The cost of free email

It used to cost us a small amount of money to mail a physical letter. However, email is absolutely free. Or is it?

My Gmail inbox has 4,534 unread emails. This is without accounting for the ‘Social’ and ‘Promotions’ folders. All those emails have gotten there despite the sorting algorithms and the spam filters. What’s more? This sorting isn’t perfect – occasionally, good email flows into the ‘Promotions’ or the spam folders. Retrieving those emails is like sifting through your trash for something precious that your roommate accidentally disposed.

Since email is free, it costs somebody just as much money to send a million emails as it does to send ten emails. At some point, when a certain kind of person realizes that sending a thousand emails is going to earn them ten dollars, it won’t be long before they scale up to a million. To deal with this deluge, Gmail builds in priority, spam filters and sorting algorithms even as we learn to ignore certain emails and dive into the dumpster for others.

The act of sending an email maybe free, but the act of using email cost us time, attention and resources. Could several of those problems be mitigated by charging a small (minute) fee for every email sent – just like the good old postal service still does?

Inspiration: Akimbo

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