E-Commerce Times Talkback
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A new Internet service is about to test the frontiers of e-mail privacy. DidTheyReadIt.com, which will launch Monday, allows anyone to secretly track e-mails they send. You'll see whether someone opens your e-mail, how long the recipient keeps it open -- even where geographically the recipient is reading it. The reaction could be harsh. "It will freak people out," says Internet expert Esther Dyson. And, added Mitchell Kertzman, a partner at technology investment firm Hummer Winblad, "It violates our electronic space in a way that's as uncomfortable as someone violating our physical space."
This "service," like its competitors MessageTag.com and ReadNotify.com, are doing little more than using simple "web bug" graphic links in HTML emails. Any client configured to read the plaintext alternative will never load the image, and will bypass the "notification." Even more damning is the fact that by default most new mail clients no longer load external images in HTML mails -- partly because of porn-spam, but also partly because spammers using web bugs can tell which addresses are valid.
Put simply, the whole notion is basically DOA. Yes, it will probably work with Aunt Sally, assuming Aunt Sally is using a client from before 2003, and has no nephews to set her on the right path. For anyone else -- not just the super savvy, but literally anybody with reasonably new software -- it's a total waste of time.
Frankly, I'm shocked that Maney didn't bother to check on the actual technical feasibility of this product before posting his story; as is, it's little more than a regurgitated press release.
Kevin I had beta tested an identical service in Austrailia named readnotify.com. I have used their service for the past three years and it works flawlessly. Better yet it is only $36 per year for the premium service.