AOL, Yahoo to charge for delivery of bulk email
March 3rd, 2006Posted by: Theo Nicolakis
On December 22, 2003, the Pew Internet and American Life Project published a study detailing who is online and what they did online. Aside from the revelation that nearly two-thirds of American adults now go online to access the Internet, one statistic in particular remained constant: email continues to be the most popular use of the Internet.
The prevalence and indeed dominance of email has been both a beneficial and a curse. Just about everyone who has access to email can attest to receiving “spam” or unwanted email advertisements with titles like “pharmacy” or “your loan instantly approved”. Aside from the social annoyance and time it takes to clean out spam, unwanted email also has a huge technical downside a well. It can delay email delivery, clog systems, or even cause them to crash altogether. You can imagine large service providers like AOL, who process tens of millions if not hundreds of emails a day through their system, see spam as a major problem.
Instead of absorbing this problem, AOL and Yahoo have chosen to strike back. On February 6, 2006 news headlines surfaced that AOL and YAHOO! would now begin charging people to email to users on their systems. While it appears as though this will not affect individual emails, it will affect “bulk” email delivery, that is intended for a large group of users. If you want guaranteed delivery to make sure that your email is not blocked by AOL or Yahoo’s spam software, then you will need to pay from 1/4 cent to 1 cent PER EMAIL.
For churches, the implications are clear: if you maintain a listserver or bulk mailing list of parishioners and you want to guarantee delivery, you may need to pay. Realizing how this could impact not only churches but non-profits at large, a consortium of nonprofit and public interest groups lobbied against the AOL and Yahoo plan.
Today, AOL announced that they would pay the tab for nonprofits. There is no word yet from Yahoo!.
If you are interested in the facts, you can check out Goodmail Systems, which is providing this service for AOL and Yahoo. They have online FAQ here.
For parishes of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese who manage listservers, you may or may not have problems with either AOL or Yahoo! This step is, however, just one attempt to curb the mounting problem of trusted content in the online world.
As the delicate tension between the online and offline worlds continues to wrestle for balance, there will continue to be incidents like this pay-per-email decision by some of the largest email providers on the Internet. This tension and its ripple effects will necessarily have an impact on us in the Church who are attempting to utilize this medium for evangelism, outreach, communication, and God’s glory.