Pay for all your email

Joel Spolsky suggests that, to counter spam, someone sets up a service where sending email costs a penny, and everyone allows all mail that comes from that server through their spam filters, because you know that spammers wouldn’t (and couldn’t) pay money for the vast volumes of mail they send. In principle, not a bad idea. Sadly, though, Joel then seems to put his corporate head back on and ruins the whole effect:

Eventually, if it caught on, you wouldn’t need a spam filter: just put all the free email in a suspect folder, and check it once a week in case some old school holdouts insist on sending you email without paying.

Yeah, that’s right. Because then we’ll be at a stage where we’ve managed to make people pay money to use a service that was formerly free, and now you can look down on those people who don’t want to pay because they think that it should be free. This I consider to be blind corporate thinking — it’s the reason that Linux is not tried in more businesses. (Note: not the reason it’s not used more; I have no problem at all with firms who try it and decide that it’s not for them. But failing to investigate an alternative that might be better and might save you money just because you don’t like the idea of it, because it’s “free” and therefore worthless, is blinkered.)

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