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Is the IronPort Whitelist Actually An Extortion Tactic?

It appears that Mr. Gates' prophetic prediction that charging marketers to send email across the Microsoft email networks (MSN and Hotmail) to cut down on Sp*m is about to come true.

According to CIO Today, Microsoft is now employing "IronPort Anti-Spam Technology."

"IronPort" is a paid "white-list" for people who send "mass email" (including newsletter publishers, ezine publishers, affiliate managers, mini-course operators, and basically anyone who has a list of opt-in emails).

If you send any type of email where you do a broadcast to everyone on your list, this applies to you.

If you want your email broadcasts to get through their filters, you must pay a hefty fee and post a "bond."

Here are some facts about this developing story:

1. They charge by how much email you send a month, but the minimum charge is a:

$375 Application Fee, plus

$500 Annual License Fee, plus

$500 "Bond" fee.

That's $1,375.00 just to get in the game.

If you want to see the complete breakdown, go here https://www.bondedsender.com/fees.jsp

2. If you go over the "complaint" threshold of 1 complaint per month, then they will debit $20 from your bond fee for each complaint to "fine" you for being naughty.

Now that sounds good on the surface, but here's a scenario to try on for size:

Your competitor / enemy / Net "psycho" signs up for 50 fr~e email accounts at HotMail and complains about you every month when you send your newsletter.

49 complaints (50 - 1 allowed complaint) times $20 a complaint comes out to $980 in fines.

Now, can you dispute the fines? Sure, absolutely!

But how much will you lose in time, energy and effort disputing the allegations? (My guess is, a whole lot more than that.)

You can check out all the "rules" here https://www.bondedsender.com/fees.jsp

Here are the details of the program straight from the horse's mouth... https://www.bondedsender.com

Here's my take on this whole thing (which dropped on me out of the blue today):

First, don't get me wrong... I hate sp~m with a passion!

I spend at least an hour a day fighting it (down from 3 hours a day just a few weeks ago before I shut down about 2 dozen email addresses that got harvested by spambots over the last few years).

With that said, this whole "IronPort" thing sounds and smells to me like "white list" extortion.

Why?

Here's the basic premise: "Pay to get your email through our filters, or else you run the very likely risk of not getting your email through at all."

In fact, here's a *direct quote* from their website https://www.bondedsender.com/faqs/sender.jsp:

"What happens if I don't bond my email? You're rolling the dice and taking your chances with spam filters, black lists and bulk folders. Some days all of your email may be delivered; other days 30-50% could be blocked."

Kind of reminds you of a cheesy mafia movie on late night TV:

Me: "Hey Bugsy, what happens if I don't pay my 'protection' money this month? What if I stand up to you and refuse to pay?"

Bugsy: "Well, maybe nothin' will happen to you because the Boss ain't payin' attention when I tell him you decided not to pay. On the other hand, maybe I'll just smack you around a little bit... or maybe-- I'll BREAK YOUR LEG with this baseball bat! Go ahead and not pay us... then we'll see what happens!"

Now, back to my question: "Why should I have to pay a huge fee to send email to people who have opted in to my lists?"

The argument from Microsoft (and soon to be other ISP's) is that the uncontrolled sp~m on the web is costing them a lot of money to deliver email nobody wants to read.

Well, if that's the case, aren't email users shelling out cash or credit to pay their ISPs for email services (mine charges me $40 a month for cable), or paying for free services like HotMail or Yahoo Mail through viewing advertising on every page?

I was under the impression we were already paying to receive email... and last time I checked, there was no place to put a stamp!

Okay, even if we make it past that and we accept the argument that legitimate emailers should have to pay a fee in order to get on that big "whitelist in the sky" somewhere... there are still two very important considerations here:

1. First, what about the little guy who starts doing really well?

You know, the small newsletter publisher who puts out a great ezine or fr-e report or whatever, and gets a lot of subscribers and then wants to broadcast email to them on a regular basis?

Let's say they start making $20,000.00 a year from their ezine... are they now supposed to shell out 6-10% of their earnings in order to get their messages through? (And that's if they never get a fine!)

Do they have to be penalized for being successful?

Apparently so if this system gains widespread acceptance by all the big ISP's and email service providers!

2. Second, what about the high potential for abuse at the hands of unethical competitors and just plain jerks that populate the Internet!

I know it might seem hard to believe, but there are psychos out there who will sign up for a bunch of free email accounts just so they can make trouble.

(This is not paranoia! I had a user who signed up, definitely opted-in from my website, had the emails routed through a SpamCop address so I got blacklisted by SpamCop until I could get it straightened out. Oh, and guess who owns SpamCop... IronPort, that's who!)

Now, some idiot making waves with 100 email accounts won't put a dent in the pockets of most big players in the email arena... for them it'll just be a business expense.

But for the case of the "little" guy, fighting that potential abuse and those fees could seriously cripple and even kill a fledgling enterprise... and that, in my opinion, is a serious problem.

In my opinion, all this is going to do is cut out the little guy and make it easier for big companies to email the hell out of the rest of us.

A small newsletter publisher will find it cost-prohibitive to pay for the service, and some giant company will just keep pumping the email out because they have the staff and resources to fight the inevitable complaints.

And let's face it, if a big company is paying a $10,000.00 a year licensing fee plus posting a $4,000.00 bond, how aggressive do you think the IronTrust people will really be to get rid of them?

In my opinion, not very.

In conclusion: Despite my ranting, I actually think this is a step in the right direction (albeit a wobbly, drunken, and inconvenient step).

Something has to be done to fight spam.

However, at this point, this whole system has (in my opinion) too many unanswered questions, especially for us little guys.

Namely:

  • Do I really need to do this if I'm a little guy operating and growing a newsletter?

  • What happens if I get unfounded spam complaints?

  • At what level does it make financial sense for me to do this?

  • What if my newsletter isn't a big profit generator... am I supposed to give up the revenue I do create just to get my emails through?

To their apparent credit, Yahoo! is also trying to pioneer a solution, but this one doesn't appear (at this point) like it will cost publishers or subscribers any money (and I like the sound of that). http://antispam.yahoo.com/domainkeys

But with so much at stake (on both sides), this issue is a far cry from any satisfactory resolution.

Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant...

About The Author

Jim Edwards is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the co-author of an amazing new ebook that will teach you how to use fr^e articles to quickly drive thousands of targeted visitors to your website or affiliate links...

Need MORE TRAFFIC to your website or affiliate links? "Turn Words Into Traffic" reveals the secrets for driving Thousands of NEW visitors to your website or affiliate links... without spending a dime on advertising! Click Here> http://www.turnwordsintotraffic.com

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