Goodmail Is a Much Misunderstood Solution

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2006-02-08 Print this article Print

Opinion: Goodmail isn't the only good mail, and doesn't even really claim to be. But it is a good thing.

Im incredulous at some of the criticism Im hearing of AOL and Yahoos decision to replace some of their whitelist with Goodmails service. Most of it reflects simple misunderstanding and a naive desire to believe the worst of big companies. Goodmail is an accreditation service, in other words a service that vouches for the sender of the message, certifying that they are who they say they are and that their practices conform to a set of standards for good behavior. Encrypted tokens are included with the message, and custom software in the mail client confirms the validity of the tokens and the message, thus confirming that the messages are valid CertifiedEmail.
Goodmail is not the first accreditation service; BondedSender has been around for years; it works on a bond principle rather than on per-message fees, and lacks the visual cue for the recipient that Goodmail has.

Misinformation abounds: Recipients of "CertifiedEmail," the messages in question, pay nothing for receiving them. The cost is borne by the sender. Users who wish to send mail to systems, such as AOL, that support Goodmail dont have to use Goodmail to send it. Such mail will go through conventional filtering software, user blacklists; there is a chance that it will get blocked for the wrong reasons (for example, it will generate a false positive), but that was true in the pre-Goodmail days, so nothing has been lost.

Heres another important point: CertifiedEmail is not supposed to diminish the amount of spam. Saying that it wont is like saying it wont solve global warming; its not supposed to. What its supposed to do is to get a senders mail through to the user without impediments from anti-spam infrastructure and with an enhanced degree of confidence for the recipient. Its an anti-spam solution for senders, not for recipients.

For advice on how to secure your network and applications, as well as the latest security news, visit Ziff Davis Internets Security IT Hub.

The confidence thing is not just Goodmail marketing-speak. As a user, I would view CertifiedEmail in a different light than other mail. I absolutely would trust it more, not that I would necessarily want to receive it. If I got a certified e-mail from a vendor I didnt want to deal with, I would feel OK about clicking the unsubscribe link. In fact, Goodmail is planning a CertifiedUnsubscribe feature whereby they would act as an intermediary for recipients to remove them from lists. Whats not to like?

Next page: Whats so good about Goodmail senders?

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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