Goodmail: Consumers Like E-Mail Postage Idea

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Most Internet users think bulk mailers should share the cost of fighting spam with their Internet service providers, according to a survey from upstart Internet postage firm Goodmail.

The poll, conducted by Outsource Consulting, Santa Clara, CA, asked more than 1,000 Internet users in March who should shoulder the burden for fighting spam. Nearly 90 percent expressed concern over their Internet provider raising access costs because of money spent fighting spam. When asked, "Is it a good idea to shift the cost of e-mail from the ISPs to those who send mass e-mail," 85 percent agreed.

"There has been so much public focus on spam over the past year, it's no longer just an industry problem," said Richard Gingras, Goodmail's chief executive. "It's a problem everyone is aware of. They're aware it's costing somebody to address this problem."

The Mountain View, CA, startup proposes requiring bulk e-mailers to first identify themselves and then buy a digital postage stamp for their mailings. The money generated would be split between Goodmail and Internet service providers handling the mail.

Goodmail claims such a system would drastically reduce false positives, the wanted e-mail incorrectly filtered by ISPs. E-mail assurance company Return Path estimates ISPs filter one in five commercial e-mail messages. Goodmail's survey suggests users have noticed: 70 percent expressed concern about false positives.

The e-mail postage idea gained traction this year when Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said the solution to spam required adding a cost to the sending of e-mail. He sketched out a "sender-pays" system for bulk e-mail.

Gingras suggests offering a "trusted class" of e-mail to bulk senders for a penny a message, which would offset the cost of handling and blocking huge volumes of unwanted e-mail.

Goodmail's survey showed 75 percent of respondents were likely or very likely to open stamped e-mail, and 63 percent said they would trust stamped e-mail more than unstamped.

Commercial e-mailers have reacted coolly to e-mail postage as a way to combat spam. Industry groups like the E-mail Service Provider Coalition prefer authentication and reputation schemes that do not impose high costs on senders.

Gingras said Goodmail is lining up participating ISPs and would launch later this year. He declined to say which ISPs were considering the system.

"Our solution is definitely resonating with ISPs," he said. "They recognize that it works to directly solve the problem with false positives."

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