Yahoo and AOL to Charge Companies To Spam You

As if you didn’t already get enough Spam, AOL and Yahoo are going to start charing companies to allow them to bypass your spam filter:

Companies will soon have to buy the electronic equivalent of a postage stamp if they want to be certain that their e-mail will be delivered to many of their customers.

America Online and Yahoo, two of the world’s largest providers of e-mail accounts, 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. The senders must promise to contact only people who have agreed to receive their messages, or risk being blocked entirely.

The Internet companies say that this will help them identify legitimate mail and cut down on junk e-mail, identity-theft scams and other scourges that plague users of their services. They also stand to earn millions of dollars a year from the system if it is widely adopted.

What consumers want is a way to reliably clear their inboxes so they can quickly see email from friends and family. Consumers don’t want email advertisements — period. (Well, almost period. So potentially a comma. There are some companies that periodically issue interesting deal digests. But let’s face facts – 99% of people who “sign up” for “non-spam” company advertisements simply didn’t untick the pixel-wide “Sign me up!” box at the bottom of the screen.) What Yahoo and AOL are offering is a way for companies to bypass the only way for email users to actually filter out the barrage of junk that they don’t want, even if (through confustication) they accidentally signed up for it. You know you’re on to a bad thing when both your clients and your consumers think something is an absolutely atrocious idea.

Let’s hope AOL and Yahoo listen to the complaints from both sides. Especially since the new Yahoo Mail beta is just all shades of awesome.

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  1. AcidReign says:

    …..I’ve used AOL for year, primarily to avoid MS Outlook. The AOL mail interface is simple, easy to use, and it doesn’t execute HTML, or even show pictures unless you tell it to. And everything in is scanned before it gets to you for viruses.

    …..But, I’ve deliberately turned all spam controls they provide off! I still was getting plenty of 419ers and sex ads, but friends from Earthlink addresses were getting bounced. The last straw on the spam control was when it was tossing my Christmas receipts. The new trend is spam is to send mails that are entirely graphics, which foils the word-filters anyway!

    …..I don’t need AOL screening my mail. My “delete” key works fine! And I certainly don’t want them blocking companies I’ve done business with that don’t want to pay the little bribe!

  2. SamC says:

    I can see it now. This is genius.

    So, I pay a penny to get an email past your spam filter. Then, you have to pay out TWO pennies to block my spam!

    Lather, rinse, repeat!

  3. This is OUTRAGEOUS. I have been an AOL client for over 20 years, sometimes paying for the accounts of multiple people. They will, absolutely, unequivocally, without any doubt LOSE MY BUSINESS if they proceed with this. This soft-angle b.s. about protecting me is a cover for a new revenue stream.

    I encourage everyone to get off their slacker butts and e-mail Time/Warner and AOL (and Yahoo, but who cares) to tell them their reaction to this bit of misdirection intended to open a crack in the door to Internet Postage and metered service.

  4. Ben Popken says:

    Companies have been bypassing this filter for a longe time. Look up “whitelists” – the practice of getting your ips okayed to send mail (usually of the bulk sort). Related: http://www.marketingvox.com/archives/2006/02/06/aol_change

  5. AcidReign says:

    …..It IS outrageous. I’m hoping Corporate Purse-holders don’t pay. I want ALL my mail. Even the stuff from scammers and spammers! Let ME decide what is crap. I’m going to pissed if I stop getting messages from friends and family because of this crap!

  6. Michael A. B. says:

    These emails would still be covered under the CAN-SPAM act, except you would have a vaild way to actually report them, since they are paying for the privlege. Also, you would see a lot less of the repeated spam. If a mailing list with 50,000 unverified addresses costs $1,000 to send, the spammers will be looking at how much they make off of it closer and may actually provide a valid removal option. If they don’t, report them to AOL/Yahoo under the act. I am a gmail/Mozilla/Comcast user, so it is no big deal to me either way. The emails I want are whitelisted and I only add the companies that I WANT the deal emails from to my whitelist.

  7. shandrew says:

    This is a great idea.

    First, if companies companies that actually pay to send bulk email won’t be able to hide. They will be easy to identify, easy to filter, and easy to unsubscribe from.

    The real problem with spam today is that we don’t know who it comes from, you can’t unsubscribe to it, and it paid for not by the sender, but by ISPs (and by CPU cycles and bandwidth from virus-infected computers).

    None of the crap spam that we get today offering pirated software, drugs, etc, will go through this system, because none of that is profitable unless the costs of email are borne by others. Even a charge of a fraction of a cent would stop the fradulent spam.

  8. shandrew says:

    Anyway, here’s Yahoo’s official word on this topic:

    —–

    I’d like to provide some clarification about Yahoo!’s plans for testing
    the Goodmail certified mail system.

    Our implementation will be limited to “transactional” email messages such as bank statements and order receipts, as stated in this release, Phishing attacks frequently mimic these types of messages. By highlighting the real transactional messages, we think users will have a better chance to avoid the scams.

    Our delivery policies for non “certified mail” messages will not change. We agree that email is a great medium for knitting enthusiasts, bowling leagues, political organizations and families to communicate to one another. To make Yahoo! Mail the place you want to read them, we need to deliver the messages that you want and value to the place that you want them — the inbox. Similarly, we need to (and will continue to) deliver the messages that *you* don’t value to your spam folder. If we don’t, people won’t choose to use Yahoo! Mail.

    Protecting our users from abuse is a top priority here and we’ll continue to innovate and explore new anti-spam and security methods. Goodmail’s reputation and accreditation service is a complement to email authentication. As you are well aware, we are major proponent of email authentication, having authored DomainKeys, we chose to make DomainKeys available royalty free to the industry, and are currently working with the IETF on the DKIM standard.

    As you point out, the best solution is to empower users with the information to make better, safer choices, and that’s exactly what is happening here.

    Miles Libbey
    Anti-Spam Product Manager
    Yahoo! Mail