COMMUNICATION | Email is junk mail in Ahmad Humeid’s dictionary.
I probably sent my first email a decade ago when a Jordanian company called NETS (now called Batelco) set up the first email service in Jordan. I loved it. Who wouldn’t love email. It’s free, instant global communication. It was like magic.
Ten years on I believe that email is dead. This might sound to some like an exaggeration. After all, email usage is growing and life without it is unimaginable for many individuals and businesses.
Being a free and open system has been email’s greatest advantage and disadvantage at the same time. ‘Free’, in this context, needs to explanation. What ‘open’ means, however is that anyone can set up an email and send messages to any email address on earth. Anyone, including those people who use email to indiscriminately market stuff to us: the spammers.
The latest statistics show that over 80% of all email traffic in the US is spam. If this does not mean that email as a communication system is dead I don’t know what does. Imagine a situation where only 20% percent of the paper mail or telephone calls you get are legitimate and the rest is simply people trying to push things on you (or even cheat you).
What is amazing, though, is that many people I meet have no or only a small, manageable spam problem.
For many others, like me for example, email is hell. Having been active on the internet for so long with the same email address makes me a typical victim of spam. I tried to fight back using a number of filters and I even considered using a service that doesn’t let mail through if the sender doesn’t confirm his or her ‘humanness’ after being ‘challenged’ by the service to click a web link. But all of this is just a hassle.
Do I want to upset a potential client (who’s name is not in my address book) by having a service challenge her before her email is let through? Do I want my ‘intelligent’ filter to hold an important email from a friend because it was deemed as possible spam (maybe because he used a curse word). Do I have to keep looking through suspected spam to pick out mail that shouldn’t have ended there?
Truly, the situation in unbelievable. Compared to instant messaging, Skype and SMS email is dismal.
The easiest solution would be for email to become a paid service. People sending a few emails a day would not be affected if the price of an email is, say, 1 cent. Spammers, who now send millions of messages from their PCs would think twice if they had to pay for each piece of junk they dispatched.
But making email a paid service has many problems too. What about legitimate marketers or publishers of newsletters who only send mail to people who have subscribed to their publications?
The other solution is for UN or at least some industry consortium to set up new rules and perhaps also global legislation for email. For example legitimate email senders would have to register themselves and get certified somewhere. I, as a recipient of email could then only accept email messages for certified parties.
I am sure that there are initiatives like that being cooked up, but even as an advanced internet user I am not being told about them.
Until the global internet industry and community can find a way to re-invent email, I’ll have to make do with the current dead and dysfunctional system.