There’s been a lot of buzz lately over AOL and Yahoo charging to email their customers. I think this quote most likely will end up being the future:
“AOL users will become dissatisfied when they don’t receive the e-mail that they want, and when they complain to the senders, they’ll be told, ‘it’s AOL’s fault,’ ” said Richi Jennings, an analyst at Ferris Research, which specializes in e-mail.
Well said. Just wait until AOL customers realize they aren’t getting order confirmations, notifications, and other email’s because the sender won’t pay.
Another concern not really discussed is the possibility of having a Level 3/Cogent style battle where one ISP refuses to let another email their customers, because they aren’t getting paid what they feel they should.
Right now, email is essentially 100% peered. Everyone emails everyone, nobody charges. You pay your ISP to run the mail server, and that’s it. If commercial entities need to pay to email you, your going to get separate charges. Want an email when your order ships? Pay extra. Want an email when this item is back in stock? Pay extra.
This is a very slippery slope. Just one or two greedy ISP’s is all you need to ruin email. Once you can’t reliably email, the system is dead. Spam can reduce efficiency, but can’t kill email. Remember Email is by far the most used protocol in business.
I doubt this system will do anything to reduce spam for AOL customers. It will however help AOL’s revenue, which I’m assuming is the real goal. A slightly bold move as AOL is assuming their customers won’t mind not getting all the legitimate email they would if they used a free Gmail or even Hotmail account.
There’s also a decent possibility AOL customers might have to pay merchants an email fee when they buy products, to help cover that cost. Of course merchants eventually will sneak in their percentage there, further hiking prices.
Personally, I think this biggest threat is a Level 3/Cogent style dispute.
Should also note there’s currently a lot going on over Net Neutrality. Google’s been thrown into the middle of that, merely because of how ubiquitous the company is. Vint Cerf’s letter on the topic is really a must read. Paying for email right is really just an inverted case of network neutrality. Instead of the middle man dictating who you can/can’t communicate with, the next ISP down the line decides. That’s no better.
The Internet as an open medium could drastically change in the next few months if some of this stuff becomes reality. There are quite a few companies out there who believe the internet is enough of a threat to their business, that they want to go as far as crippling it.