In case you haven’t heard …. In February 2006, AOL announced that it would accept payment for incoming emails. For these certified emails, it would skip its usual anti-spam filters and guarantee delivery for cash. They tout it as a “guaranteed delivery” service. Sounds good. Who wouldn’t want that? But what it means is that institutions that have the money to spam indiscriminately will get preferred residence in your Inbox over those sent from the unfunded people you really want to hear from (e.g., friends, family, grass roots organizations, critical alerts from underfunded but valuable agencies). AOL is already infamous for its difficulty in distinguishing real email from spam. (Of my 4 email addresses, the only ones that consistently get through to my friends with aol.com addresses is the one from my place of business. Hmmmmmm.) So, rather than fixing the problem, AOL is positioning themselves to charge for a service that the rest of us have come to expect is a given.
The internet is the biggest revolution in communication since the Gutenberg Press in 1450. And it holds the biggest potential as a tool for unregulated grass roots world-wide social transformation. Do you really want that to be controlled by the people that can pay the most for it? Charging for something that is already fundamentally free is the first step down the slippery slope of undermining what’s most precious about the internet.
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