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Re: Remailer postage

Doug Barnes wrote:

> I strongly agree with Tim that one should not look
> down at for-profit anonymizing services. This is the
> _only_ way I see to establish and maintain reliable
> service and avoid spamming and denial of service.
> It's also the only way such a service can scale if 
> it becomes suddenly popular -- if there's no increased
> revenue, it's going to be harder to get more h/w and
> bandwidth.

Indeed, the problems Julf & Company are having in getting adequate CPU
power is illustrative. I see Julf saying he desperately needs some
more computer power (this was a few months back) and I see others
making the same tired old calls for "donations." (I say tired because
requests that some people make contributions to effectively pay for
the services used freely by others are rarely very effective....look
to the sorry state of public broadcasting "begathons" for one

Instead of pointless beggings of the form "If only everyone who used
Julf's service would send him $5," a pay-per-use system is much more
scalable, and "closes the loop" on who pays. To wit, those that use
the service, pay. Those that don't, don't.

(I understand that Russ Nelson has experience in the shareware
business, so he may know how many people send in their voluntary
contributions. My understanding is that it's a tiny fraction, and that
few shareware authors ever make much money. I've talked to some of
them, and they consider shareware a failed experiment, except for new
products trying to break into crowded markets, where the "shareware"
label is just a facade for essentially giving it away in exchange for
fame and eventual fortune if the product goes commercial.)

> Even if one had a heart of gold and purely charitable
> instincts, one would eventually come to the conclusion
> that such a service operates better if users are 
> paying for it. And this is even before we address matters
> like the benefits of competition.

Precisely. A for-pay remailer can also be pressured by customers to
enhance services, not take the remailer down for frivolous reasons,
etc. It's real hard to ask a "charityware" remailer to honor
comitments, add features, etc.

Simple economics, and free market anarchy. Nobody here is proposing
that fees be set (how could we?), that free remailers be banned
(how?), etc. Those that want to give away their products are free to
do so, just as those who want to charge $25 per remailing are free to
do so.

Free remailers will have a place, but will likely get "discovered" by
spammers and by those who see no costs in adding it to their remailer
chains. Hence, overuse. (More precise than "overuse": crowding, poor
service, flakiness, etc.) Just like anything else in economics.

The users ("the market") will largely determine how it all shakes out.
There are fortunately no government agencies in any of the countries I
know of that claim to be able to set fee schedules, ban "price
gouging," ban "underpricing," or regulate remailers in any practical

service, flakiness, etc.) Just like anything else in economics. 

(Such moves may someday come, but that's another topic.)


Timothy C. May         | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,  
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