Monday, February 06, 2006

Funny Filter Business

I found this on google news and I must say I am a bit dismayed.

A brief synopsis:
AOL and Yahoo will charge senders of bulk email $0.01 USD to send emails to its clients, and guarantee those emails will not be blocked by its spam filter.

The article which reads like PR copy states that
"But both sometimes catch legitimate mail in their nets, which has been a source of frustration for senders and recipients alike.


To those like myself I find false positives to be more annoying the false negatives, but it reveals a flaw in the bulk filters, not is the responsibility of the filter designer to fix, not the email recipient or email sender.

Now I understand the sentiment of this system, and that is the cost is negligible to a business with a real customer list, compared to the cost to a spammers million client list. For a business $0.01 per mail is negligible to when compared to may have hand mailed advertisements at $0.50 plus the cost of printing, envelopes and internal handling. Compare that to a company who relies on a spammer to do their bulk mailing all willie nilly. A quick googling reveals that the cost per bulk mail can get as low as $0.0002 / recipient. The 50x increase in cost is nothing to sniff at, especially when the average response rate from those bulk mailings can be as low as 5% (again quick google search revealed that number, but it was a bulk sending company claiming that response rates were that high, I'm rather suspect of that.)

So in theory.... those companies we are in business relationships with will pay this small fee to the company, whom we pay to deliver mail to us, reach their established customer base. No problem here, peace of mind for all right? Our companies will pay for our most important mailings like our statements, but maybe test their luck with marketing information.

The problem, and there is a problem, is that such a model encourages Yahoo to make a Draconian spam filter that blocks everything. Why should Yahoo let non-spam through for free, when it can charge for it? How long before personal correspondents have to pay to get through? Aren't I already paying for Yahoo to get that mail to me? Now will I have to pay the companies I deal with more so that they can pay Yahoo to deliver that mail? I only see the customer suffering in the long for this decision.

There is a spam problem, no doubt about that, but the model is flawed, sadly I have to admit it is the first good idea for solving the problem that I have heard in a long time. Ahh DARPA-net you grew up and left the lab long before your protocols were ready for the real world.
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