Wednesday 1 March 2006

Free Speech is No Excuse to Spam

It seems that some bulk email senders are getting spun up about developments such as Goodmail and Bonded Sender. For example, says it's, "Threatening the Internet as we know it ... The very existence of online civic participation and the free Internet as we know it are under attack."

Balderdash and piffle, say I. Nothing's really changed -- if users are complaining about some email, service providers will block the sender, whether or not they pay some sort of a bond or fee. There's no substantive change here. If you're an existing sender with a good reputation, you should have nothing to worry about -- well, nothing new anyway.

I suspect there's an underlying agenda to some of the moaning. There are some quasi-political and religious groups emailing indiscriminately, and hiding under the flag of Free Speech. That's no excuse -- people will still click the This Is Spam button, and so future mail will get blocked. Just because the message isn't commercial, it doesn't mean that users won't perceive it as spam. I've no sympathy for senders who use those tactics.

My advice to groups who are concerned about their continued ability to communicate legitimately is this: if you find that your email's being blocked, work with your email service provider and that of the recipient to figure out how you should act in the future. Don't act as if it's your deity-given right to send email to whomever you wish. Those that run email services are perfectly entitled to act on user spam complaints. As the saying goes, "My server -- my rules."


Anonymous said...


While I agree that adding filtering mechanisms to the email stream is probably desirable, I'm not sure I trust the folks at AOL to set the standards, especially if they have a financial incentive that shifts loyalty away from the end consumer, and towards the big bulk-mailer.

Having used AOL servers as both a source and a destination for email, I've seen the good and the bad. Sadly, many decisions that are made in the AOL server rooms are never communicated to the users, and are not always very customer friendly.

The expected goal is for the end-user to get the email THEY want, with as little dreck/chaff as possible. Or to contact folks they want, easily, without a wondering if the mail ever went.

I've seen AOL drop mail, rather than spool it during a crash, and never tell anyone that mail was lost, unlike other large ISP's. I've seen people forced to call another AOL users and ASK, did you get the my mail? Or did you send that mail yet? They do that because there is no other way to be certain if the mail is being passed on or blocked.

I've seen AOL blacklist mail from trusted senders, without informing either the sender or recipient that items were trashed. Often the only assurance I had that I'd get mail, was to ask senders to duplicate all messages to my Yahoo account as well as my AOL account.

If senders have to jump through hoops without a guarantee of service, AOL users will be the ones to suffer. I'd hope that AOL can find away to provide a guaranteed service for the price, but they have a bad track record to date. It's more likely that GoodMail will just become another excuse for poor service.

BTW - AOL is raising dial-up prices to $25/mo claiming that costs are rising? Is this just another way to wring revenues from a shrinking customer base, without actually providing fair value?

Thank goodness, I have a trusted Gmail and Yahoo account I can depend on. They manage to make anti-Spam work. And the cost ...? Priceless!

Just my opinion,


Anonymous said...


As email veterans, you and I know that for-fee email for the masses ain't gonna happen.

1) Fee-based reputation systems, e.g., Goodmail, BonderSender (from IronPort), Habeas and others rely on adoption by the major and not so major ISPs. Apart from the biggies, there are a zillion consumer ISPs that can't afford and see no benefit to participating in a for-fee reputation system.

2) AOL's adoption of Goodmail's Certified Mail is a significant win; however, at the expense of negative publicity that will have long-lasting effects. The probability that other big consumer ISPs will align with a for-fee reputation provider has been damaged - perhaps beyond repair.

3) Beyond the revenue earned by the authentication providers, Goodmail, email reputation systems most greatly benefit the legit email marketing sender with thousands and tens of thousands of recipient addresses. The email authentication service providers have not and will not target SMBs and consumers.

4) There is no utopia for ensuring that daily, ad hoc email messages are free of spam and malicious code. For fee reputation systems is appropriate for the high-volume legit senders. But it is only one layer of a multitude of spam and avoidance techniques.

5) While on the topic, will for-fee reputation services extend to public network consumer instant messaging? VoIP? Chat rooms? Blogs that allow anonymous comments?

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