Last week I was disturbed by the announcement that AOL was going to eliminate their enhanced whitelist. It was reported that they were doing this as part of a new program they were implementing to provide a pay-for-access program for mailers using Goodmail’s stamp program. I’m indifferent to AOL providing Goodmail’s stamp program as an option (the market will determine whether or not it works), but I thought it was a horrible idea to eliminate the organic enhanced whitelist and force all mailers to use the stamp program to pay for access to consumers’ email inboxes. I expressed my opinion publicly and forcefully (oh – the joys of having a blog that more than two people (me and Amy) read.)
Charles Stiles from AOL commented that night on my post that “AOL will continue to offer IP-based white list and enhanced white list privileges to mailers that do not wish to take advantage of the CertifiedEmail program. As long as there is market demand and operational need for these services, AOL will continue to operate them.” There continued to be plenty of confusion and contradictory information in the market, based off a “confidential document embargoed until January 30th” that stated that AOL would eliminate the enhanced whitelist on June 30, 2006.
Matt Blumberg – who runs Return Path (a company I’m an investor in) – finally connected with Charles Stiles on Monday – and confirmed that AOL is keeping the enhanced whitelist and has no plans to eliminate it. This addresses the fundamental issue that I expressed in my post. While I continue to think that allowing mailers to pay for access to the inbox is a bad idea, as long as ISPs provide an organic option for mailers to earn their way through consistently good behavior into the inbox, I’m happy.
It doesn’t really matter whether AOL reversed a decision or the initial press interpretation was incorrect. What matters is that AOL has been thoughtful about this and is choosing a customer-friendly approach to keeping the bad stuff out and letting the good stuff in. I felt it was worth publicly acknowledging that as a bookend to my initial reaction to what was announced. AOL – thanks. Yes Jason – I’m happy.