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Pay-Per-Email Plan to Beat Spam and Help Charity

By New Scientist

August 19, 2009

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Yahoo! researchers are testing a scheme in which users pay one cent for each email message they send, with the money going to charity, in an effort to cut back on spam. Yahoo! Research's CentMail trial is based on the theory that levying even a small charge on every email message sent would make spam uneconomical. By giving the fees paid for email to charity, CentMail's inventors believe it will be more successful than previous efforts to charge for email as way to stop spam.

Yahoo! researcher Sharad Goel says the problem with economic approaches to deterring spam is that legitimate users have to pay as well, but CentMail hopes to overcome that by passing the money onto a charity of the sender's choice and by showing the donation in a "stamp" at the bottom of every email message.

The charity system could convince people to sign up without waiting for the system to become widespread. Once the scheme has become popular, mail-server operators can save resources by spending less time and effort hunting for spam, as CentMail-accredited messages will not need to be examined.

Scott Fahlman, the creator of an IBM project called Charity Seals, which was the inspiration for CentMail, says some people are against putting any kind of a barrier in the way of sending email, but he says the charity-centered approach reduces that barrier. Goel hopes that CentMail, which is currently in private beta, will soon be released publicly and be usable with any email address.

From New Scientist
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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