Uh oh. This can't be good. AOL and Yahoo are about to start instituting a system of email "postage", giving preferential treatment to emails which have been specially designated as having a higher priority status attached to them (meaning these higher priority emails will be less likely to be inadvertantly removed from the system because of the use of spam filters and the like). Of course, getting your email designated as a high priority item will cost money (although maybe as little as a quarter of a cent).
The system is meant to help email providers filter out junk mail ( which by some estimates comprises 60% of all email sent) which is surely an understandable goal, but I guess I'm just not sure why they're so confident that mass marketers won't just accept the small fee as a normal part of doing business and continue to send junk mail anyway (although AOL and Yahoo have both said this would make them very angry). Ultimately, it just seems like we're taking a step backward if we have to start paying for something that we've already been getting for free for over a decade. Now if my email provider could promise me that the U.S. government or anyone else would not be able to intercept and spy on my email if I paid a tiny fee, then that might be something that I would be willing to pay for.