V for Vanquishing Spam

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Yahoo! and AOL’s plan for teaming with Goodmail to offer a certified e-mail service has not been the most well-received news of the year. Nonprofit groups and small businesses in particular have voiced their disdain for these plans, saying that they cannot afford to pay for the thousands to millions of e-mails they send to their legitimate customers and subscribers. In response, AOL has indicated that it would offer the certified e-mail service at no cost to nonprofit and political advocacy groups.

However, this does not change Phillip Raymond’s opinion of the move. Raymond is chief executive of Vanquish Inc., a Marlborough, Massachusetts-based firm that hopes to approach the problem of spam differently.

Raymond does not have a problem with the idea of involving money in the e-mail process, saying that “We think the idea of using economics is long overdue. It is the only way of getting to the heart of the problem.” But he does have a problem with the way Yahoo! and AOL are opting to deal with spam with the help of Goodmail.

Vanquish’s plan to combat spammers involves software that Internet service providers can install, and which will be able to tell whether or not the sender of a piece of e-mail has posted a cash bond, usually 5 cents. E-mails that have this 5-cent bond will be pushed through spam filters directly to the recipient’s inbox. However, if a recipient does not want to accept the e-mail, they can simply reject it and collect the 5 cents. If, however, the message is simply accepted, the sender does not have to pay anything.

This concept essentially punishes spammers, potentially costing them millions of dollars, while rewarding e-mail recipients, the way it’s supposed to be, according to Raymond. “The recipient ought to be rewarded. It’s his time you’re using.”

Vanquish claims that legitimate e-mail senders, such as bank and credit card companies that send their clients monthly bills, will only have to deal with intermittent e-mail rejections by recipients that choose to not accept their e-mails by mistake. However, one can imagine the potential that Vanquish might hold for recipients who are out to make money at the cost of businesses that send them requested e-mails.

There are still those who contend that there must be a way to fight spam without charging anybody. Microsoft and Yahoo! are both researching technologies that will be able to identify the real source of e-mails without putting the sender at risk to pay any money.

According to Raymond, AOL has already expressed interest in Vanquish as an alternative to its partnership with Goodmail.




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