The Future of Email: What I Want

In this essay, which I learned about from Alex Tabarrok, Paul Graham complains about email. Too easy for someone to send him email. Also slow. He thinks of email as a todo list. Here’s what he wants:

More restrictions on what someone can put on my todo list. And when someone can put something on my todo list, I want them to tell me more about what they want from me. Do they want me to do something beyond just reading some text? How important is it? (There obviously has to be some mechanism to prevent people from saying everything is important.) When does it have to be done?

Here’s what I want: A price per email. A service that charges people for each email they send me (e.g., $1/email). I get most of the price, the company providing the service gets a small percentage (1%?). With two additional features: 1. The initial charge is just for me to look at it. Then, after I read the email, there is a mechanism that allows me to easily charge more to do what they ask, such as give them Shangri-La Diet advice. 2. I can easily put people on a list that allows them to send me email for free.

Since Google already has Google Checkout, it might be relatively easy for them to add this to gmail.

11 Replies to “The Future of Email: What I Want”

  1. A great feature would be allowing people to pay more and being able to see that in the inbox. The $40,000 email gets answered first!

    Seth: Yes, rank them in your inbox by how much was paid. More paid, closer to the top.

  2. I’ll put this on my list of fun things to build. It’s currently in position 2, behind Trailers for Netflix, which is currently in development.

    Important detail: if someone builds this do you swear on your honor that you will use it?

    I should also send you this by email just for the awesome irony.

  3. When email first got popular in Japan, I remember reading about old-school CEOs who would delete unread any emails from people they didn’t know personally.

    I laughed at his backwardness then. Now I’m not so sure.

  4. I wish people could do this for telephone calls, too.

    There is an analogy to this in trading. The person who posts the bid or the offer doesn’t pay the exchange fees, but the price taker who hits the bid or lifts the offer pays the exchange fees.

  5. Now that I think about it, this is what secretaries are for. Someone who knows your needs and wants and can sort your mail by order of importance.

    Stem the tide of disintermediation! Time to re-intermediate.

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