March 02, 2006

AOL email postage system flawed

AOL, and some other large services, are planning to start giving bulk emailer the ability to pay for access to users' email inboxes. Pay a fee, starting at 1/4 cent, and your email will bypass the AOL spam filters and appear in the inbox with a blue banner.

[There's been plenty of stories about this. Here's a random one, from Newsday, that I came across this morning.]

The theory is that this will help users to distinguish legitimate bulk mail. And make it easier to identify real spam.

I don't have an AOL account so this doesn't apply to me (yet!), but it seems that this isn't all that useful to the mail recipient, because you still have to scan all the non-flagged emails to find the ones that are from friends. Do they expect users to automatically trash all non-flagged emails? That's crazy.

The real "test" of the system will come when spammers figure out -- and make no mistake, they will figure it out -- how to spoof the "i'm a good email" banner, and masquerade as "good" email.

We need to make some fundamental changes to the way email works, but this isn't part of the right way to do it.

Posted by jackhodgson at March 2, 2006 06:34 AM