Monday 6 February 2006

GoodMail Systems and AOL -- What's Going On?

Goodmail Systems has announced that AOL will be using its "postage stamp for email" approach to replace or augment AOL's current "enhanced whitelist" functionality. What's going on?.

In essence, AOL has outsourced some of its whitelist to Goodmail. Goodmail will impose a "tax" on commercial senders, if they wish to have first class delivery to AOL users' inboxes. First class in this context means bypassing spam filters and having images and links function correctly without the user being warned of their potential danger. A portion of the tax revenue is returned to AOL (the amount is undisclosed, but we believe it to be at least half) and the rest is retained by Goodmail.

This is an interesting service provided to senders by Goodmail -- the value provided in return for the fees is that senders get better delivery rates and more accurate feedback about whether messages got delivered and/or opened. However, there are also negative implications.

Some senders will object to being "held to ransom." The danger to Goodmail and AOL is that one of the big senders will be big enough to encourage AOL users to use a different email service. Alternatively, they may simply put more emphasis on their own portal messaging systems, like eBay is beginning to. Then they just have to send short text-only mails to AOL users to ask them to check the eBay site.

And what of the poor AOL customer? As I've said before, Goodmail adds no practical value from the user's perspective. Goodmail (and Iconix) deliberately miss the opportunity to protect them from phishing -- there's no big red flashing warning icon when a phishing email is received.


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