Friday, September 18, 2009

Cent mail: signalling that your email isn't spam

Here's a new twist (from Yahoo! Research) on paying to send email as a barrier to spam: a 1 cent donation to charity for each email buys you an encrypted stamp that assures the recipient that you paid: Pay-per-email plan to beat spam and help charity.

"Yahoo! Research's CentMail resurrects an old idea: that levying a charge on every email sent would instantly make spamming uneconomic. But because the cent paid for an accredited "stamp" to appear on each email goes to charity, CentMail's inventors think it will be more successful than previous approaches to make email cost. They think the cost to users is offset by the good feeling of giving to charity."

"Some previous schemes, such as Goodmail, simply pocketed the charge for the virtual stamps. Another deterred spammers by forcing computers to do extra work per email; and Microsoft's version requires senders to decipher distorted text."

Here's an earlier post.

Here's another story: Will Users Donate a Penny Per Email to Fight Spam, Yahoo Wonders, which notes
"It’s not clear how much the proposal would help, however, since so much of the spam is now sent using botnets, which are networks of zombie PCs whose owners have no idea their computers are part of a massive spamming organization."

1 comment:

Ben Edelman said...

This idea has been kicking around for some time. Here's what I said about it in my recent JEP article, Priced and Unpriced Online Markets:

Pundits have called for fee-based mailing systems for several years (Enyart, 2002). Bill Gates suggested “e-mail stamps” in a World Economic Forum speech in 2004, predicting that spam would be much reduced within two years because such fees would undermine the incentives behind bulk e-mail (Hansell, 2004). Yet there are several reasons why no widely-used fee-based mailing system exists. Processing e-mail payments would require robust authentication and tracking—a far cry from current openness of e-mail. Furthermore, most implementations of detailed message tracking entail centralized records of who sent mail to whom, but such records would invite both litigation and regulation. Additional complexity would come from inevitable pressure to exclude certain mailings from fees: for example, e-mails for announcements, notifications, mailing lists, and the like. Finally, the necessary institutions simply do not exist; no single e-mail provider is large enough to start the process. Thus, the price of e-mail remains zero, and spam remains widespread.