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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

E-mail, the E is for Expensive.

Ready to pay for e-mail? Well, get ready, because AOL and Yahoo are starting a US Postal Service-esque system, and soon will start charging companies to send e-mail. They're founding a system of putting stamps on e-mail "to get e-mail where it ought to go". The rationale is that businesses will then accept only certified e-mail, which will cut down on the amount of spam flooding mailboxes everywhere.

The major e-mail account providers may also consider expanding the practice to private surfers, if this corporate test-run works well. For now, the charge is just a quarter of a penny to one whole penny per e-mail. I know, break the piggy bank, eh? But as we've seen with our own snail mail stamp prices (now up to 39 cents), that figure may start the same uphill trend.

Should this sending charge be expanded to all AOL and Yahoo accounts, I'm betting the public probably won't want to deal with a complicated system of paying e-postage, which may expose credit card numbers to hackers or malfunction. Personally, I love e-mail because it's free and fast. Who wants to start PayPal'ing to send a quick note to Aunt Marge? Mm not me, thanks. But if we can't pay that bank-blistering quarter of a penny, do we have to live without e-mail?

David Sheets of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers another option: blogs. He proposes that 2006 might be the year that we start to see the death of e-mail, and an increasing use of blogs as direct communication:

"Think of it: Blogs are mostly personal correspondence, anyway. Imagine subdividing a blog into different pages, with each page devoted to correspondence for one person or a specific group. The blog writer then creates a subscription feed for each page and offers the feed to only preferred readers.

This way, subscribers know there’s a new 'blog-mail' when the feed stream updates. So maybe, instead of e-mail, we’ll have 'e-feeds' or 'feedmail' occupying our time.

Of course, spammers will find a way to make paid e-mail work for them, too. By then, perhaps we’ll be too busy with our blog-mail to notice."

I find the idea that blogs on the Web, the most public outlet, could in time substitute for password-protected e-mails humorous. But charging postage for e-mail will probably cause problems down the road, and blogs seem like the best alternative.

[cross-posted on Post-December.blogspot.com]

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