stopping spam with transaction costs

| 9 Comments | 4 TrackBacks

One of the ideas that seems to have reached some level of "escape velocity" out of O'Reillys "FooCamp" this weekend is the email transaction cost approach to stopping spam.

Don Park (who proposed his own "Trsted Email Network" solution a few days ago) points to Tim Bray's description of the idea.

I've heard this tiny-cost-per-message proposal before, and while I appreciate its advantages, it raises some concerns for me.

There would need to be a way, at the minimum, to provide no-charge email within an organization (so I wouldn't be charged for mail sent from my RIT account to students with RIT accounts notifying them of exam grades, for example).

I'm also worried about the "digital divide" impact--what does this do to people who don't have credit cards, for example? Do they stop being able to send and recieve email? Will there be email vending machines, or prepaid email cards?

The idea works really well for the technological elite, those of us for whom a few extra dollars a month for email would be a trivial expense, and for whom adding a level of complexity would have minimal impact. I'm not sure if it holds up when you get outside of the inner circle of privilege and skill. Will my grandmother pay an additional cost for email? Probably not. She'll stop using it. Will most parents give their kids extra allowance for sending email? Only if they're pretty technologically sophisticated, I suspect.

4 TrackBacks

I share Liz's concerns regarding the 'tiny cost per message' email proposal, though perhaps from a slightly different perspective. Sure, we want to combat SPAM. I agree. But I disagree with what I perceive as everyone's misguided ideas on handling... Read More

In " Another Whack at Spam ", Tim Bray describes a solution similar to Read More

There's another round of discussion going on post-FOOCamp about combatting spam by finding ways to increase transaction costs for e-mail. I'm not going to get too involved in it, because I've had many of the arguments before - most often... Read More

I share Liz's concerns regarding the 'tiny cost per message' email proposal, though perhaps from

Read More


Trackback from KnowProSE is located here:

Hi Liz.

I posted my answer in the form of an update to my post. If it doesn't show up in your trackback, the URL is:

Instead of a flat charge across email, which seems rather disadvantagous to people without the method to pay. What had been talked about before, and I think has more merit, is a charge after a certain AMOUNT of messages. The average user won't send more than what - 20-30 emails a week? By average I mean your mom and pop, same with most teenagers. In the case that they do...then maybe start charging. Or even revise the limit.

I agree with your idea of no charge within a domain, or atleast a network but that could be abused too. Forged headers are quite easy to'd have to make it stronger than that.

The point is to trash unsigned mail. You can readily sign your mail to students. The SMTP relay is a way to bridge the signing divide.

Just as a note, I sometimes send 20-30 emails a DAY to just one person.

And who's going to be charging, anyways? How's it going to combat spam? Who gets the money?

Ted, there's a link to Tim Bray's more detailed description, which I think answers your questions, in the post.

I came with another, hopefully cheaper and faster, solution. It's so simple, I doubt I am the first to suggest it.

Do end-users need to pay these charges? How about something analogous to interconnect costs which mobile networks use for settling SMS revenue?

Does anyone remember X.400?




Recent Photos
This is a Flickr badge showing public photos and videos from mamamusings. Make your own badge here.

Upcoming Travel

Creative Commons License
This blog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on October 13, 2003 12:48 PM.

coming up for air was the previous entry in this blog.

freedom to blog is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.