Scripting News for 3/17/2006

Dave Johnson experiments with the Microsoft Feeds API, and finds they’ve made some unusual choices, which may not be good for interop.  

Esther Dyson has an op-ed in today’s NY Times about Goodmail. We discussed this in a roundtable at Esther’s conference earlier this week. Not quite an unconference, but some ideas were exchanged, in a relatively relaxed way. At one point I got the mike and asked if anyone could give an argument against Goodmail — no one did. I’m not saying there aren’t any, but what are they? BTW, I think Esther’s piece is right-on. 

13 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by zoe on March 17, 2006 at 7:02 am

    Hello? I was under the impression that for 29.95 per month I was already paying for email service.
    The first thing that scammers will do is figure a way around it..probably not very difficult. But when the new system doesn’t work, will the charges go away again?
    Does anyone really not know when something is spam in their mailbox and need to pay for this information?

    Reply

  2. The day after the agreement between GoodMail and AOL was announced, AOL stopped delivering requested and urgent email from obvious business addresses, while still allowing all kinds of junk through.

    Because of this AOL policy, I had to rush through email setups that were scheduled for a month later, just in order to get two pieces of email. Why should the company sending these have to set up with Goodmail? I think they may send about 30 emails per month?

    That AOL now feels free to block legitimate email if not GoodMail authorized is outrageous — well I think so, anyway.

    Reply

  3. Posted by David Gewirtz on March 17, 2006 at 4:20 pm

    Here’s my argument against Goodmail… I know it’s long, but I published it sometime ago on OutlookPower. They’re not good at all:

    Goodmail is anything but. And they’re not alone. Technology companies going by the names Goodmail, Ironport, Habeas, Port25, and StrongMail are partnering with giants like Yahoo and AOL to destroy email as we know it. This week, the New York Times reported that Yahoo and AOL “are about to start using a system that gives preferential treatment to messages from companies that pay from 1/4 of a cent to a penny each to have them delivered.”

    These companies claim they’re in the business of being “email trust authorities”. I’ve been on this Earth for quite a while now, and one lesson I’ve learned is that whenever someone goes out of their way to say they’re trustworthy, they’re usually not.

    Goodmail and their partners in crime are getting in the door by claiming to solve a problem. That problem, of course, is spam. The claim is that there’s so much unsolicited email coming into your email boxes, why not create a list of trusted senders? Then, give senders on that whitelist preferential access to your email box.

    Spam is certainly a problem, and email whitelists are certainly appealing. But while you might be perfectly happy telling your email client that your mom’s on your whitelist, you’re likely to be far less happy about having your ISP decide that Verizon or Caesar’s Palace is trustworthy, but, because she didn’t pay protection money, your mom isn’t.

    What Goodmail and their other digital racketeering partners are doing is selling your inbox to the highest bidders. Those that are willing to pay to gain access to your inbox are suddenly “trusted” while those who don’t pay the tax aren’t.

    Most people who watch the Sopranos understand the concept of a protection racket. A thug goes into a business and threatens “bad things will happen” if money isn’t paid to keep the bad at bay. In today’s digital world, Goodmail is very much like Tony Soprano.

    Goodmail, through AOL and Yahoo, is telling businesses and consumers that if you don’t pay, the goodfellas at Goodmail won’t allow your email to be delivered reliably, they won’t allow you to reliably communicate with your peers, customers, family, and friends and your communication will be subject to extra scrutiny, possibly deletion, and certainly additional delay. Only if you pay your protection money to Goodmail will your mail be considered “good.”

    I wanted to see how the FBI defined racketeering and the closest analog I could find was this quote from the FBI Web site about labor racketeering:

    The FBI defines “labor racketeering” as the domination, manipulation, and control of a labor movement which affects related businesses and industries. This domination may result in the denial of workers’ rights and sometimes inflicts economic loss on the worker, business, industry, insurer, or consumer.

    Like labor racketeering, this form of digital racketeering is attempting to dominate, manipulate, and control your access to information and the access of others to you. This domination may result in the denial of your rights to get email you want (and service you pay for), it may inflict economic loss on you (for example, if you don’t get an electronic bank statement or bill on time), and economic loss on business, industry, and other consumers.

    Just to be clear, this fee-to-send structure is not an analog to the postage stamp. Anyone can buy a postage stamp.

    Goodmail requires that you have a business history, be in business for at least a year, conduct business from the U.S. or Canada, have a fixed IP address, and pay an “accreditation application processing fee” that regularly runs $399. That’s just to be considered to be allowed to send email, before the fees to do the actual sending.

    Your mom can buy a single stamp. Not so with Goodmail. The very fact that Goodmail requires a business history separates this from any semblance of a postage stamp analogy — and from any sense that Goodmail is making mail delivery good or reliable for your desired email messages. Goodmail is designed for commercial email delivery. Period.

    Before AOL and Yahoo signed up, programs like those offered by Goodmail were only on the lunatic fringe. Now, however, they’re hitting the mainstream with a solution that’s nothing but a lose-lose for everyone but Goodmail.

    You already know how you’re going to lose. You’re still going to get unsolicited commercial email. Only, now, AOL and Yahoo are receiving bribes to pass that mail on to you. Don’t go thinking that if you use Google’s Gmail, you’re safe. One of Goodmail’s advisors is the product management VP at Google.

    You’re also going to get unsolicited messages from those who don’t bribe your ISP — they’ll just take a little longer to get there. If the senior execs at AOL or Yahoo don’t think the power spammers out there aren’t going to game the Goodmail system, they’re smoking something pretty strong.

    You’re also going to lose because some mail you want to get might not make it through. Whether it’s mail from your mom, your favorite hobby shop, your Little League newsletter, or even from a bank that didn’t buckle under the racketeering threat, you might lose mail you’ve come to count on.

    The senders and publishers are going to lose as well, even those who pay the bribes. Email recipients are going to immediately know that mail marked as “AOL Certified E-Mail” is mail that’s gotten through because a bribe has been paid and those messages will be immediately consigned to the trash box.

    Senders who don’t pay the bribes will lose as well, of course. These senders rely on the email system to get messages through to recipients. Let me give you an example. If you buy an online product, often you get a download key via email. If you want to download the item you’ve bought, and the sender hasn’t bribed Goodmail, you might not get your product. How does that help you — or the seller, who now needs to jump through more hoops to simply get you your product?

    Eventually, AOL and Yahoo, and any other yahoos who decide to sign up for Goodmail’s bad mail will also lose. Some users will simply know better and jump to an ISP that doesn’t prevent them from getting legitimate email. Other users will tie up the technical support lines and even if that means some poor worker in Asia winds up listening to more Americans screaming, eventually it’ll still cost the big companies more to pay more and more underpaid offshore labor.

    Then, there will be the lawsuits. You know this stuff is catnip to the legal industry. Someone’s not going to get an important email and the damages will be huge. Some group of individuals, a class of people, won’t get their email messages and AOL is going to find itself at the business end of a class action lawsuit. Some key Time Warner exec won’t get his 8,000 mile checkup email reminder from Lexus and will wind up stuck along the side of the road.

    And, of course, the wonderment we know of as email will lose. Email has been under assault by spammers and spyware crafters for years. We hoped our underlying tools would help us out, but we’ve found ourselves spending more and more time protecting ourselves from those who’d do us harm through email. And now, our own email providers are getting in the way.

    If this continues, how far will it go? Already, most ISPs block port 25, meaning you can’t run your own email server. Most won’t even let you send mail through your own email server, even if it’s not on their network. For example, even though ZATZ has a series of uber-servers for sending email, when I send out a personal email from home, I’m forced by my ISP (who happens to be Time-Warner!) to send the message through their server.

    How long will it be before ISPs start to filter our outgoing messages? When the next presidential election comes around, will all messages that are pro-Republican or pro-Democratic or pro-Choice or pro-Life going to be delayed, or even just deleted in transit?

    Will Goodmail morph into “Right-Thinking Mail?” They’re already blocking your email boxes. How long will it be before companies like this use textual analysis to read the meaning of your messages and replace your words with other words? You know the technology’s there now. You can no longer trust that a message with your friend’s email address is indeed from your friend. How long will it be before you can no longer trust that a message your friend wrote is exactly what you read?

    These are tough issues and disturbing questions. The publishing industry is desperately attempting to route around the problem using technologies like RSS (Really Simple Syndication), where you subscribe to feeds directly from the publisher and the information relationship is directly between you and the publisher.

    We at OutlookPower Magazine believe this is a bigger issue, one that may require legislation, prosecution, and enforcement. Like racketeering has become illegal, we believe this form of digital racketeering, bribery, blocking, forced routing, and rewriting of our information must not be allowed to continue. While most members of Congress are still somewhat new to the issues of electronic communication, most likely they each have a family member who uses AOL.

    Just explain to them that they’re no longer able to reliably send email to their kids without paying a bribe. Explain to them that their words may get twisted in transit. Explain to them that this really is Big Brother and they’re likely to be hurt as well. After all, members of Congress use email, too.

    Reply

  4. Actually, yes, at this point it sound like the Postal Service and services like AmazingMail just might be easier and cheaper to use than trying to send email to AOL and Yahoo users.

    It might actually turn out to be fun to actually get snail mail again – even if most of it IS junk …

    Reply

  5. Dave, a few quick comments written on my flight back west (hence the delay):

    *) Seems some individuals are still confused and believe THEY are asked to pay to send or receive messages. CertifiedEmail is not a system for individual senders and if you have a personal account with AOL or Yahoo! you will NEVER have to pay to send or receive messages.

    *) CertifiedEmail benefits users: recipients get the messages they want (not mistakenly trapped by often erring spam filters) and the CertifiedEmail icon helps them identify genuine messages from their bank or from other institutions; they are no longer left alone to make close-to-impossible calls sorting out the legitimate from the fraudulent.

    *) CertifiedEmail benefits senders: they are assured their messages are delivered (bypassing the imperfect filters mentioned above). Once delivered, messages are more likely to be opened by the recipient: the CertifiedEmail icon conveying to the recipient that the message is safe to open.

    *) Certified email benefits ISPs and other mailbox providers: they get satisfied users with a better email experience and also get to generate revenues by providing a new premium service.

    *) The service is optional. CertifiedEmail lives in the Inbox side-by-side with regular email. There is no merit to the claim that mailbox providers, who derive virtually all their value from the breadth of their customer base, will purposely block presumed good non-certified messages. If they did so, whatever revenue from CertifiedEmail they might make would be dwarfed by losses stemming from dissatisfied customers leaving their service – electing to get their email elsewhere. Arguing that an ISP will hurt regular email just to increase the use of CertifiedEmail is akin to saying that Google or Yahoo! will deteriorate search results in hope that people will click only on revenue-generating ads. Search engines and mailbox providers alike compete to give the best user experience. Screwing the user by offering an inferior experience is not a brilliant business model.

    *) I often hear the appealing but false observation echoed by a commenter on your blog: if cost is a deterrent for inconsiderate senders, how come we get so much postal junk mail in the physical world? The answer is pure and simple: close your eyes and imagine that the post office is offering its delivery service free of charge and imagine that paper, ink and printing services are costless too. Now open your eyes and run quickly to get a mortgage. You’ll need to build another wing for your house to accommodate the flood of junk mail delivered to your doorsteps. Economic friction helps a lot to create restraint but (as evidenced by the postal junk mail analogy) doesn’t in itself guarantee you won’t get mail you don’t really want. Our closed-loop feedback system does. As Esther wrote: “Too many complaints and the senders lose their accounts.”

    *) So it’s good for users, for volume senders, and for mailbox providers. What about Goodmail? We are a for-profit company – no secrets here. Many millions of dollars and a lot of sweat have been invested to build our technology. We hope to provide a good return to our shareholders. Is CertifiedEmail bad because Goodmail stands to make a profit?! I don’t think so. We will do well while doing good.

    *) The Mercury News published my response to a critical editorial they ran earlier: http://www.goodmailsystems.com/blog/2006/03/mercury-news-editorial.html
    If you want to read rebuttals to more misguided criticisms of CertifiedEmail, the URL above is a good place to start.

    For a more objective view, read this paper published by the Center for Democracy and Technology: http://www.cdt.org/publications/policyposts/2006/5

    Yours,

    Daniel

    Reply

  6. […] David Gewirtz: “Spam is certainly a problem, and email whitelists are certainly appealing. But while you might be perfectly happy telling your email client that your mom’s on your whitelist, you’re likely to be far less happy about having your ISP decide that Verizon or Caesar’s Palace is trustworthy, but, because she didnÕt pay protection money, your mom isn’t.”  […]

    Reply

  7. The Perfect RSS Web-Based Reader

    RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is THE present and the future. As the days pass by, more and more people are turning over to RSS and are also turning RSS itself in other innovative ways to make it more useful for people. RSS has evolved really much fro…

    Reply

  8. There’s two problems with this whole Goodmail proposal.

    First, you’re taking money for the delivery of commercial mail that would otherwise be caught by spam filters. There’s a strong (if short-term) financial incentive to let actual spam through if the spammers pay the postage.

    Second, because you and your customers control access to private inboxes, you have a financial incentive to “shake down” small, well-behaved businesses that use e-mail: “I’m sorry! Have your order confirmations stopped getting through? Why, you only have to sign up for our little program over here, and you won’t have any more problems.” I’m not saying that you’d ever do this, but the structural incentive is there.

    These two conflicts of interest, taken together, will kill your business–and hurt everyone involved with e-mail–unless your company has absolutely unimpeachable ethics. And that’s a pretty high standard to meet, even for the best of companies.

    Reply

  9. Daniel Dreymann, I believe you today.

    But I do not believe you tomorrow.

    I am sure you have good intentions. I am sure the system will work as designed for, oh, a year or so. Then, ever so slowly but ever so surely, the standards for certification will drop, in practice if not “officially”, because the money sitting on the table from people who will pay to be certified, even though they shouldn’t be, will warp your company until it can no longer resist taking it. And then we’re in David’s scenario.

    I’m not trying to impugn you personally. I just don’t think that your company, especially when it’s partying with AOL and Yahoo and other big companies, is going to be significantly more ethical than any other company I know of. Your investors are going to be happy to trade your reputation tomorrow for money today, and will be increasingly upset if you don’t.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Virgil Fritz on March 20, 2006 at 11:27 am

    If charging for email is such a good way to stop SPAM (junk email) why is my snail mailbox full of useless flyers, offers for life insurance and to take out mortgages on homes I don’t even own? Get it! All they will do is take your money and you will get the same SPAM, or more, than you do now. The post office charges $0.39 per letter now, and I have not seen any reduction in the junk mail I get. In fact, they charge bulk senders less than they charge me. Do you really think it will be different when they do charge everyone for email?

    Reply

  11. Posted by Leslie Rieger on March 21, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    If, as Daniel says, this CertifiedMail thing exists side by side with regular e-mail in your inbox, I fail to see how it does anything to deter spam. And unless I’ve read something incorrectly, reducing spam seems to be one of Goodmail’s stated goals.

    Also, my e-mail provider already gives me the option of having anything not on a safelist delivered directly to my trash. My banks, my friends, my newsletters, vendors I do business with, etc, are all already on my safe list and come to my inbox, and I know they’re messages from people I actually want to correspond with or information that I need. I see no benefit to having any of those businesses or people pay to send me certified mail, because it’s already filtered and it works. Sure, if I order something from somewhere I haven’t before, or make a new friend, I have to scroll through the crap in my junk mail folder and add them to my safe list, but then I still know when the message turns up in my inbox that it’s there because I want it, and not because someone paid for it to be.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Deborah Plummer on March 24, 2006 at 2:13 pm

    I don’t agree with the philosophy of “goodmail.” It seems another attempt for a corporation to make money, usually from the people ill-prepared to pay. I use “education/knowledge” to detect what is spam or not plus, yahoo.com does an excellent job of filtering spam. It is a sneaky way to start charging for what was once free and there should be no problem with the “free.”

    Peace

    Reply

  13. Posted by Like Wow on April 12, 2006 at 9:20 pm

    Goodmail’s logic is so twisted, it’s evil. Example: I have a blacklist against the North American Man/Boy Love Association because they are evil freaks of limitless scumminess. If NAMBLA hands Goodmail a few bucks, suddenly I am forced to have NAMBLA newsletters stuffed into my mailbox urging me to sodomize little boys. Goodmail argues it is good, wholesome and, in fact, healthy for the Internet for them to make money forcing me to read twisted, evil tomes from the monstrous evil-doers at NAMBLA. Likewise, I filter against neo-Nazi newsletters. Under the Goodmail scheme, my mailbox could suddenly be stuffed to the breaking point with diatribes urging me to consider genocide as well as child rape as “alternative lifestyle choices” while my mother’s quilting newsletter is relegated to the filtered channel which may, whoops, land her hobbyletter on the server room floor. The perfection of a system that makes one company rich, stomps on my mom’s throat and gives neo-Nazis and pederasts preferential email delivery treatment somehow eludes me.

    Likw

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Scripting News for 3/17/2006

Esther Dyson has an op-ed in today’s NY Times about Goodmail. We discussed this in a roundtable at Esther’s conference earlier this week. Not quite an unconference, but some ideas were exchanged, in a relatively relaxed way. At one point I got the mike and asked if anyone could give an argument against Goodmail — no one did. I’m not saying there aren’t any, but what are they? BTW, I think Esther’s piece is right-on. 

7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Holger Hoefling on March 17, 2006 at 9:19 am

    Hi,

    I think that Esther’s op-ed fails to point out, how Goodmail will solve the problem. Goodmail can only solve the spam problem if everybody is using it – all around the world. What happens if say half the world doesn’t use it? You will still get the same amount of spam as before, but now it gets harder to distinguish legitimate email from people without Goodmail service from this spam as the ratio of spam to this legitimate email is even more unfavourable. It pressures everybody into using a service they might not want.

    So in order to work, everybody has to have Goodmail. But then you have a spam problem again – a lot of spam gets send by hijacked computers. All these emails would have been paid for by a sender who doesn’t even know they are being sent.

    BTW, spam is a very relative term. At least half of my spam comes from very well known companies. My spam filter catches them and that is what it is supposed to do as I am sometimes too lazy to unsubscribe – why does Goodmail want to take this away from me?

    Reply

  2. I read Esther’s book, when I was in college, and really bought into her vision of an Internet run cooperatively by large private entities. I am not sure her track record subsequently with ICANN has born out her theories about the power of the free market, nor has the behavior of large corporate entities toward the Internet.

    This place was created by non profits and educational institutions and the government while private industry was busy inventing things like AOL and CompuServe and Prodigy. Time magazine did not think the information superhighway would have to do much with the Internet so much as video on demand from the cable company.

    Anyway, I read through Goodmail’s criteria for becoming a sender, and the main concrete one seems to be paying them $400, that and abiding by an AUP that includes a provision for “co-registration” with another site and whereby you can “Opt In” where “No confirmation email is sent and the person is not required to take further action.”

    If someone needs to spend $400 and a penny an email to send me a message, *I don’t want to get it!*

    Which is why I will not use any email provider who hooks goodmail into their MTA. Yet another reason to avoid email leviathans.

    Reply

  3. I wonder if this might have a beneficial effect. Maybe Goodmail will *kill* email. Or rather, cause a fragmentation in mail protocols.

    At first glance, that seems a pretty unfortunate outcome, but what if it shook the market up a bit? What if people started experimenting with alternatives : P2P RSS feed creators/readers for their whitelist of friends? Email over BitTorrent or IM? What if people suddenly got reason to switch from Outlook to Mozilla Thunderbird (where new developments and protocols were appearing earlier)?

    Reply

  4. Posted by Sharpie on March 17, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    I don’t like the idea of potentially having to pay to send email.

    I feel users should be more adept at handling/managing their own email and not turn to fees, that may presently be affordable, but later a thorn.

    Maybe I’m lucky, but I have used the same primary email address for years and I receive a negligible amount of spam. I have two other free email addresses which I use for more risky sites (maybe like this one, I don’t know, so I’m using my “spam-it” email) I base the use of the other email addresses like this: If I think the company will spam me, my email will get into the wrong hands or I just need to retrieve a password, I’ll use an address that i could abandon at any time. If it’s a service that I use more regularly, require to check emails/invoices (but could also easily go online or change email addresses) or for people I don’t really know, I’ll use my secondary email. Finally, if it’s of a highly persaonal nature or very close friends, I use my primary. For the negligible amounts of spam I have recieved, I bounce it back using the built in option in my Mac’s mail program and I never see it again. Once my third email address becomes over rought with spam, I abandon it and eventually it becomes dormant and deleted.

    This method has worked well for me for years and today with so many choices for free email (and the management of those accounts) it hardly seems necessary to start charging, which, like tax, will never be reversed and instead become a norm.

    Reply

  5. Sorry I’m late to the party, but I have
    a simple suggestion:

    In the interests of honesty, why not call
    it *Hoodmail*?

    Like the nice men who helped us with our jukeboxes back in the fifties, remember?

    “-“

    Reply

  6. Posted by Virgil Fritz on March 20, 2006 at 11:31 am

    If charging for email is such a good way to stop SPAM (junk email) why is my snail mailbox full of useless flyers, offers for life insurance and to take out mortgages on homes I don’t even own? Get it! All they will do is take your money and you will get the same SPAM, or more, than you do now. The post office charges $0.39 per letter now, and I have not seen any reduction in the junk mail I get. In fact, they charge bulk senders less than they charge me. Do you really think it will be different when they do charge everyone for email? Thank you, sincerely, Virgil Fritz. AllnightVi@aol.com

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers

%d bloggers like this: