Pay for Your Email, Cheapies

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For those who found a separate contract for email service just this side of a crime against nature, I offer ninemsn Premium. Might be junk, might do the job. The point is the days of pretending untamed—and "free"—email can be mission-critical are over.

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  1. Unfortunately, spam and virus protection aren’t enough for ‘mission-critical’ email. If you tell your ISP that a ‘mission-critical’ message that you sent was never received, they might be nice enough to check their logs and make sure it was successfully delivered to some remote mail server. After that, they can’t help you.

    Besides that, if you expect your mail to be secure, you’d better encrypt it. The sysadmins on all the mail servers in the path can read it (and modify it, if they want). For that matter, so can the operators of the routers that carry the traffic.

    Mission-critical email needs guaranteed reliability and privacy, which require the entire network to be under the control of someone who’s accountable for lost or intercepted messages.

    That’s CompuServe circa 1990 (which did, in fact, charge ‘postage’ on email). And we know what happened to them, don’t we?

    “All things have the advantages of their disadvantages, and vice versa.”
    — Larry Wall

  2. I find hotmail’s spam system quite good. The only stuff that goes in your inbox, on the highest filter setting, is from addresses you’ve previously approved. You periodically check the junkmail bin to make sure it isn’t catching stuff you want, and adjust your “approved” list accordingly.

    The problem is that you’re limited to an approved list of 250, unless you buy their premium service at an annual fee ($20, I think). I’ve hesitated to start paying for something that I can get for free, but it seems like a fairly reasonable price, considering the proliferation of spam. I’m getting several times more Nigerian business proposals, penis enlargement ads, and offers to see Britney Spears blow a donkey, than I was just a few months ago.

  3. Mission critical works just fine on the free network. You just have to code up a confirmation layer. Basically “encrypted message received” comes back encrypted, and if it doesn’t come back then it has to be resent or some other action taken. It can’t be intercepted, read, or spoofed, yet it uses the ordinary network and is certain.

  4. A friend is writing up a nice How-To guide for novice users to set up their built in email encryption (Outlook & Outlook Express only for now). If you want to try your hand at encryption and digital signatures while helping him revise his How-to guide, please drop him a line at the following address:

    enc-email.2003@marknoble.com

    He turned me on to digital ID’s and encryption a while back and I really think that it’s a good way to prevent Spam and other forms of email fraud.

    If you send/recieve unsecure “mission critical” email, you need to talk to him.

    You can even use encrypted email via the free Hotmail service. Pretty cool stuff.

  5. $12.95 a month for filtered email is just a bit above my pain threshhold. I might consider $2 to $3 per month, but not much more above that.

  6. Like everything else, fees will start out higher than needed, and will only drop once someone decides to go for market dominance. Then, of course, the government will sue them.

  7. Whoa, there Jeff.

    When I said that it would not accomplish what you thought it might accomplish, I wasn’t suggesting your idea was evil or unheard-of. I was taking it seriously.

    The problem is going to be, for years at least to come, that the underlying transport layer is vulnerable to free-riding.

    You can build a more secure system on top of that, but MSN is hardly the first to charge for premium e-mail filtering. That’s a lot of what you pay AOL for. And a better alternative than either is SpamCop the filter/whitelist/challenge-response par excellence. I have been a paying member for several years now.

    None of that does any more than remove the immediate problem at your desktop. It’s as if you build really thick walls on your house, never left, and declared the crime problem “solved.” Great, but the view sucks.

    If everybody agreed on a new standard to be built over the old standard (much as HTTP and SMTP are built on TCP/IP) that was a secured, private, pay-per-play service, you might eliminate a lot of free rider problems such as spam. However, it will probably always be vulnerable to hijacking.

    Ironically, if such a system does get built, there will be less of a reason to charge (extra) for it. The reason premium services such as ninemsn are becoming more obvious (it was simply buried in your ISP charge previously, but you still payed) is because of the increased server loads and system administration that are required to filter out and reject all the spam you get on an open system.

    Take away the spam, you’ll need more horsepower than you would for a simple sendmail server, but you won’t need nearly what it takes to run continual line-by-line text analysis on every packet of info you receive. So it won’t cost as much to provide e-mail. And competition will drive the price back down.

  8. ninemsn Premium seems to be charging for what Yahoo! and Hotmail do for free. I’ve used Yahoo! mail for years now, even as I’ve changed from one ISP to another. Their spam filter was pretty bad at first, but the AI has improved a lot – it blocks about 100 spams a day for me, without it I’d have to shut down the account. I put it to the test too, there are some ads I want to get and others I don’t…

  9. Until I’m unsatisfied, I will continue to be a “cheapie”. I have yahoo, hotmail, and work-related email accounts, and have no significant spam issues with any of the 3. With the correct configuration it is not an issue.

    For those “lazies” that can’t figure out how to administer their account or find a suitable email host; pay up suckers.

    There will always be free email for the same reason there are free web hosts and even free ISP services like NetZero. It just depends on what you need it for and how innovative you are at making it meet your needs.

  10. Right, Jeff! And would your point also include that the days of pretending untamed — and “free” — phone calls (even local ones) can be mission-critical are over, too?

    Would you also propose that because of (spamming) telemarketers, we should now also be slapped with a 25c-per-call on our house phone, too?

    This is so ridiculous.

    As it is, I’m paying my ISP a small fortune, just as I’m already paying the phone company another small fortune.

    Let’s please keep those sticky fingers out of my wallet, OK?

  11. Hmm…If you need a Mission Critical email system, you should use a VAN (Value Added Network).

    http://www.softshare.com/software/cx/

    🙂

    I’m waiting for the inevitable “Tragedy of the Commons” reference for email. 🙂

  12. Being a novice at home computing can anyone please advise how to send all of my emails (via Hotmail.com) encrypted.

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