Activist Group Tilts at E-Mail Windmills

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2006-03-01 Print this article Print

Opinion: A coalition's manifesto against Goodmail steers well clear of any facts and is fueled by irrational and ungrounded bias.

Youll find no better example of political demagoguery than the coalition formed to oppose Goodmail and AOLs use of Goodmails services.

The Web site announcing their positions is so overflowing with misinformation and presumption that its hard to know where to start in addressing it.
The site is filled with cheap, pejorative terms like "email tax." But if theres one most prominent false claim or presumption made by the coalition it is that AOLs acceptance of certified e-mail without further spam checks means that the service provided to non-certified mail will degrade. This claim is explicit and implicit all over the site.
There is no basis for this claim. Let me repeat that: They are making it up, and they have no legitimate reason to claim it.

Using logic void of any business sense, the coalition asserts that once the Goodmail system is in place, AOL will have no incentive to maintain its existing anti-spam measures. Note, as the coalition does not, that AOL has vigorously denied that they are backing off of their existing measures, including the standard and enhanced whitelists, in any way. AOL also claims that the revenue that they get from the certified e-mail program will be trivial. But the coalition, dominated by groups which are anxious to assume the worst of any big business, figures that AOL will let the anti-spam quality of non-certified mail go to pot to blackmail senders into paying off Goodmail. "Poor delivery of mail turns from being a problem that AOL has every incentive to fix to something that could actually make them money if the company ignores it." Theres no reason why AOL would need or want to degrade their standard services. Goodmail is something like the post office offering premium services like guaranteed delivery and registered mail. The coalition asserts the analogy is a false one; but theyre wrong—its a perfect analogy. There is more work involved in guaranteed delivery than in standard delivery and its more valuable so it makes sense to charge more for it. The fact of its existence hasnt led the post office to degrade the quality of first class mail.

Click here to read more about accreditation services from columnist Larry Seltzer.

The claims made about how AOL would treat non-certified e-mail are often difficult to follow. By claiming that AOL wont maintain their spam filters they imply that spam will suddenly flood into AOL users inboxes. They also claim that legitimate, but non-certified, e-mail will not necessarily be delivered: "Everyone who cant afford to pay AOLs email tax—including charities, small businesses, civic organizations and even families with mailing lists—will have no guarantee that their e-mails will be delivered."

Next page: Why would AOL abuse their users?

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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