Will Microsoft Kill Free Email on the Net?


    Spam has been such a problem that email filters are nowwidespread on the Net. These filters are a necessary responseto the menace of spam. However, will the excuse of spam beused by companies such as Hotmail to charge for email? Disturbing news that Hotmail (owned by Microsoft) is blocking perfectly legitimate emails because they have been caught by their anti-spam filters is increasing these fears.

    When SiteSell complained to Hotmail they did not get a helpfulresponse. Microsoft suggested that they use the services of a company called Bonded Sender which would ensure that SiteSell's legitimate non-spam emails would reach their customers. It justhappens that one of the owners of Bonded Sender is a formeremployee of Microsoft!

    Many other companies have had similar problems with Hotmail. Bill Gates is on record as wishing to charge for email as a methodof preventing spam. Unfortunately, when the big companies on the Net gang up like this, a sort of inevitability about charging for email creeps in. Nearly 60% of email is handled by Hotmail, AOL, and Yahoo combined. These three companies could have the power to force customers to pay for their email.

    However, customers still have bargaining power. They may decide to stop using Hotmail and opt for a genuine free service. The founding fathers of the Internet had a public service attitude to the free dissemination of information. If the big companies chargefor email, this egalitarian ideal will be lost.

    The most appealing aspect of the Internet for many people was precisely this level-playing field that it created. The hobbyist in any part of the world could communicate and pass information (through email!) to other enthusiasts. The small entrepreneur could set up a website and make money without reference to themultinationals. However, this freedom will be lost if customers are not vigilant.

    The big companies like Microsoft are businesses concerned with profit. The freedom of access that the Internet gives to the small person in any part of the world is not a priority of the multinationals.

    © John Lynch


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