Computer Geek

Musings about technology, computer books and software.

February 09, 2006

Fee-based e-mail plan raises eyebrows

Despite its critics, this is actually a good idea. Of course, one vice president doesn't think so:
Tom Gillis, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at IronPort Systems Inc., a provider of e-mail security products to large corporations and ISPs (Internet service providers), voices common concerns.

Charging mass mailers a fee is ineffective, because spammers are awash in cash, Gillis contends.
Bzzzzz. Wrong. Spammers are awash in cash because there is no fee for email. They can send millions or tens of millions of email which cost them little to no more than a thousand emails would.

Look at it this way. Say a spammer sells a "product" for $25, and their profit is $20 (not at all unusual for spammers). Their response rate is 1 in 1000 which is quite average. Sending out one thousand spam messages would earn them only $20 (1000 x 0.001 x $20), hardly worth the trouble.

Sending out one million such messages would get them $20,000 (1,000,000 x 0.001 x $20)! What's the best way to stop spam? Figure out a technological system for charging per email for all senders. For home emailers, you could set a threshold of 1,000 messages before they had to pay any fee.

If that same spammer has to pay $0.01 per message then his profit for one million messages drops to $10,000 or half of before. That's assuming a response rate of 1 in 1,000 which is actually probably overly optimistic. If the response rate is half that, he only makes $5,000. Spam becomes much less profitable.

Sure, legitimate companies will have to pay a cost they didn't have to before but spam will rapidly disappear as it becomes unattractive (especially considering the additional risks of jail time and fines for spamming). And because most spam would disappear, companies wouldn't have to spend time and money on blocking spam. They'd also be more likely to get their messages read and not sent to an ISP spambox.

Still, the system will require support from ISPs to implement and large companies to be willing to pay for something that was entirely free before in anticipate of future savings. Is that too much to hope for?


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