Three news stories are converging and will affect email publishers sooner or later:
In an interview with the daily e-marketing industry newsletter DIRECT Newsline, Michael Mayor, who chairs the Internet Advertising Bureau's email committee, said he has asked representatives of the Direct Marketing Association and the email committees of the Association for Interactive Marketing and the Network Advertising Initiative to agree on standard definitions for "opt-in," "opt-out," and "double," "single" and "confirmed" opt-in.
"It's very important before any laws get passed to agree on opt-in definitions," said Mayor, who also heads NetCreations/ PostMasterDirect.com. "Permission is going to be part of any legislation."
Each of those industry organizations defines those terms in different ways, apparently.
Expect to spend more time either authenticating your sending address to Earthlink users or deleting Earthlinkers who Earthlink's new anti-spam service, which the company said today it will begin testing for its 5 million subscribers.
News stories said today Earthlink expects its users will adopt the optional free service, which operates like Spam Arrest, Mailblocks, Matador and similar services that require senders to visit a Web site in order to get their emails delivered.
Others are doubtful and even predict that sender verification could go the way of other spam-fighting devices once the spammers get hold it them.
If you're on the fence about whether you should respond to a verification request, consider what computer consultant and author John R. Levine told The Washington Post: Spammers have begun disguising emails as challenges in order to get people to open them. Also, hackers looking for viable email addresses could target users' approved-sender address books.
Again, is this something you should worry about? Consider the unscientific public response to an online poll the Post posted next to its story on its site: Over half of the respondents said they "absolutely" agreed that other ISPs should do what Earthlink is doing, while a third agreed with the statement "Don't know, but anything to curtail spam is a step in the right direction," and only 12 percent feared they might lose messages they want.
Also, the Post story said Earthlink's three biggest competitors -- AOL, Yahoo! and MSN -- are evaluating similar systems.