charge all email. Ever. Read through John Levine's great paper on this - http://www.taugh.com/epostage.pdf (and of course his "how bad is goodmail") http://weblog.johnlevine.com/2006/02/14#goodmail

I'll repeat that the goodmail issue - as has been a lot of the recent eff position papers etc on spam - is a tempest in a teapot. And an artificially created, and highly inaccurate tempest at that.

Three comments at once...

But I will reply in one.

a) You act as though we don't know what Goodmail is doing and then complain about what they're not doing. This is pointlessly antagonistic. As I've said many times, this is about the concept, the precedents, of which Goodmail is the first successful salvo. No, goodmail is not a tax, no, it is not charging you to mail your girlfriend, but these things are often proposed as part of this school of anti-spam thought. We're opposing the school, not just goodmail, so that goodmail is not doing some of the the things is not germane to the debate about the _trend_ and whether it's good or bad. I hope nobody is so foolish as to think this trend stops with what Goodmail is doing today. Rather, if Goodmail succeeds it makes it easier for others to follow with more. The Korean example largely failed. Goodmail makes it easier for the next one to go further.

b) Yes, I believe that people on the list have been blocked by AOL in the past, I don't know the recent situations. I would have to check for specific cites. However, again, this is not about AOL or Goodmail in specific. This is about a principle. There are lots of hardworking, well intentioned people at AOL. Presumably at Goodmail too.

c) The whole point of the essay I wrote to start this is that spam is not, in spite of many people's instincts a cost issue. The whole point of the internet cost contract is you don't get to account for the cost of individual traffic. The subtle difference is that spam is more correctly a DoS issue. DoS is the one place you do get to account for the traffic. No one spam is a DoS, no one spam is an unfair "shift" of cost because the internet deal is there's no shifting of cost in either direction. The mass of spams that overload our systems and mailboxes -- that's the real issue of spam and the place to find the solution.

d) In spite of your admonition not to worry about this extending to Aunt Tilly, that's exactly what we see people like Esther Dyson suggesting is inevitable. If you want to cite her arguments so much, don't leave out the big part.

Like I said I'm not doing this to support goodmail

It is to oppose the way dearaol is running this entire campaign, with astroturfing and misquotes substituting for logic.

Oh - Esther's wrong, way wrong on this if she thinks this model is going to scale or extend enough that Aunt Tilly is going to find herself paying money to send email, but I do find the dearaol press release that says it exposes aol's secret and innermost longings.

Her article IS quite balanced for all of that. And the way dearaol put out a press release attacking it amuses me, a lot.

What's the factual basis

For your claim that Aunt Tilly is never going to find herself paying to send mail? That’s how E-mail systems used to work. That’s how many people, including Esther Dyson, say they want them to work. Search the web for a decade of proposals for e-stamps, email-taxes or related proposals. On what do you base your claim that there is no chance of this happening? Do you not agree the risk of it happening becomes much higher if Goodmail becomes established?

Realize that while I call goodmail’s price high, because it is vastly more than the real cost of sending an e-mail, it’s a price I can easily see the market accepting. I sent 5440 personal emails last year, or $14 if I didn’t pay a certification fee. (Though I sent many thousands more since I didn’t count ccs, or mailings to my personal mailing list) but it’s still going to be under $100. What the price stops is software that mails on behalf of others, and people who host mailing lists. And for many people the bureaucracy would be more than the money. Most such proposals also have no way to easily deal with anonymous mail. They have many problems — but some powerful people think they are a good idea. So there is something to fear.

My Two Cents

I make no claim to being nearly informed enough about the history and origins of the internet to make any useful claims about contracts and the like. I do, however, know more than enough to know that the solution to any problem with the internet, real of imagined, is not through Congressional legislation. Congress and government in general remaining hands off must be acknowledged by all as having been key to the success of the internet. To bring them in now would likely have devastating effects.

I think most agree

And the talk of network neutrality regulation that there is has mostly, but certainly not entirely, centered on the bodies that already regulate the monopoly providers (cable cos, ilecs) because they are monopolies or a duopoly, not because they are ISPs. Ie. the PUCs or FCC. However, there have been proposals in congress so there is reason to be wary.

2 more cents

Two more cents...Congressional regulation of an industry that has thrived in its absence, is a mistake, imho. The problem net neutrality hopes to address is hypothetical at best, and the bottom line is that neither the market nor the FCC would allow a company to "squeeze its pipes." Telcos know that they must provide a quality product at a competitive price or the consumer will take their business elsewhere. I just don't see them abandoning the people who pay the rent. In addition, the FCC has the regulatory authority to stop a company from limiting, degrading or otherwise blocking services on its network. So why does Congress insist on imposing new regulations when none are needed?

isn't there a simpler solution?

If one doesn't like AOL's policies, isn't the best solution
to simply boycott AOL, or at least move to someone else for
email delivery if you don't like the way they handle it?

As for paying for email, well, as long is the cost is NEGLIGIBLE
to legitimate users, and high enough for spammers, I don't really
see the problem. After all, I pay about EUR 70, total, for all
internet costs (6016 kb/s DSL connection, VOIP, hosting for a
few domains, SMTP server for outgoing mail, backup MX server
independent of my hardware, etc etc). (Since I run a lot of
hardware 24x7, the cost of power is actually more than the EUR
70 mentioned above for non-power costs).

What the actual breakdown of the costs is doesn't interest me.
I don't know how the service providers calculate, and I don't
have to know or care. As long as they make enough to stay in
business, and the cost is not too much for me, we are all happy.

So, it wouldn't matter to me if I were to pay, say, 5 EUR more
for email and 5 EUR less for the backup MX server or whatever.

I pay (as part of a package deal which includes much, much more)
for the use of an SMTP server which, of course, is NOT an open
relay. When I started out, I sent stuff directly from my own
SMTP server, but, since I (now) have a volatile IP address (with
modern DNS services such as the highly recommended
http://www.dynaccess.com/ the cost of fixed addresses is too much
to justify the small gain in functionality), I noticed some people
couldn't receive my email, since they only wanted email from
trusted SMTP relay servers.

I think that's OK. In an ideal world, yes, this wouldn't be
necessary, but probably the most effective way of stopping spam
from reaching your eyes (as opposed to stopping spammers, which
one should still do since it clogs the network, but this is more
difficult and beyond what an individual can do) is to only accept
stuff from SMTP relay servers which do not send spam.

If I want to send more than I do, for example, a newsletter to
thousands of people, then I can pay a bit more, register a sender
address and also send these through the same server.

In essence, I am paying the provider of the SMTP server to keep
his server spam-free. I think he does a good job at a fair price.

All email reaches my computers directly. For a small fee, the
same provider offers spam-filtering and virus-scanning. (I prefer
to do these myself. I run virus-immune systems and prefer to have
information on the spammers for when I have time to take legal action
against them.)

Brad, you seem to be mainly a free-market kind of guy, so why not
just encourage AOL customers to move to a mail system with someone
else more to your and their liking? After all, there is nothing
like a boycott to get someone to change their policies, especially
if they lose more money than they make through the new scheme.

Invention of the Internet

Here's a new twist on this question. Pretty funny

http://colonial-america.suite101.com/article.cfm/the_invention_of_the_in...

Brad, you seem to be mainly

Brad, you seem to be mainly a free-market kind of guy, so why not
just encourage AOL customers to move to a mail system with someone
else more to your and their liking? After all, there is nothing
like a boycott to get someone to change their policies, especially
if they lose more money than they make through the new scheme.

If I want to send more than

If I want to send more than I do, for example, a newsletter to
thousands of people, then I can pay a bit more, register a sender
address and also send these through the same server.

Same for me.

Same for me. In fact, I don't even have to pay more, just register the address.

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