Ah – here’s an idea, following on from the last post…

I’ve always wished I could have an email address that cost the sender 1p per message. That would have such a nice effect on spam while not really inconveniencing anyone else, once the system was set up. But here’s a refinement of the idea:

Imagine that, when you sent a message, you could choose how much you wanted to pay. And inboxes were sorted, by default, with the most expensive messages at the top. You could override the order, of course, for friends and family, but would this be a good way of prioritising your email? Or am I taking capitalism too far?

It would have different dynamics, of course, depending on whether the money earned went to the recipient or, say, to a charity of their choice. How about that? If you really want to get my attention, it will involve a £1 donation to Oxfam. (Remember, a transatlantic call might have cost you a lot more than that anyway). I’d even be happy to read a lot of your spam at that rate…


A fun idea. The being paid to read spam concept reminds me of interesting experiments in pay-the-user web advertising in the dot-boom years, and the legendary ad-funded ‘free PC’.

Another related idea is the trusted contact optional priority override. In science fiction from before the days of mobiles, it was routine to have the functionality to allow callers to the hero’s videophone terminal to be played a message saying that the hero was asleep, and asking if their call was important enough to wake them. (Of course it always was.)

Friends of mine have lamented that something like this is entirely technically possible these days in theory, but in practice the restrictions around carriers and hardware/software stacks and APIs make it tricky. The closest you can easily get – to my knowledge – is messing around with a ringtone profile that plays an audible sound for trusted numbers but pure silence for others. But that doesn’t give the trusted callers the ability to make normal-priority calls.

I know people who want this functionality so much that they maintain an entirely separate phone as an ’emergency only’ device – from parents of children with complex care needs to hotshot admins for high-stakes servers.

Taking your point in the comments to your last post, I bet you could hack something like this together with email. You give your trusted contacts a token to be used as a priority override. Then they compose an email to you with that token in it. An app on your phone scans incoming email, and gives a very prominent SMS-like alert when it spots the token in an email. (You could make this as simple as using an arbitrary human-readable string of text as the token, or as complex as the full public key cryptographic monty.) Probably only likely to catch on amongst geeks, though.

Maybe you could include in your idea an adresses list that wouldn’t be charged.

Your idea it’s not considering that for many individuals paying 1p for message could be a problem. This could work for well developed and rich countries, but you are ignoring that not everyone has money to spend like this, in some realities, especially in that countries that have Digital Inclusion Programs it would create a unsolvable problem.

I use in order to avoid spam.

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