I am not swooping with excitement over AOL and Yahoo plans to charge for e-mail. Here’s how I see it: 1) Spam is bad enough without e-mail vendors making it easier. 2) Charging for e-mail fundamentally changes the way the Internet has long operated.
The way it works: Marketers would pay a penny to directly route their e-mails to inboxes, bypassing spam filters. The marketers that pay get their e-mail separated from those that don’t pay and from the riffraff. Maybe, but I don’t want any of their mail. It’s pretty much all spam to me, and I waste way too much trudging through it.
The other problem: Paying for e-mail is like charging for using the Internet, beyond service provider connection fees. The paid e-mail establishes a dangerous precedent that could eventually undermine one of the fundamental Internet functions and what Internet openness remains.
My advice: Providers should make e-mail more useful, or else people will stop using it. I’ve come to hate e-mail, increasingly favoring instant messaging. With IM, most messages come from people that I know or have need to communicate. Most e-mail is from strangers and requires way too much time sorting through to get to the relevant stuff.
Now, if AOL and Yahoo want to help further kill e-mail’s already sagging utility, their approach just might make sense.
Photo Credit: Kevin Fitz