For many of people, sorting through their email every morning is a major time suck. Sifting through personal messages, work emails, proposals (solicited and unsolicited), and spam, then deciding when/how/if to respond takes a lot of effort. By the time you finally get through it all, you’re exhausted, and you haven’t even started working yet. A new program from creator Ivan Paschenko seeks to cut down on the junk with a single, simple measure: Make people pay to email you.
The program, wrte.io, which just launched in beta, seems fairly straightforward: You sign up for the service, and anytime someone tries to email you, s/he will get an invoice. If s/he decides to pay the fee, wrte.io will forward the email to you; if not, the email won’t send. The minimum charge per email is currently 99 cents, though you can charge anything more than that if you’d like. You can elect for the money either to go to you or to be automatically sent to a Watsi, a nonprofit charity that funds health services for people around the world. The process seems simple enough, although I have some questions:
- Is it possible to allow certain people through without paying (so, for instance, your friends could email you for free, but not strangers)?
- Would it be possible to charge someone for a whole conversation, rather than each individual email? (Meaning, if your client emails with a question that results in an exchange, will he or she be charged for every part of that?)
I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it would be great to have a disincentive for people who insist on sending you stuff you don’t want — like promotions, junk, and “exciting investment opportunities!” On the other, making someone pay actual money simply for the honor of sending you a message — with no guarantee that you’ll even respond to it — seems elitist and wrong, with the potential for creating a situation in which only people with money are able to communicate with you in even the simplest way.
In an interview for The Daily Dot, Paschenko dismisses the idea that wrte.io could “create a ‘pay-to-play’ problem,” comparing the email fee with the expense of a postage stamp when sending a letter. I would argue that his equating of the wrte.io fee with the cost of postage is rather specious as it fails to take into account the fact that someone sending an email is already subject to the expenses of having access to both a computer and the Internet. Nevertheless, I can think of certain situations for which the program would come in handy. It could be used, for example, as a simple way of charging people for services. Let’s say you have a résumé-reading service; you could set up a separate email account just for résumés, and people could pay your fee simply through the email interface. Yes, I know, I’m a business genius. I think we’ll just have to see how wrte.io plays out—will it be used for good or for evil?
Images: Giphy (2)