Tyler Winklevoss Suggests Elon Musk Charge a BTC ‘Digital Postage Fee’ to Accept Emails
People like Elon Musk receive thousands of emails per day. It’s impossible to separate serious emails from joke emails. But Gemini’s Tyler Winklevoss has a suggestion for Elon Musk: start charging a fee in BTC.
In a tweet to Elon Musk, Winklevoss envisioned a crypto-fueled, market-based email ecosystem where people can charge a ‘digital postage fee’ to make sure people are serious before sending an email.
“I can’t wait until crypto makes email market-based. Sending an email to @elonmusk and effectively renting his time to read it would have a price, sending an email to someone else would have another price, and so on.”
I can't wait until crypto makes email market-based. Sending an email to @elonmusk and effectively renting his time to read it would have a price, sending an email to someone else would have another price, and so on.
— Tyler Winklevoss (@tylerwinklevoss) May 12, 2019
Of course, this idea may already sound familiar to crypto users. Earn.com, for example, gives users the ability to earn bitcoin by replying to emails and completing tasks. Influential figures – including Silicon Valley execs and venture capitalists – use the platform to charge people in crypto for the privilege of reading an email.
A platform called Elephant Grass proposed a similar solution. Launched as a side project by Kraken CEO Jesse Powell, Elephant Grass allowed users to block any emails that didn’t have a small amount of BTC attached to it. At the time, Powell suggested that an average user would charge a nominal fee like 0.0005 BTC to accept an email, although a true A-lister like Kanye West could charge 5 BTC.
Winklevoss acknowledged that providers like Earn.com already exist. However, he wants to think even bigger than that, enabling crypto-based email economies for platforms like Gmail:
“They [Earn.com and others] are doing this, but I’m talking about large email providers like Google giving you the option to require someone to send you crypto in order for their email to reach you. It could be a simple setting in the Gmail app and wouldn’t require switching costs.”
“Spam Would Be Decimated”
One of the advantages of a system like the one proposed by Winklevoss is that “spam would be decimated”:
“Spam would be decimated and you would be one click away from anyone in the world as long as you were willing to put your money were your mouth was,” added Winklevoss in his Twitter thread on the topic.
A similar idea is actually what motivated the launch of proof of work systems in the 1990s, long before bitcoin was invented. Hashcash, for example, was the world’s first proof of work system. It required users to ‘prove’ they did ‘work’ in order to combat email spam.
A user’s computer would have to solve a complicated math puzzle, then provide proof of the solution to that puzzle, before the email was sent. Legitimate emails could get through, but hackers couldn’t send millions of emails without penalty. It didn’t cost anything except a bit of your computer’s processing power.
Why Not Hire a Secretary?
Several commenters in Tyler Winklevoss’s thread have asked a simple question: people like Elon Musk already have people who sift through incoming emails. They’re called secretaries or administrative assistants.
Why would we replace these people with a costly crypto-based system? In response, Winklevoss claimed that secretaries and administrative assistants aren’t perfect: they could miss a gem:
“Perhaps [an office assistant could perform the same role], but then he [Elon Musk] might miss a gem. He is more likely to read this type of email than the same email hidden like a needle in a haystack of spam. This could change how people actually viewed email…Also, if he wasn’t reading emails in earnest people would stop sending them and he’d stop earning fees. Perhaps you could integrate a reputation system to this as well.”
Of course, others argue that a cost-based system just leads to another problem: only wealthy people would be able to communicate with one another. Anyone not willing to pay, say, 1 BTC to contact Elon Musk would have her voice drowned out – no matter how good her idea may be.
Elon Musk is usually very active on social media, but he has not yet responded to the proposed idea from Tyler Winklevoss.