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I think the only way to eliminate spam is to eliminate the economic condition that encourages it. Currently the cost of sending spam to milliions of email addresses is negligilble. However, we don't want to get ISPs or the government to impose fees on email; instead we want senders to pay recipients.
the past, the cost of electronic transactions has been too high to do this sort of thing (on the order of $.50 to $1.00 per transaction), but there's a lot of research on micropayment systems.
On the receiving side, you would establish a fee that you charge for unsolicited email, and a list of addresses from which you're willing to accept email at no charge (or at a reduced charge). For instance, you would put the mailing lists you voluntarily subscribe to onto your "free" list, since they're not likely to be willing to pay you. Also, if you receive unsolicited email that you like, you could choose to refund all or part of the charge.
On the sending side, you would configure your software with a default maximum that you're willing to pay to send a piece of email, and the software would notify you if that proved insufficient.
Even a very small fee, less than one cent, would probably deter the vast majority of spam.
Of course, for this to work, it needs to be widely deployed, so it must be developed as an internet standard. What can be done to provide incentive to the leading email software providers to support such a system?
Since someone has to operate the micropayment system, and will need to skim a fraction to cover operating costs and make some profit, it would be good for the system to support multiple competing micropayment systems. Should the sender and receiver negotiate a mutually acceptable micropayment system? That probably would have too much overhead. Maybe it's sufficient for the receiver to specify a single micropayment system, and that system would take a cut of the receiver's "advertised" rate. Then the receiver is motivated to use the micropayment system that takes the lowest cut.
What if the micropayment system is down? Perhaps the receiver should specify multiple acceptable systems.
I'm sure that there are lots of other details that need to be worked out, but a low-overhead micropayment system is obviously the one vital part that isn't here yet.
Spreading the blame
Available by link only? [reensure, Jun 16 2000]
Baked! [washort, Jun 16 2000, last modified Oct 17 2004]
[Scott_D, Jun 16 2000, last modified Oct 17 2004]
[quarl, Nov 09 2004]
||I enjoy it when other people send me email -- that's why I
give out my email address. It seems rude to make them
pay to answer the questions I post to websites, or USENET
or to give a kind tip or a favor. It seems the spam paranoia
is getting out of hand. I don't really think it's a serious
enough problem that it needs to be solved through such
drastic measures. However, it would help if people closed
down open email relays, and the default settings were to
prevent people from sending large mass mailings in a short
period of time.
||Want me to forward you the 90 some spam a week I was getting through my filters? I didn't count the ones that were killed...
||At one point, someone wrote a story about spam in Wired's online magazine that since she was a journalist and had to have her email address public, she got a lot of spam, almost 14 a week. I emailed to ask how I become an online journalist, as I got that much a DAY and would like to cut it down. She didn't answer, although I'm not surprised.
||The biggest deal about spam is that unlike paper spam, people can fight back.
||<Added after 'Spreading the blame' link>
Heh! I like that...
Jun 16 2000, last modified Jun 17 2000|| |
||If a way to apply it to unsolicited commercial mass mailings only, this might be an equitable solution to the spam problem (see link).
||But as with all of those, few people would pay any attention...
||Maybe, if an e-mail was acceptable to the receiver, the payment could be recredited back to the sender's account. Perhaps an equal small amount, from both the sender and the receiver could be credited to the micropayment system operator. Maybe the ISPs would be the micropayment system operator and the monthly ISP fees would cover the micropayment overhead.
||Yah great! And if transactions of that type were in the public record, information about who the best copywriters are would also be in the public record. Might create some opportunities for people who somehow negotiate that ever so fine balance between self-promotion and good taste. Might even have advantages for the rest of us, too.