E-Mail Stamps to counter Spam?

Bill Gates talked about this idea at Davos as one of the plansk to eliminate spam in the next coupel years. Yahoo too is considering it. NYTimes discusses the idea in more detail:

Ten days ago, Bill Gates, Microsoft’s chairman, told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that spam would not be a problem in two years, in part because of systems that would require people to pay money to send e-mail. Yahoo, meanwhile, is quietly evaluating an e-mail postage plan being developed by Goodmail, a Silicon Valley start-up company.

“The fundamental problem with spam is there is not enough friction in sending e-mail,” said Brad Garlinghouse, Yahoo’s manager for communications products.

Goodmail, founded by Daniel T. Dreymann, an Israeli entrepreneur, is developing a system that it hopes will be easier to adopt. It proposes that only high-volume mailers pay postage at first, at a rate of a penny a message, with the money going to the e-mail recipient’s Internet access provider. (The company suggests, but does not require, that the Internet providers share the payments with their users, either through rebates or by lowering monthly fees.)

The Goodmail system is designed to work even if not all senders and not all Internet providers participate. A mass e-mailer would sign up with Goodmail, buying a block of stamps – actually an encrypted code number – that it would insert in the header of each e-mail message. If the Internet provider of the recipient participates in the system, it decrypts the stamp and submits it to Goodmail. Only then is the sender’s account charged a penny and the receiving I.S.P. paid the penny, minus a service fee by Goodmail for acting as a clearinghouse.

Senders do not pay for stamps that are not used, but they do pay whether an e-mail recipient reads the message or not.

Under this plan, Internet providers would still accept incoming e-mail without stamps. But that mail would be subject to the same sort of spam filters in use now, which can at times divert legitimate mail. The Internet providers would deliver all stamped mail without any filter. Goodmail does not require that stamped mail be requested by the recipient, the so-called opt-in requirement of most other anti-spam systems.

I hope that if this comes through, they will look at purchasing power parity before fixing the rates. A penny in the US is worth 45 paise in India in the existing dollar exchange and about 7 paise in the context of PPP.

Ramesh Jain Interview

I have known Ramesh Jain for almost a decade. It is always fascinating to interact with him, see the work he is doing and see the future through his eyes. Gartner has an interview with him. Excerpts:

It started to become more and more clear that because of Gutenberg’s revolution, systems designers generally think in terms of alpha-numeric information, but in our lives, there are lots of different data sources – audio, visual, tactile. So if you can explore and find the information you are looking for on your own terms, combining audio, video and other elements, that’s experiential computing.

What if you put events on the Web? That means that in place of writing an article about our meeting here and posting it to a page on the Web, we start by placing multiple cameras here, along with some other sensors, and you put the recording on the Web so that people can explore this conversation in the same way as the football game I described. So that at any time they could experience what you and I are doing, see how we are doing it, choose their perspective. So this is the concept that I’m trying to advance. It requires very interesting technological challenges because each search that is done becomes different. Time becomes the most important factor because you are more interested in what’s going on right now, or what happened in the near past, etc…In Event Web, the focus is, in place of a document about it, the event itself. Documents provide you information. Event Web gives you the experience.

To me, Folk Computing is very different from, but in some respects similar to, the kind of thing that happened in the late 1970s when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak began championing the idea that mainframe computers were not for everybody and that gave rise to personal computers. Today, about 700 million people in the world use computing and related things. The remaining 5.7 billion people are not helped by computing. What is the reason? The keyboard is an obstacle. Language is an obstacle. Available content is an obstacle. Education levels are an obstacle. I found it very interesting when I was in India working with some people in Dehli that when they tried to teach poor villagers about how a desktop works on a computer, the villagers had never even seen a desk. They didn’t know what a file is. Or a trash can. So they cannot possibly understand the desktop on a computer. If we want computing technology to benefit many of the other 5.7 billion people in the world, we need to come up with devices, mechanisms, thinking about how the information should be stored, how should it be distributed, how should it be presented – all in a very different way. That is what I mean by Folk Computing.

Utility Computing Perspective

Phil Wainewright writes:

Instead of thinking in terms of monolithic computing services, think of choosing among an almost limitless universe of service options. Connecting to the wall socket will open up access to a global market, in which every resource can find its most efficient level. For some resources desktop productivity software for example mass distribution of retail packages will remain the most cost-effective model. For others a really obvious example is web content search a single, centralized resource will provide unbeatable economies of scale. Much more significantly, there will be innumerable examples where small, specialist shared resources will find a market for example, online information providers who focus on emerging tech industry sectors.

The utility element of utility computing, then, is the provision of the infrastructure that enables this resource-sharing…Utility computing will never be about the provision of applications out of a wall socket. The utility providers will operate the infrastructure. But the applications will sit on top. Rather than being a component of the infrastructure, they will be delivered across it by independent providers.

Mobile Phones as Application Platforms

Boston Globe writes:

In just a few years, cellphones have gone from being just telephones to incorporating the functions of a steadily growing number of other devices. As the daytime UHF television announcer might say: They take pictures. They calculate restaurant tips. They get e-mail. They play video games and music.

For an industry that has grown explosively by a willingness to throw the equivalent of high-tech plates of spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks, the near future may be defined mainly by developing software and services that catch up with and exploit the possibilities of the video, sound, messaging, and color-screen technology breakthroughs achieved so far. One long-awaited and heavily hyped innovation — wireless phones that work like digital wallets, letting people make purchases from vending machines, gas pumps, and convenience stores — has advanced only fitfully in the United States.

Brian Tucker, director of handset and accessories product management for Cingular Wireless LLC, said, “If you think back to what cellphones were a couple of years ago and where they’ve progressed, it’s a huge leap. They’re now little computers that fit right in the palm of your hand. Look at this from the standpoint of `What do we want to do in our PC today that we’d want to do on our handset?’ There’s not a lot left that you can’t do.”

This month, Hong Kong-based Legend Group Ltd. plans to begin selling a “smartphone” that can enable users to change the channels on their TV sets by voice command, an early example of what could be widespread future use of phones to control home electronics, garage-door openers, and security systems.

Closer to home [in the US], most of the immediate focus is on rolling out new software that will take advantage of phones that have color screens and music- and video-playing capability.

One continuing brake on innovation will be the enormous strains new applications can put on the limited battery power capacity of cellphones, which may be able to support two hours of gaming or video-watching at a stretch.

“It’s the Holy Grail for the industry: How do you overcome the input problem?” said Richard J. Geruson, a former top Nokia executive who became Voice Signal’s chief executive in October. “We’re finally at an inflection point where embedded speech recognition is going to take off on the most plentiful consumer device in the world.”

Blogs Mean Business

John Battelle writes:

Heres my prediction: Blogs will soon become a staple in the information diet of every serious businessperson, not because its cool to read them, but because those who dont read them will fail. In short, blogs offer an accelerated and efficient approach to acquiring and understanding the kind of information all of us need to make business decisions.

Until recently, blogs have proven to be an incredibly lousy source of information for most businesspeople. Finding and keeping up with the relevant ones is far too time-consuming. But Ive recently started using a newsreader, and after spending hours setting the damn thing up, my business life has changed forever.

A newsreader is a relatively geeky application that allows me to scan a list of blogs I specify, pull down new posts, and organize them neatly in a single window. Thanks to the combination of using a newsreader and plugging into a few good blogs (which then plug into more, and so on …), Ive created a hot list of business-oriented information that doesnt just rival my old information-gathering habits, it blows them away. Not only do I spend less time searching and more time learning, but Ive also joined a challenging and diverse community of minds and business interests. Once youre in this kind of web, you dont leave ityoud be out of the loop. And in business, being out of the loop means death.

What’s interesting is the info on the soon-to-be-launched Kinja (from Nick Denton and Meg Hourihan): “Kinja [is] a directory that promises to provide not only blog listings (so you can find ones you might like) but also a newsreader-like interface that will allow you to read them easily…
In its second rev, Kinja will incorporate a recommendation engine that will work somewhat like Amazons. When you find a blog you like, Kinja will recommend other, similar blogs. Over time, a Kinja-like approach to the blogospheres wonderful mass of opinion, interpretation, fact, and fantasy will become standard for nearly everyone.”

I’d like to think that we’ve got some of that stuff already in BlogStreet.

Thin Clients for Homes

News.com writes about Sun’s plans to use its SunRay line for the home segment and airplanes:

Sun Microsystems will work with telecommunications companies to offer a SunRay device that could replace desktop home computers, the company said last week. Instead of a hard drive, the SunRay computer uses remote servers for software and data storage, accessed using a high-speed Internet connection. Network computer products along these lines have failed in the past, but Sun argues that a key problem before was a lack of bandwidth, which is now widely available through DSL (digital subscriber line) and cable broadband.

[Sun] also envisions a version of the SunRay device for airplanes. Josef Edlinger, a manager of engineering and technology at a Sun, said the company is in talks with airlines over combining a SunRay machine with a seatback screen to give passengers Internet access and the ability to do tasks such as word processing.

I think there is a big opportunity for affordable thin clients in Indian homes, bundled with a fixed price always-on connection. The client may need to have some applications running quickly till real broadband becomes available. A hardware, software, connectivity and support bundle priced at Rs 600-800 per month could be a very attractive proposition for 40 million Indian homes.

TECH TALK: Technology and the Indian Elections: Rising Democracy

China and India are now seen as the two dynamos of the world. Wrote Jeffrey Sachs in an article entitled Welcome to Asias Century recently: By 2050, China and maybe India will have overtaken the US economy in size. He adds: When poorer countries like China and India are relatively well managed politically and economically, they tend to grow more rapidly than richer countries. The poorer countries have an advantage of relative backwardness, in that they can import the know-how of the leading economies. That occurs through the importation of capital, flows of foreign investment, and the training of scientists and engineersTechnological catch-up can be frustrated if a lagging country is politically unstable or economically mismanagedBoth China and India squandered the chance for rapid economic growth in the first decades after World War II because of Maos communism and Nehrus socialism.

Democracy has worked in India, but the democratically elected leaders have failed Indians for much of its history as an Independent nation. For the period from 1947-1991, India remained isolated from much of the world, stuck in the glory of its ancient past, and a leadership that did little to integrate a growing population into the world. The majority of the population was illiterate, and it was almost as if poverty was the birthright for them. They knew little better. The contrast with China was stark. Since the 1980s, China focused on economic development and transformed itself from a laggard into a regional and global powerhouse. Indias Hindu rate of growth of 3-4% was seen as a small price to pay for its democracy.

The last decade has changed all this. Forced to bring in reforms, Indias leadership suddenly saw the benefits of integration with the world. The software industry showed the way. As the media sectors were opened, television channels showcased aspirational lifestyles and brands. Just as the Indian cricket team now benchmarks itself against Australia, the Indian economy is now compared to China. The difference may still be significant, but at least it is now starting to shrink. For the first time, a generation has grown believing that it has the ability to define its own future, one significantly better than the previous generation. The heady mix of democracy and entrepreneurship can be the twin pillars for the resurgent India.

Just a few years ago, Indias democracy was seen as one of the reasons it lagged behind an authoritative China. Now, this very open and participative culture is seen as the hidden weapon for long-term growth. And elections are the hallmark of a democracy. So, as India goes to the polls soon, the vote will also be for its future the people elected at every level can make a difference in building tomorrows India. In previous elections, the choice in most cases was between the deep sea and the devil, and it didnt really matter who got elected. Now, with an active media and a populace more aware of its rights and opportunities, elections and our votes do matter. If India has to realise its promise and potential, we, the people, will have to make intelligent, considered choices and actively contribute to building the New India. This is where technology can make a difference.

Tomorrow: Emergent Democracy

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