Is paying for email the future of digital communication?
Earlier this week, it was reported that an American business angel had come up with the solution to spam email. And what was the new answer to sliced bread? Making people pay to send you an email.
Now you might think this is a crazy idea, after all, people already can’t pay essential bills so why try to make them pay for something that is free- you may as well bottle tap water and sell it. The scheme could run at a flat rate of 10p per mail, or perhaps with a graduating scale to charge, say, £5 to every Nigerian prince whose personal fortune just needs to sit in your account for 24 hours. You might also wonder that these comments have been made by a woman who already runs an email inbox service to try and thwart scammers- perhaps scaring people with the thought of paying for email might send them running into the arms of her add-an-annoying-captcha-to-every-email service.
But might she have an ever-so-tiny point? If something is free, is the value of it lost, such that emails become background noise and completely unimportant? It’s like the old joke- in the early 1990s getting an email was an event; today getting a letter in the post would cause more excitement. While paying for email is perhaps ridiculous, unwieldy and difficult to enforce, would attaching a value to electronic messages mean that people would make sure their emails were worth sending (and therefore receiving)?
And would it even stop spammers? Wouldn’t email spammers, much like text spammers, just go underground and abscond without paying their email dues? Some would argue that we already ‘pay’ for emails by allowing people like Google (amongst others) to harvest our personal data and sell it on to advertisers.
At the moment the idea of paying to receive email is a crazy punt that even politicians couldn’t consider economically viable. Still, when digital communications tax is introduced in a few years’ time, don’t say we didn’t warn you.