29 May 2009

Time to Tax Email

Prospect Magazine is written and edited by people who don't know what they're talking about and don't care:

"A penny charge for every email would stop spam, and fill the empty public purse" - lead article by Edward Gottesman

If he - or the editor, had read my very brief little primer in email for novices and government ministers he would know that
Email is an addressing system and message format by which messages can be sent between users over the internet.

ISPs provide internet service. Sometimes they also provide web or email services over the internet as an add-on, and sometimes they don't.

It is quite possible to send and receive email messages without one's ISP even being aware of the fact. Indeed, most people do. If you have a large site, you probably run your own email servers. You emails go over your ISP's internet service, but do not use your ISP's email service, even if it has one.

Conversely, if you use webmail, your email does not reach your network in the form of messages - only web pages. Your messages originate or terminate with your webmail provider, who may well not even be in this country.

Only if you use the old-fashioned POP3+SMTP setup, or your ISP's webmail service, will your ISP see your email as email. In some cases it might be possible for them, by searching your entire network traffic, to identify and extract email from your network flow. That involves a whole lot of processing that they would otherwise not need to do.

If you use an offshore webmail provider, they can't even do that, because the traffic between you and the webmail provider is encrypted.

If he had done the smallest amount of research he would have known all that. If he had done, say, a day's research, he would have already seen the check-the-boxes form objection to stupid spam-fighting schemes that inevitably landed on the prospect discussion blog.

There are of course many other reasons why it's a moronic idea. But it only needs one.

1 comment:

Mark Wadsworth said...

Exactly. Debating the rights and wrongs of all this stuff is fruitless, you have to look at the practicalities first, it saves a lot of time.