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Apr 9, 2004
Comments Off on should spam filters be free for ISP users?

should spam filters be free for ISP users?

– need for premium email

I wanted to make some comments in relation to both this syndicated article and to a recent thread on ISP-CEO about whether “for pay” spam filtering (us, postini, brightmail, etc.) could be charged for or need be included for free to access customers.

The opening in the article is very important:

“Drumroll please. I'm here to unfurl the E-Mail Declaration of Independence.

Article One: Your e-mail address should be your personal property, not tied to your Internet service provider, employer or school.

Article Two: Your e-mail should be managed online, so you can retrieve both new and saved messages from any computer or mobile device that's connected to the Internet.

Article Three: If you've followed Articles One and Two, you are free to change your e-mail host and your Internet service provider at any time without the hassle of having to tell family, friends and co-workers that your address has changed.”

I have talked in the past about the big problem with email and service providers being that they view email exclusively as a cost centre and not as a profit centre. This has the effect of thinking about it as a necessary evil that need be provided as efficiently as possible. Even Mike Langberg gets that this is not the case.

Email is used by every Internet user. Only 10% or so need websites. Yet we as an industry sell websites and give away email.

When a service provider thinks about email as a source of revenue, as a profit centre, they start looking at it through a different prism.

EVERY service provider, each one of you, whether ISP, hosting company, web designer or other, should have a premium email offering that includes:

– domain name

– webmail

– LOTS of storage


– top-tier spam filtering

– anti-virus

You should also have a low-end free offering (“1000 free pop boxes with the $3.95 shared hosting package!” which to me is like free peanuts at a bar) which should be viewed as a cost centre AND as a contrast to the premium offering.

Look at what the guy in the article is paying! $95 for a name, an email box and some features!!! Charge $35 and you are making lots of margin even if you outsource everything (As you should). Believe me Netsol is selling LOTS of boxes to LOTS of Mike Langbergs. Let's not even talk about the $12 for url forwarding :-).

Thinking about selling email as opposed to giving it away is a change in mindset that service providers should make. You can tell me all you want about it not working. I have the empirical data not a feeling. I tried selling it myself using google adwords (and I mean myself right down to the copy). It worked.

– email as strategic in world of multiple service providers

Mar 15, 2004
Comments Off on go to where the puck is going

go to where the puck is going

This looks promising.

John Keegan has done a GREAT job of innovating on top of blogware. There is  a huge opportunity here folks. Much more interesting than another 10 pop accounts in a web hosting package!

Feb 9, 2004
Comments Off on the battle for access is not yet lost

the battle for access is not yet lost

In the past I have talked about how access, the ISP business, was the only Internet service where telcos and cablecos actually had a meaningful market presence. In webhosting, email and domain registration they are almost non-existant.

They have done well in access, well more specifically broadband access (they generally sucked at dialup), because of the high infrastructure costs, the regulatory environment and their huge legal departments.

Well, lawyers as a competitive variable tends to be a short-term strategy. I have started to come around to the view that the battle for access is far from over. In fact I am now starting to believe…hmmmm…recognize that where we are today is simply a point on a long continuum.

I have been mulling on this for a while as we wait for penetration from 802.16 to come. It seems to me that with long haul bandwidth cheap and getting cheaper, something providing 30km coverage will get most providers most of the way. And here providers will not need telcos in any way. In fact they will nibble around the edges, skimming off the juiciest bits first before the telcos even know what hit them.

Then I recently read this which can change the calculus again. I have always thought that broadband over power was the best long-term solution and could indeed win in a fair fight. I of course recognize that these fights are rarely, if ever, fair.

Think about it. The typical home has 2 or 3 cable jacks, 4? 5? 6? phone jacks, but plugs all over the place! 2 or 3 just in one room! It’s a lan-in-a-box!

Now wifi makes that less relevant, but I like the idea of packets just coursing through the walls of my house. And I cannot imagine the utilities having the same illusions that they can deal with end-users that telcos and cablecos hold.

Lastly, what I also find interesting about this is that it is likely to be other Internet services that provide the foothold for providers to sell access. You get your hosting from me? How about a 30mb connection? I like it alot.

Jan 19, 2004
Comments Off on who is doing who a favour?

who is doing who a favour?

 I was reminded today of the importance of customer service and how it is really a matter of culture that permeates attitude.

My business credit card expired this month and I received a new one. I primarily use it for travel and the odd other business expense, but I also use it for my home internet account (if revenue canada is reading be assured that almost all of my time at home online is spent working. no joke).

Literally one day after my assistant gave me my new card my wife told me she had received two calls from Bell Sympatico about an urgent matter. They would not discuss it with her nor allow her to try and help them identify what the problem was. They simply told her that I had to call them immediately.

Now I must digress here to say that I can sometimes be a pain in the ass to suppliers if I do not feel they are acting appropriately, but my wife is someone who will bend over backwards to give them the benefit of the doubt. She will try and imagine that they may be having a bad day, or have difficult jobs or other attempts at empathy. This is useful in her profession (criminal law). She is exceeded in her empathy by no one, except perhaps my assistant (more on that later).

My wife informed me that they were quite curt and assured her that this was an extremely important matter that she could not help them with. She told them that I was quite busy and may not get back to them immediately to which she says they replied “well if he wants Internet access he will have to make the time”.

The next morning, this past Friday, I informed my assistant of my wife's conversation. She reminded me that my card had expired and set off to rectify the situation. Late that day she informed me that she was unable to settle the matter. After much time on hold and despite the fact that she was able to give them great detail about my account and life (my pin number, which is an arcane bit of Bell ID that I do not even know or use, my credit card number, the old expiry date, every bit of name, rank and serial number that they could possibly want to know about me and some they certainly wouldn't want to know), they would NOT take the new expiry date from her. She told them what the problem was and they wouldn't let her solve it. They insisted on speaking to me. In fact, she says they told her “we know it would be in our best interests to take the number from you, but we are not allowed to”! Orwellian.

On Saturday I enjoyed “boys day” with my five-year-old son as my daughter and wife engaged in their own pursuits. We put the seat up first thing in the morning and generally have a great time. After a hard week of work it is indeed one of my greatest pleasures. We were engaged in our usual pursuits until suddenly at 5:20 pm my Internet access went dead (I was looking for a spongebob walkthrough [note to revcan: a rare example of personal packets]). It had been working all day. I then recalled the whole Sympatico thing and set out to rectify it.

I called the number I had/knew. I stayed on hold for 30 minutes or so listening to the inane upsell/cross-sell hold message (just use a radio station for goodness sake. all the upsell does is remind me of how long I have been on hold). Then the line went to a ring. Good, finally a person. It rang and rang and rang and rang. For ten minutes. I gave up and started again. Only this time I was informed that the business office was open Saturday 8am-6pm and closed on Sunday. Thank you, goodbye.

Here is what it felt/feels like to me. They were at a minimum curt and at a maximum rude to my wife. They were at a minimum officious and at a maximum stupid with my assistant. Then someone turned off my packets at precisely the right time to cause me maximum grief (I am writing this on a packet-less Sunday). At every step they have acted like THEY are doing ME the favour rather than the other way around. This was an expiry date on a credit card. I was paying THEM. I wasn't trying to borrow money. Were they worried about the ring of bad guys going around paying other people's bills? And you know what? It is not the expiry date thing that really angers me. It is the attitude shown on not one, but three occasions.

I will now immediately move to another provider. I am sure I will have a glitch or two. I don't care. There are so many lessons here. Including:

– The customer is always doing the supplier the favour. always. I feel this way. I think and hope every employee at Tucows feels this way (and I know this can't be in absolutely every single interaction, but I wish it were). If you think we are acting differently let me know;

– Marketing products is about doing great things or cool things (think about Ferraris or iPods). Marketing services is about not doing bad things;

– Large companies, especially those with monopoloy or oligopoly backgrounds, are extremely challenged culturally to provide great customer service;

– Dsl and IP-over-cable are just points on a line and over time there will be competitive markets for access just like there are now for hosting and the telcos and cablecos WILL NOT WIN;

I was (past tense) a Sympatico customer for years. The service was generally ok. Not great. Some bad things, but mostly good things. This experience was horrible.

That's all it takes sometimes. We should all remember that.

Jan 5, 2004
Comments Off on thanks


As I think back on 2003 and look forward to 2004 to I wanted to take a few moments to thank our customers, to thank you all, for a number of different things. Most people, certainly me included, don't spend enough time giving thanks and saying thanks so I thought I would start the year off with a few thoughts in that regard.

Thank you for choosing to do business with us. This is a competitive market with many choices. The loyalty that you have shown as a group is amazing. At Tucows we have been talking for years about relationships. Even before Tucows was providing domain registration services we talked all the time about our relationships with software developers and ISPs that partnered with us (and still do) around our download libraries. I used to say at employee meetings that we were a company of relationships and relationships are a function of trust and trust is a function of time AND there was no substitute or shortcut for time. We need to work on relationships every day. You guys have responded to that and have made us feel, made me feel, like we have partners in that relationship. Thank you for that.

Thank you for thanking us. I get to attend many conferences and trade shows each year and wherever I go (and I mean wherever) I meet partners of ours. And you always thank Tucows. You thank us for putting you first. You thank us for talking to you and you thank us for listening. You thank us for being able to criticize us. Amazingly, even the few of you who choose to leave often take the time to thank us (and thank us for still being there when you come back). I like to send different people from the company to conferences from time to time simply to allow them to feel the warm feelings we receive from you all. It is great to feel appreciated and you make us, make me, feel appreciated all the time. Thank you for that.

Thank you for providing your customers with great service and for doing well in your businesses. First the big statement. You guys have effectively beaten the telcos and cablecos when it comes to Internet services. The only Internet service where they have any traction is broadband and that is because of infrastructure, legal and regulatory reasons. NOT because of service. NOT because of strategy. We only do well when you do well and you are doing well. You deserve it. You work hard and you work smart. You value your customers relationships like we value yours. You recognize that services are rarely bought on price and when they are it is usually by those not interested in long-term relationships. Many years ago we made a bet, I made a bet, on small and medium-sized service providers. Thanks you for justifying that faith.

I consider myself very lucky on both a personal and professional level. I am lucky to work with and for all of the people who make up Tucows. I am lucky to have the great customer relationships with all of you. Thanks to all of you and I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2004.



I am elliot noss.

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