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.