[news=http://img69.imageshack.us/img69/9946/logo25xm.gif]We're extremely troubled by AOL's plan to introduce a pay-to-send email system that will guarantee access to AOL customers' inboxes for senders who pay $0.0025 per mail to escape anti-spam filters. Last week, we helped assemble a coalition to persuade AOL to drop this misguided scheme.
Our worry is that AOL is trying to sell preferred access to something that it does not own -- its members inboxes -- and creating a delivery charge to email senders. The system creates a perverse incentive for AOL to lower the benefits of free email delivery and let its spam filters languish, encouraging senders to switch to the for-pay alternative. The company's first steps confirmed this, as they declared (then hurriedly denied) that they would be dropping their Enhanced Whitelist, a free service for trusted email senders.
One might trust that the market will eventually sort this out: rewarding ISPs that do not sell access to their users' inboxes and that work to improve deliverability for everyone, not just senders who pay. But the market speaks slowly -- in the meantime, this system will push small speakers into a choice of paying or not being sure that their messages are getting through to their members. And recipients often won't know what mail they are not receiving, making it difficult for the market to work.
Many AOL users have significant impediments to moving away from their provider, with its proprietary and closed software. Meanwhile, other mail providers, like Yahoo!, are already eyeing the revenue opportunities of pay-to-send. Microsoft's Bonded Sender is actually worse in many ways.
Since AOL's members are also the members of the nonprofits and other groups that would be hurt by this program, we thought it should hear from them. That's why we pulled together a diverse coalition of email senders to oppose AOL's pay-to-send system. Over fifty groups with nearly 15 million members joined with us, including Free Press, the U.S. Humane Society, the Gun Owners of America, MoveOn.org, RightMarch.com, the AFL-CIO, and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility. Around 30,000 individuals have signed our petition, including Tim O'Reilly, Michael Geist and Chris Pirillo.
Earlier today, AOL made its first concessions in this battle. We're sure that, with your support, it will make more. If you'd like to help, visit Dear AOL, and help us help AOL avoid making a terrible mistake.
Take Action, and Sign our Letter:
AOL Announces it is Dropping its Whitelist:
Our Deep Link on AOL's system: