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A Penny for your E-Mail?

Earlier this month in Switzerland (gosh it would be nice), Mr. Gates pronounced the impending demise of Spam, promising a two-year countdown to spam-free communications. Cryptic at the time, it now seems that the Chairman has a cunning plan. If people (spammers, corporate executives, or grannies) want to send E-mail, it'll cost 'em. Both Microsoft and Yahoo are working with a start up called GoodMail to charge a penny a message, but only for high-volume users, with the proceeds going to the recipient's ISP as sort of a pay to receive spam plan.

Certainly as Sherlock Holmes would say, stopping spammers "is a three pipe problem." But adding "friction" to email in an attempt to slow spammers sounds more like a pipe problem of an all together different tobacco. If we charge high-volume messengers, two things will happen. First, illegitimate messengers will start looking deeper and deeper and going to greater lengths to identify and obtain "targeted" recipients. Second, legitimate messengers will most likely give up on the medium (the business models are already not in the producer's favor) and turn to the Web.

Then again, life without E-mail...would it be really so awful?