So today AOL took a (big?) step to try and satisfy the non-profits, political groups, and others that are currently protesting our Email Tax. We announced that we would pay the way for qualifying not-for-profit groups so they could get accreditted for sending email with a third party service. We also promised that these groups would get the same delivery to the inbox and also have links and images show up automatically. And that we would do all this with no cost to the sender or recipient.
To do this, we are providing two solutions (from the press release):
- Not-for-profit organizations that conform to, and abide by, AOL’s anti-spam and email policies and standards, may qualify for AOL’s Enhanced White List, which provides delivery of email – with images and web links in the email — on a comparable basis to the Certified Email program administered by Goodmail for commercial bulk emailers. The email may not be marked as “certified,” but will be handled and delivered on an identical basis to Certified Email. This program will be administered and provided by AOL directly to not-for-profits, at no charge.
- The second delivery option available to not-for-profits will enable them to use one or several third-party email accreditation service providers to authenticate their email. These services ordinarily charge mailers a nominal, flat, non-recurring fee to qualify. However, AOL will fully pay for not-for-profits’ flat-rate, sign-up costs associated with the third-party provider program on a pro-bono basis. The company is currently in discussions with email accreditation providers, and expects this new, pro-bono program will be evaluated and tested internally in the next 30 days. AOL intends to identify one or more third-party email accreditation providers during this time, and is targeting implementation of this program in the next 90 days.
And we emphatically state several times that we will never charge these groups. But we are also careful to note that they must qualify for these services…so no spam bypass for organizations who don’t follow good mailing practices (the same rules we have had for eons).
So what was the initial reaction of the DearAOL coalition? Well, here are a few quotes from yesterday:
On Friday the coalition, which calls itself the “DearAOL.com Coalition,” said AOL did not go far enough.
“AOL’s proposal is a small band-aid for a small number of professional nonprofits, but does not end the threat to the free and open Internet’s greatest benefit — a level playing field that allows everyday people to turn small ideas into big ideas,” the coalition said in a statement. “AOL would still let some Internet users pay for guaranteed email delivery while leaving the little guy behind with less reliable email service.”
One member of the group, the nonprofit Association of Cancer Online Resources, rejected AOL’s compromise outright, calling it a “bribe.”
“I don’t take bribes,” Gilles Frydman, president of ACOR, said in a statement. “The solution is not AOL offering a few of us service for free in exchange for our silence — the solution is preserving equal access to the free and open Internet for everyone.”
I guess email to the inbox with links and images enabled and a seal of approval will need to be available for free to everyone. We should create a whitelist and put everyone on it?
I wonder how the DearAOL coalition proposes to keep people like Jeremy Jaynes (appealing his conviction next week, actually) from getting on this new whitelist? Complaints rates, bounces? Well some members of the DearAOL coalition (moveon.org is just one example) have had some of the highest complaint rates sending into AOL. They have always claimed they were being sabotaged by groups on the Right. But many others seem to think it may be their mailing practices. Puts Dear AOL in such a tough spot, doesn’t it?
I understand everyone’s concerns with whitelists and blacklists and charging for them, but I sure don’t know the answer. I wish someone would write to me or comment on this blog and tell me what we should do going forward.