Had this idea
January 31, 2001 1:34 AM   Subscribe

Had this idea about a year ago over beer, when netthings were a-cookin', fleshed it out with some geek-comrades, pitched it under an NDA to a VC, got the green light, and then chickened out and went back to the day job. Once you really thought it through and calculated the wired populace as a percentage of the unwired, we figured, the idea was fabulous, a service to The People and a MoneyMaker. Now someone else seems to have had the same idea, more or less. I wish them luck. If it takes off, I'm gonna feel mighty dumb, and if it tanks, mighty lucky. Now I can finally ask the MeFi jury...Silly thing or smart?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken (17 comments total)
I'd probably use a service like this. It's not a new idea, though. I remember British Telecom Gold had such a service back in the 80's.
posted by viama at 1:57 AM on January 31, 2001

MCIMail offered it in the U.S. too, back when the bulletin board was king and the Web hadn't been invented yet.
posted by rcade at 3:01 AM on January 31, 2001

"Zairmail letters are better than free -- because they include attractive offers from advertisers, targeted to the demographics and personal interests of the letter recipient."

Did this guy used to work for doubleckick....?

Seriously though, if I were sending mail to a friend, I hand write it, if I were writing to a company I wouldn't want advertising on it.
I'm not sure if I'd find many uses for this since it's more expensive than a first-class stamp (in the UK anyway).

posted by Markb at 5:06 AM on January 31, 2001

AOL has (had?) a similar system. You had to pay for it, though. The ads - that's a stroke of genius. If some company wants to sponsor my personal correspondence, then let them.

Perfect for the geek that never leaves the net, but wants to communicate with his Luddite parents. Of course, my mom has e-mail, and I still never write. I'm a bad son.
posted by Jart at 6:10 AM on January 31, 2001

No way. This idea's a dog. Personal snail mail is dead, as far as net users are concerned. If I want to communicate with someone who doesn't have email (although I'm hard pressed to think of someone who doesn't--even my grandparents are wired), I'll call them. Of course, I'm not the intended target, but it seems to me that the audience for such a service is shrinking every day. A shrinking consumer base doesn't make for a very solid business model.

And even if I wanted to send a letter, I'd pay the $.34 rather than subjecting the recipient to Valu-Pak coupons (not to mention sentencing them to life on the advertisers' mailing list).
posted by jpoulos at 6:47 AM on January 31, 2001

But what about bulk snail mail spam. You can send your message to anyone for free. I think it's pretty cool, but I have to agree with Jpoulos that "A shrinking consumer base doesn't make for a very solid business model"
posted by Outlawyr at 6:53 AM on January 31, 2001

I think the bulk of their income will come from their Direct Mail products for businesses, which seem like a good idea.
posted by Doug at 6:56 AM on January 31, 2001

Back in the day, GEnie had such a service, too: Mail to US Mail. You'd have to pony up a buck or two, but they would basically print out your email on (their) letterhead and mail it off. Of course, because you paid, you had no ads.

It'll be interesting to see if it flies or nosedives. It'll also be interesting to see how many people don't write letters anymore.
posted by hijinx at 6:57 AM on January 31, 2001

Speaking of snails .... the website's splash page would be fine as an advertising postcard or something, but the HTML is poorly written and takes too long to load.
posted by jragon at 7:50 AM on January 31, 2001

. . . and the logo looks like one of those After Dark flying toasters crashed into a snail's butt.
posted by lileks at 8:19 AM on January 31, 2001

... and if those are the snail's eyes googling over his head then why is he wearing a visor?

I can't imagine I'd use this service for more than a lark. I hate advertising and feel like I'm swimming in bad ads. I wouldn't subject a friend to what seems like an even more impersonal form of communication.
posted by amanda at 8:47 AM on January 31, 2001

Did anyone notice the
icon that is associated with it when you add it to your favorites?
Do they own a piece of everything?
posted by fatbaq at 9:14 AM on January 31, 2001

the tiny criminal hard at work in my brain wonders whether or not one could threaten someone via mail now. after all, i wasn't the one who sent it, Zairmail did it! they just appended my name to their threatening letter. and, hey, who's to say that i cannot sign up for a bogus account in YOUR name and send threatening letters as you via Zair.

this idea deserves to fail. if i want to go through the trouble of writing a personal, handwritten letter the last thing i want is for the recipient to receive a computer generated version covered with ads. defeats the whole purpose of a letter. i'll spend the 35ยข (US $)
posted by donkeysuck at 9:45 AM on January 31, 2001

I've occasionally wished I could fire off a letter to some unwired soul without digging around for a bunch of ancient implements (paper, pen, envelope, stamp, return label.) But I'd rather pay a buck than wonder what personal hygeine product ad is going to appear on my letter.

Also, the unforgiveably dumb snail logo, with eyestalks protruding *past* a helmet & goggles - sheesh - does not bode well...
posted by Tubes at 9:54 AM on January 31, 2001

I think it was Andy Rooney who suggested that handwritten letters should not require postage... I like that idea.

And it would be cool if any advertising required double postage. Ha!

But anyway, if you send someone one of these, they're just going to realize what a cheap lazy cretin you are. It'll be too embarrassing to use.
posted by beth at 1:06 PM on January 31, 2001

"This idea's a dog. Personal snail mail is dead, as far as net users are concerned."

"this idea deserves to fail."

This idea works. But not in North America. It's already being used widely in India. Indian expatriates can send emails to companies that print them out and mail them to the intended recipients - relatives who probably don't have access to electricity, let alone PCs. And they can do it for free (++).

There are billions of non-net-users in the world, and an awful lot of them can read.
posted by rory at 2:46 PM on January 31, 2001

That was one of the things that originally made it an interesting idea - not necessarily only a service within America only (or Australia, which is where I live) - but worldwide, with 'Postal Points of Presence'. Roll that around for a while in your brain.... and factor in the 'billions of non-net-users mentioned by rory... I'm still not sure it's a truly bad idea, but I am sure that with the right partners in place, it's not a dog...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:57 PM on February 1, 2001

« Older Salon tightens its belt...   |   A short critique of "Boo 2" at Evolt. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments