A recent article over at New Scientist is helping renew discussion over the idea of a pay-per-email system, in particular CentMail from Yahoo! Research. The idea is that by donating 1c to charity each time you send an email, spamming will become uneconomic and thus fall out of favour if the service is used widely enough. Given that over 90% of email sent currently can be classified as spam, anything that can be done to help combat it is surely something worth considering.
To be honest, I’ve always been quite against the idea of paying for email. This is mainly because it often smacks of corporate profiteering. However, given the charitable nature of this initiative I am far more intrigued and excited by the idea. When you consider the fact that much of our day-to-day personal communication is now occuring through social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, email is increasingly becoming a domain purely for formal and business interactions. Having such communication benefit charitable causes would be a fantastic outcome if implemented correctly. This shift in how we communicate would also mean that you would not have to pay to tell your friends just how hung-over you are from the night before (although paying 1c to charity in such an instance may not be such a bad idea!).
The problem, of course, comes from seeing just how well it is implemented. Without a wide enough userbase the impact on spam may be negligable to say the least. In addition to this, the article has a quote from an individual at IBM who states that some people may not feel comfortable receiving emails that are supporting causes they do not agree with. In practice, if CentMail (or any other service like it) decides to forgoe any support for political or religious charities I think that many of these problems can be circumvented. After-all, you would have to search far to find somebody who would not be happy you gave 1c to cancer research or a youth skills program for example.
Spam is increasingly becoming an issue that we need a new approach to combat. Not only can it be incredibly time-consuming and irritating, but it also has a significant impact on our use of natural resources. Don’t forget that every email sent also requires the use of energy at many different points. With this energy impact in mind you can see why eliminating as much spam as possible becomes not only a convenience, but a boon to our planet as a whole. Knowing this, would you be happy to pay for your email?