Goodbye Free Email

Posted April 1st, 2008 by Mike Cherim

Worldwide email spam volume has grown to unprecedented proportions and something must be done. Something will be. Beginning August 1st, 2008, an action initiated by the International Consortium of Email Regulation (ICER), of Geneva, Switzerland — supported by leaders in all continents — will be effected. Precisely this action will be the application of outbound email charges levied by major telecom and cable communications carriers, billed to users (per email or in bulk mail lots) by Internet Service Providers (ISP), and metered at the mail server level.

So what’s all this mean? If you send emails, come 8/1 and you’ll be paying for the privilege. The cost will be approximately $0.12 US per email with some bargains to be had to licensed bulk-mailers. For those of us with a contact form on our web site, since the metering will be on the mail server level, it’ll be akin to offering a toll-free phone line since we will pay for the email. Unlike a toll-free phone service, though, we won’t pay an additional fee. Form being abused by spam ‘bots? Expect a huge “email bill” from your ISP. Better get it fixed.

When I first heard about this I was upset. Great, I thought, another bill. But after considering it further, I think it’ll be for the good. After all, this action is supposed to be 100% effective in putting a halt to over 99% of the spam. What will be left will be solicitations from legitimate companies paying for the service. There’s a downside to that, though: There will be no more ISP level support for filtering. Legitimate companies (still spammers?), since they’re paying for bulk mail services, will be white-listed and will thus, unless filtered on your machine, get to your inbox anyway. If you get lots of emails about medications and such, though, your email problems will be going away.

Twelve cents per outbound email? Is it worth it? It wasn’t going to be a free ride forever, right?

15 Responses to: “Goodbye Free Email”

  1. Tommy Olsson responds:
    Posted: April 1st, 2008 at 1:01 am


  2. Blair Millen responds:
    Posted: April 1st, 2008 at 2:39 am

    Aw jeez, you did this last year and I almost fell for it then too! If it wasn’t for Tommy’s comment I would have started searching Google for more info.

  3. JackP responds:
    Posted: April 1st, 2008 at 3:52 am

    Never mind that, have you seen the news about IE9?

  4. Rich Pedley responds:
    Posted: April 1st, 2008 at 4:00 am

    Strangely an ISP in the UK actually investigated this a few years ago…

  5. Dan Schulz responds:
    Posted: April 1st, 2008 at 4:04 am

    First TechCrunch sues Facebook for statutory damages, then Google announces a new Custom Time Email Feature, then Darren Rowse of claims he’s starting a PayPerTweet service that has already netted both serious advertisers and people interested in the “service” in his All Fool’s Day joke’s web… and now you have to do this.

    Bravo, Mike. :D

  6. Elliott responds:
    Posted: April 1st, 2008 at 6:15 am

    Man, that’s really sad news. I had also heard that the US was looking to sell e-stamps for the same thing.

  7. Christopher Giffard responds:
    Posted: April 1st, 2008 at 7:04 am

    I just can’t see how this will help.

    Most spam is sent from zombified computers, and it’s those people who’ll be copping the charges. Sure, it’ll give them an incentive to do something about their machines, but most of them won’t - and spammers will just use computers in unregulated countries. Then there’s the people that do use email legitimately and frequently - they’re going to be paying through the nose as well. Then ISPs are going to use this as an excuse to slowly and insidiously raise charges to ridiculous levels, playing off the fear of internet nasties. SMS costs used to be virtually nothing, too.

    I really hope this (superficially reasonable-sounding) completely idiotic measure doesn’t pass.

    I, for one, get hit by loads of spam. An almost infinitismally small percentage of it goes through to my actual inbox, and I would venture to suggest the same would be true for most gmail users, or corporate email users. In a few years, spam filters will have evolved to a level which shifts the ‘uninvited advertising’ field to a different platform. You’re seeing it already with the torrent of blog spam.

  8. Sarah Bourne responds:
    Posted: April 1st, 2008 at 10:34 am

    My favorite announcement today: the joint Virgin/Google project to establish a Mars colony.

    Alas, the response to my application for Virgle was a dash of cold water:

    Well, you’re distressingly normal and could conceivably adjust to life as a deep space pioneer, though we recommend instead that you leave the Mars missions to the serious whack jobs who scored over 130 and instead finish year 3 of law school, tuck your toddler into bed, design Web 2.0 applications, run for Congress or do whatever other normal, healthy, middle-of-the-road thing you’re currently doing with your normal, healthy, middle-of-the-road life.

    “Distressingly normal”? I’m crushed…

  9. Christopher Giffard responds:
    Posted: April 1st, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Oh, damn, that got me! (It isn’t april the first in Australia.)

  10. Dan Schulz responds:
    Posted: April 1st, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Yeah, I saw that one (the Mars colony) as well. I didn’t bother reading it though. (And Mike, you mis-spelled my last name.)

  11. organicpixels responds:
    Posted: May 9th, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    You had me. Nice one!!!

  12. Chris responds:
    Posted: May 29th, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Okay, it’s the end of May, I just read the post, and you got me. I was about to Google it, but then started reading the comments. Very convincing, Mike. Good stuff! :)

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