Live from the E-mail Authentication Summit: Classes of E-mail “Absolutely Inevitable”

Apr 20, 2006 5:32 AM  By

Chicago–Different classes of e-mail are “absolutely inevitable” if the system is to advance to the point where users can trust it, said Richard Gingras, CEO of Goodmail Systems, the company whose Certified Email program AOL is implementing over the protests of activist group MoveOn.org and others.

The remarks—made at Wednesday’s E-mail Authentication Summit here—could be interpreted as bolstering some of Goodmail’s critics’ arguments. Representatives of groups such as MoveOn.org contend that Certified Email will lead to a two-tiered e-mail delivery system in which senders who pay get more-reliable delivery than those who don’t.

But according to Gingras, senders already pay to get e-mail delivered.

“We’re already in a world, really, where senders are paying to achieve certain ends,” he said. “All of us here [at the summit] represent that to one degree or another…We all look at e-mail and recognize it as the most powerful medium we’ve ever known. People in this room who are e-mail marketers talk regularly about their 4,000% ROI. That’s tremendous.”

Gingras added that while e-mail is becoming a core component of everyday life, “it’s obviously a troubled environment. We’re going to have to advance the system. Classified elements of messaging are going to occur.”

When asked after the panel if he meant classified in terms of delivery, Gingras said, “What the consumer needs to know in this unfortunately unsafe environment called the e-mail inbox is, How can I be comfortable engaging in a message, for instance, from a financial institution or the American Red Cross, and be comfortable that that message is authentic? That requires systems such as ours, which can clearly label those messages as good.”

He added that he does not think different levels of deliverability based on payment are inevitable. “I’m simply talking about how the messages are distinguished in the inbox,” Gingras said.

AOL announced in January that it was adopting Goodmail’s system ,under which bulk e-mailers can pay to have their e-mail certified as nonspam and guaranteed to be delivered with a seal of approval into AOL’s inboxes with graphics and links intact. The announcement fueled a firestorm of criticism in the press, much of which lately has involved picking apart Gingras’s public statements.

“One thing I’ve learned in the last six weeks is that your words will be parsed to the syllable,” Gingras said. “When I say ‘class,’ I mean not every message in the inbox is the same. There are messages that are easily determined as comfortable and safe like a message from my mom. There are lots of messages that are suspect.”