12:30 AM

AOL Defends Certified Mail Plans

America Online says people and organizations will continue to be able to E-mail its users for free. AOL's adoption of Goodmail Certified Email pay-to-send mail service will simply add to user options.

AOL has no intention of swaying from its certified e-mail course, and at least one analyst firm said it shouldn't feel any pressure to do so.

In a statement following the press conference of the coalition of organizations rallying against AOL's proposed use of GoodMail's Certified Email pay-to-send service, AOL said, "Implementation of this timely and necessary safety and security measure for our members takes place in the next 30 days. Mark it on your calendars."

Ferris Research analyst Richi Jennings commented that "Those that run e-mail services are perfectly entitled to act on user spam complaints. As the saying goes, "My server, my rules."

The coalition, characterized AOL's move as an "e-mail tax" that "disempowers" regular people and a "step toward dismantling the free and open Internet." "The very existence of online civic participation and the free Internet as we know it are under attack," according to Eli Pariser, executive director of Civic Action.

"Balderdash and piffle," replies Jennings. "Nothing's really changed. If users are complaining about some e-mail, service providers will block the sender, whether or not they pay some sort of a bond or fee. There's no substantive change here. If you're an existing sender with a good reputation, you should have nothing to worry about . . . well, nothing new anyway.

"We believe more choices, and more alternatives, for safety and e-mail authentication is a good thing for the Internet, not bad," said an AOL spokesman. Everything that AOL has in place today free for e-mail senders remains –- and will only improve."

Regarding the coalition's claim that spammers will now be able to pay for access to inboxes, AOL said just the opposite is true.

"Certified Email prevents and blocks spammers from sending e-mails to online users," said the AOL spokesman. Goodmail’s program is 100-percent opt-in; Goodmail strictly disallows those who have not previously secured the expressed consent of consumers from signing up for Goodmail tokens. Given AOL’s phenomenal public track record on spam, no one can credibly assert that AOL would sign up for a pay-to-spam program. Get real."

See the current blog posting How Does An Optional Service Become An "E-mail Tax?" for more on AOL's response and reaction to the development.

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