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[P]
Postal Service grasping at straws?

By gandalf_grey in News
Sat May 13, 2000 at 03:24:46 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)
Internet

Whats the deal with the USPS (as described in a recent CNN story, and Canada Post? Being a northerner myself, Canada Posts attempts at the e-commerce game have bothered me for some time. I realize of course that they are probably losing their letter/postcard business due to the intrusion of the internet, email, and (sort of) free forms of instant communications.

However, it disturbs me to see these guys, so late in the game, trying to rescue themselves from oblivion by entering the "e-postal" game. Whatever for? Packages, parcels, and all kinds of other items "must" be sent through the postal service. Whyever compete in a field where they so obviously lose, when they have no need for competition.

Canada Posts much touted electronic post office, is an absolute mystery to me. Why use their service to pay bills, when I can pay them through my banks electronic services? I need no intermediary here... you've been cut out of the picture guys...

What think you?


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Display: Sort:
Postal Service grasping at straws? | 53 comments (53 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
$1.70 per transactionYeah, like peo... (none / 0) (#9)
by skim123 on Fri May 12, 2000 at 04:52:46 PM EST

skim123 voted 1 on this story.

$1.70 per transaction

Yeah, like people are gonna pay for "secure" email when there already exists PGP, digital signatures, strong encryption, etc. gandalf made a good point: the postal office should stick to what it does well, focusing its time and money on perfecting that, lowering prices, etc.

Pick one thing and do that one thing exceptionally well...

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


Re: $1.70 per transactionYeah, like peo... (none / 0) (#36)
by scheme on Sat May 13, 2000 at 09:56:04 PM EST

Yeah, like people are gonna pay for "secure" email when there already exists PGP, digital signatures, strong encryption, etc. gandalf made a good point: the postal office should stick to what it does well, focusing its time and money on perfecting that, lowering prices, etc.

PGP, encryption and the like do not give you assurances as to the time the message was sent. You might be pretty confident about the sender and the message but you're not sure about the time the message was sent. The post office would give you a verification that a given message was sent on a certain date and time.


"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity." --Albert Einstein


[ Parent ]
The intended recipient gets an e-ma... (none / 0) (#2)
by Emacs on Fri May 12, 2000 at 05:07:41 PM EST

Emacs voted 1 on this story.

The intended recipient gets an e-mail notification that a document has been sent to them and that it can be accessed via the URL provided.

I can understand the idea behind this and actually it makes a little sense in the business world. It's easy to tell your boss "Uh..no..I ..uh... never got that email" when it's convenient to do so. I have customers who want documents and software emailed to them and I always feel a little funny just zipping them up, sending them off, and trusting that they got it.

I'm surprised that some enterprising company didn't come up with this idea before, or maybe someone has, I don't know.

Interesting topic. I myself have be... (none / 0) (#17)
by DemiGodez on Fri May 12, 2000 at 05:13:59 PM EST

DemiGodez voted 1 on this story.

Interesting topic. I myself have been impressed by some of the things the USPS is doing to leverage the web (selling stamps online, selling pre-paid envelopes online, offering info lookup). My favorite is when you move, you can have it genenerate the change of address form which make it infinetly more accurate than the cards you fill out at the post office. Unfortunately, you still have to sign it and mail it in.

The post office does more than just... (4.50 / 2) (#28)
by maynard on Fri May 12, 2000 at 05:17:30 PM EST

maynard voted -1 on this story.

The post office does more than just forward paper SPAM, bills and letters; they also deliver packages (at a very reasonable price). While they will have to compete with commercial package shipping firms, I see no reason to dismantle the post office any time soon -- anyway, smail mail and the written document is still an important legal mechanism which cryptographic signatures have yet overtake in acceptance. I don't think this story is worth posting because I think the primary argument is flawed.

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.

They are excellently suited to the ... (3.50 / 2) (#25)
by crossetj on Fri May 12, 2000 at 05:33:41 PM EST

crossetj voted 1 on this story.

They are excellently suited to the "Trusted third party" role. Regardless of all the "postal service sucks and is slow" jokes people have been using these services to get the job done for a long period of time. They have a reputation to uphold stronger than any startup could aspire to. For example there is the oft quoted problem of a time stamp service for email. If Canada Post were to setup this service backed by Canadian law it could, if properly designed and reviewd be used to electronically sign and date documents by an agency that could easily be trusted by other nations.

They are trying to get in to the 21... (2.00 / 1) (#18)
by bladerunner on Fri May 12, 2000 at 05:41:34 PM EST

bladerunner voted 1 on this story.

They are trying to get in to the 21st century/high tech age. If you can print postage for packages, letters parcels or whatever or If you sell stuff/auction stuff online and are able to print postage for those items from your computer and don't have to go to the post office except to get insurance forms, its touted as a huge convenience. I support one of these e-postage products and the customers agree that it is a huge time saver because they don't have to wait in line at the post office. They just print the postage, stick it on the parcels/envelopes/whatever, let the postal carrier pick it up and they can go about doing real business related stuff. The postal service gets paid when the custoemr buys postage. Its an age of convenience- 10 minute microwave meals, pay-per-view movies (no need to leave eh house), streaming media (watch your favorite muscal groups new video on the net), banking online (bill pay, balance transfers), internet office (Sun and M$ and Applixware's 'thin client' office products). Convenience. Why shouldnt the usps cash in on the deal? If your not dot-com, your dead, so goes the saying.
-Ex-slashdotter. I love cats, but hate Katz.

Why the USPS should get out of the delivery busine (none / 0) (#41)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun May 14, 2000 at 02:24:46 PM EST

It is not the government's mandate to pursue profitable ventures. This is how Europe got into trouble - the government running businesses. The government should leave profitable enterprise to private citizens, and reduce the size of government.

Letting the government enter any profitable market is inherently anti-competitive.

[ Parent ]

The post office is completely obsol... (3.00 / 1) (#15)
by hooty on Fri May 12, 2000 at 05:53:40 PM EST

hooty voted 1 on this story.

The post office is completely obsolute for everything except when physical transport is necessary. It shouldn't evolve into an electronic post office, who needs it? They should use their money to steamline handling and move physical things faster.

what?... (none / 0) (#24)
by haiku san on Fri May 12, 2000 at 06:52:00 PM EST

haiku san voted -1 on this story.

what?

This article is unfortunately found... (none / 0) (#1)
by rusty on Fri May 12, 2000 at 06:55:17 PM EST

rusty voted 0 on this story.

This article is unfortunately founded upon the mistasken assumption that the USPS is in some kind of "death agony". The USPS is a *hugely* profitable business, and getting more so every year. It's the only federally-controlled agency to actually make a profit, consistently. I don't know what the situation is in Canada, but I'm guessing that the motivation here is not to save the farm, but to expand their already burgeoning empire.

____
Not the real rusty

ANY IDIOT CAN FIGURE OUT WHY USPS IS PROFITABLE (none / 0) (#40)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun May 14, 2000 at 02:21:03 PM EST

THE POST OFFICE IS PROFITABLE BECAUSE THEY RAISE PRICES WHENEVER THEY LIKE.

HOW STUPID CAN YOU BE?????????

If there was any competition in the market for daily mail delivery (which, as NON-IDIOT knows, is prohibited by law - only the USPS can deliver daily mail - can you say MONOPOLY????), then the USPS wouldn't be able to raise prices at a whim.

Wow, this forum is truly filled with the clueless.

[ Parent ]

Re: ANY IDIOT CAN FIGURE OUT WHY USPS IS PROFITABL (none / 0) (#42)
by rusty on Sun May 14, 2000 at 02:56:43 PM EST

Huh? Oh, hi troll. The forum wasn't filled with the clueless before... but now you're here.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: ANY IDIOT CAN FIGURE OUT WHY USPS IS PROFITABL (none / 0) (#43)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun May 14, 2000 at 03:32:30 PM EST

Guess you don't have anything useful to say about your own fundamental misunderstanding of the issue raised.



[ Parent ]

Re: ANY IDIOT CAN FIGURE OUT WHY USPS IS PROFITABL (none / 0) (#44)
by rusty on Sun May 14, 2000 at 05:00:28 PM EST

Ok, explain to me how I am misunderstanding the issue raised? And what exactly is the issue raised? You mean the USPS's monopoly on mail delivery, or the "high price" of mail, or is this actually about the original article, and the postal service's move toward e-commerce? It's all well and good to type in all caps and call everyone an idiot, but you haven't yet said anything very comprehensible about the claim that the USPS is an evil monopoly. Ok, they are the only ones allowed to deliver mail. Yup, they can raise prices when they want to. What does this have to do with certified email? What are you so upset about?

FWIW, I very much doubt you have anything non-flamey to say. But I'm trying to give you a chance here...

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: ANY IDIOT CAN FIGURE OUT WHY USPS IS PROFITABL (none / 0) (#45)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun May 14, 2000 at 05:39:08 PM EST

It's all well and good to type in all caps and call everyone an idiot, but you haven't yet said anything very comprehensible about the claim that the USPS is an evil monopoly.

Lets go over it again:

  • The USPS is the only private or public organization that is allowed to deliver yor daily mail. It is illegal for Fedex and UPS to set up a competing daily mail service, yet it is certainly within their means and infrastructure to do so, and do so profitably.
  • The USPS raises prices whenever they want, without your consent. Since you have no ability to use a competing service, you simply have no choice but to compy with the price increase. After all the convoluted arguments about Microsoft being a monopoly, I'm amazed that this example eludes you.

So now you ask what I am so upset about? The notion that the federal government competes in a market that could be profitably serviced by private industry, giving consumers the benefit of competition.

This is THEFT - the government is stealing OPPORTUNITY from you - the OPPORTUNITY to make a profit off of this service. The USPS is a joke - its a make-work project for the unemployable. As for "trusting" the USPS with secure mailings - what a joke - doesn't anyone watch 60 Minutes anymore? Don't you remember their cute little curveillance videos of postal employees opening letters on a whim, looking for checks?

Hence I react violently to any slight inference that the USPS is even remotely viable because it makes a profit - simply because this argument is founded on false premises.

[ Parent ]

Re: ANY IDIOT CAN FIGURE OUT WHY USPS IS PROFITABL (none / 0) (#46)
by rusty on Sun May 14, 2000 at 06:12:05 PM EST

Now we're getting somewhere. You see, you could have said all this the first time and skipped the three or four posts that are just random flamage.

Ok, I'm as pro-free enterprise as anyone else, and as to the question of whether private business could do a better job than the postal service, I have no answer. We've never tried it, so you could make a convincing argument either way.

The postal service was a governement business originally because there wasn't the free-enterprise infrastructure to ensure that mail could be delivered reliably by a private company. This is no longer true, so maybe it is high time the US Gov't released it's monopoly on mail delivery.

This argument hedges very close to my own personal pet peeve, which is the public school system. I believe it is important for children to have access to free, high-qulity schooling. The government thought so too, so they instituted the public school system. That was all well and good, but I think that public schools have long outlived their usefulness, and are now more often than not just pits of educational mediocrity into which we pour public funds. Like you think the government should be out of the mail business, I think it should be out of the education business. So, though I haven't put as much thought into the postal service issue, seeing the parallell I can see your point. But how to go about it? Is the government going to give up it's big-ass cash cow? I doubt it. How does UPS stack up with the postal service in the package delivery market? I expect the results would be similar in daily mail.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: ANY IDIOT CAN FIGURE OUT WHY USPS IS PROFITABL (none / 0) (#47)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun May 14, 2000 at 06:43:38 PM EST

But how to go about it? Is the government going to give up it's big-ass cash cow? I doubt it.

The pressure is most likely not emanating from Washington, but from organized labor that loves having a pool of protected jobs for the unemployable.

As was discovered in Europe and Canada, the long term gains from removing such a huge bureaucracy from the government far outdistances the short and mid-term profits.

This problem will solve itself in within ten years, when almost all physical mail will be parcel delivery - it is obvious that bills, statements, and postcards will almost be entirely electronic by then. How do I know this? Well, the logic is this - as more people use email for whatever reaasons they currently do, it forces the price of postage up as fewer users are there to support the USPS infrastructure, which is largely fixed. As prices go up, more people use electronic alternatives, forcing the price of postage up even higher - ultimately the cost of postage is prohibitively high - add this in with the cachet and utility of using email, and i can safely say in ten years that there will be very little daily email outside of parcel delivery. At this point, the USPS is nothing more than a Fedex run by the government.

As for schools, its another issue. Its obvious that charter schools and vouchers work, but once again you have organized labor stepping in to defend the teachers of public schools, who have the most to lose in a competitive market. The only role i can see for government in terms of education is to create standards for performance and incentives to get people to build charter schools in poor and rural areas.

[ Parent ]

Mail, email, and schooling (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by rusty on Sun May 14, 2000 at 07:14:36 PM EST

Your argument about mail vs. email makes sense. However, I think it may take longer until the feeling that "it's not real unless it's on paper" is fully overcome by cryptographic techniques. I think your general process timeline is probably a good bet though.

I also agree with you that the role of Gov't in schooling is to create standards (real standards, mind you, not the numerically-tested, Virginia style "Standards of Learning" which are currently plaguing the always-faddish public education system). About the teacher's unions though, my mother was a teacher, as was her father, and my sister, and I'll be damned if I've ever seen a teacher's union do anything that was in the best interests of the actual teachers. Teacher's unions would step in to protest privatixed education, but not for the sake of the teachers themselves. After all, we'd still need teachers-- there'd be as many, if not more actualy classrooms, and chances are the real demand for educators would skyrocket.

For the teacher's unions though, it would be a disaster. The self-serving nature and corruption that's best bred by decades of government support would be mortally wounded, if not destroyed, and which of the dues-fattened union bosses wants to see that happen? It's not widely known, but very few teachers unions are run by actual teachers. They're all run by "educational theorists" and ex-teachers who discovered that pandering for the massive centralized administrations and arguing with politicos was way easier and more profitable than actually teaching kids.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

AH from #50 (none / 0) (#51)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun May 14, 2000 at 11:46:34 PM EST

"Ok, I'm as pro-free enterprise as anyone else, and as to the question of whether private business could do a better job than the postal service, I have no answer. We've never tried it, so you could make a convincing argument either way."

Point: If you were pro-free enterprise (as anyone else to boot, lol), then you'd not draw that conclusion. The USPS is the anti-thesis of free enterprise.

"The postal service was a governement business originally because there wasn't the free-enterprise infrastructure to ensure that mail could be delivered reliably by a private company."

Again, untrue. Why would they outlaw competition if the infrastructure didn't/couldn't exist? It was a guy on a pony caring mail on a dirt trail. Just how much infrastructure do you need? As a pro-free enterprise person, you must know that organizations and beauracracies seek to perpetuate themselves beyond their usefullness. When a business does this, they go out of business. When the government does this, they continue to trample on your rights.

"I believe it is important for children to have access to free, high-qulity schooling."

Give an inch and they'll take a mile (see above).

[ Parent ]
Re: This article is unfortunately found... (none / 0) (#50)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun May 14, 2000 at 11:29:03 PM EST

Does your profitability analysis include the cost of courts and police that outlaw their competition? Why is it so many damn geeks jump on MSFT which IS NOT a monopoly and you ARE NOT COERCED into using their services yet you turn a blind eye to the post office?

The USPS is a perfect example of how freedom, once given to the government, is rarely, if ever, given back. The original (flawed) reasons for its creation no longer exist, yet USPS persists.


[ Parent ]
Something of the broader picture wo... (none / 0) (#8)
by kraant on Fri May 12, 2000 at 07:27:18 PM EST

kraant voted 0 on this story.

Something of the broader picture would be nice I'm sure other postal services are having the same problem
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...

Interesting story, I like it.... (none / 0) (#27)
by Xidus on Fri May 12, 2000 at 08:13:59 PM EST

Xidus voted 1 on this story.

Interesting story, I like it.
Blerg, eat sig.

Canada? Isn't that where comedians ... (none / 0) (#11)
by Wah on Fri May 12, 2000 at 08:59:27 PM EST

Wah voted -1 on this story.

Canada? Isn't that where comedians come from?
--
Fail to Obey?

I think they assume that since you'... (none / 0) (#3)
by driph on Fri May 12, 2000 at 09:03:51 PM EST

Driph voted 1 on this story.

I think they assume that since you've always relied on them to get your bills to their destination, you'll rely on them to do it electronically as well. The post office wont be going out of buisness any time soon. Sending someone an online postcard (or christmas card, etc) just isnt the same as sending the real thing.

--
Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave

Re: I think they assume that since you'... (none / 0) (#37)
by shepd on Sun May 14, 2000 at 12:40:08 PM EST

>Sending someone an online postcard (or christmas card, etc) just isnt the same as sending the real thing.

Yeah, if you ask me it is better :-)

With an online postcard, you can add sound and moving images to what is usually dull and lifeless text... Try doing that with the "real thing". Now, I just with someone would send me a virtual postcard (I guess I don't know enough hi-tech people).

[ Parent ]
I'm looking for the point myself. ... (none / 0) (#19)
by Saint Zero on Fri May 12, 2000 at 09:08:39 PM EST

Saint Zero voted 0 on this story.

I'm looking for the point myself.
---------- Patron Saint of Nothing, really.

eh?... (none / 0) (#14)
by bgp4 on Fri May 12, 2000 at 09:37:45 PM EST

bgp4 voted -1 on this story.

eh?
May all your salads be eaten out of black hats

Actually, there's still quite a mar... (none / 0) (#4)
by fvw on Fri May 12, 2000 at 09:44:38 PM EST

fvw voted 0 on this story.

Actually, there's still quite a market for them. Nearly all e-shops have the option of delivering via USPS.... Letters will slow down prolly though..

The postal service's days are defin... (none / 0) (#12)
by End on Fri May 12, 2000 at 11:09:22 PM EST

End voted 1 on this story.

The postal service's days are definitely numbered. Games like this are not new; back when email first started becoming big, the USPS's idea was to transmit messages electronically between post offices and still have the guy deliver it those last few steps to your door. A failure to grasp the new paradigm. One book I read compared it to using a garbage disposal; you've bypassed the garbage pickup truck completely and found a new way to get the same thing done.

Of course, you can't use an in-sink garbage disposal for all your garbage, just like you can't use email for everything. But the Internet has had it in for the postal service, and a new generation is growing up that just doesn't write letters by hand and pay 33 cents a pop to mail 'em. It's also a very good example of the market's long-term ability to circumvent a monopoly (government-sanctioned, even).

-JD

The services listed are actually qu... (3.50 / 2) (#23)
by adamsc on Sat May 13, 2000 at 12:16:00 AM EST

adamsc voted -1 on this story.

The services listed are actually quite useful given the lack of trusted third parties and the ease with which anything electronic can be forged. Postal services have the advantage with being trusted as it is and have a long precedent of similar services in the physical world.

interesting discussion... (none / 0) (#16)
by Ticker on Sat May 13, 2000 at 01:02:55 AM EST

Ticker voted 1 on this story.

interesting discussion

Most people, including myself, will... (none / 0) (#13)
by warpeightbot on Sat May 13, 2000 at 02:00:35 AM EST

warpeightbot voted 0 on this story.

Most people, including myself, will just ignore USPS, unless it becomes truly intrusive.... right now, I could give a rip.

Why is it so relevant? Not everyone... (none / 0) (#29)
by vtkstef on Sat May 13, 2000 at 02:37:54 AM EST

vtkstef voted 0 on this story.

Why is it so relevant? Not everyone out there is ready for the internet age, and some are currently undertaking efforts not to be left out. Now if the post offices can offer payment processing for lower costs than typical merchant accounts, that would be a story

Firstly, it's nice to see a non-Yan... (none / 0) (#6)
by mattm on Sat May 13, 2000 at 04:22:16 AM EST

mattm voted 1 on this story.

Firstly, it's nice to see a non-Yankee perspective for once. Secondly, I suspect the United States Postal Service (USPS) isn't trying to fight back just the forces of electronic discussion, but also the United Parcel Service, Federal Express, and other delivery firms which, though more expensive and less convenient than the USPS, generally have better reputations for treatment of large and/or delicate packages. I can still remember that fateful day in the summer of 1994 when a UPS driver dropped a box labeled "DOOM" on my doorstep...

Anyway, between electronic discussion and private delivery firms, the USPS could be said to be between a rock and a hard place. In fact the USPS is no longer officially part of the US government and is now fending for itself amid the other delivery companies -- thus the deal-making with amazon.com a while back. I doubt it'll ever become completely irrelevant, though. Just a few weeks ago a friend of mine mailed me a plush toy coati, how thoughtful. :)



They might be losing some letter an... (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by Perpetual Newbie on Sat May 13, 2000 at 04:55:38 AM EST

Perpetual Newbie voted 0 on this story.

They might be losing some letter and postcard revenue due to the Internet, but all the dotcom junk mail I get has to be making up for that. =)

According to the article, you don't need an internet connection to use this service, you just have to go to their web page at http://www..... This is worse than the "Illiterate? Call 1-800-LEARN-TO-READ" ads. It looks like they're charging a buck seventy for what Blue Mountain does for free. But hey, the USPS is now being run like a business and not a government service, and it shows: Rates have gone up and they're blowing money on projects where they have no fucking idea what they're doing, while presenting the results as the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Yeah, they're unclued, hopefully they'll learn better. I wonder how much of a place there is for the postal services on the Internet, considering that any schmuck can install a mail server, and they're not trying anything really innovative here. To be useful, anything they'd do would have to be tied into their meatspace operation somehow; That and their reputation(*cough*) are the only thing that seperates them from any other enterprise.

Hmm....

www.tumbleweed.com is running Microsoft-IIS/3.0 on NT4 or Windows 98

Well... Any bets on how long before everyone's private e-mail they paid $1.70 to keep secure gets posted on some 1337 d00d's web site in Russia?

badly written, but interesting stor... (none / 0) (#20)
by shonson on Sat May 13, 2000 at 08:31:45 AM EST

shonson voted 0 on this story.

badly written, but interesting story
-- Steven in #kuro5hin

I'd be interested to know what post... (none / 0) (#31)
by kevin lyda on Sat May 13, 2000 at 08:34:01 AM EST

kevin lyda voted 1 on this story.

I'd be interested to know what postal services around the world are doing. An Post in Ireland has tried do do some things with the net as well as some other "e-commerce" type things. Don't know much about their activities though.

Good story for discussion. ... (none / 0) (#22)
by duxup on Sat May 13, 2000 at 09:16:52 AM EST

duxup voted 1 on this story.

Good story for discussion. As for the SUPS (I don't know much about the Canadian Post) I'm not sure that they're doing quite as bad as gandolf_grey is thinking. Granted the USPS has made some questionable moves with regards to e-business. I think it should also be considered that, so have allot of business on the inet :-) All in all the USPS has actually succeeded in making money for the last few years. If they wanted to give some e-business stuff a try, why not. It seems that the intent of POSTeCS site is some form of private & secure document transaction over the inet. This is one place where e-mail has really never done well in and I think it is defiantly something that needs some leaders to pioneer it on the web.

Re: Good story for discussion.... (none / 0) (#39)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun May 14, 2000 at 02:16:58 PM EST

All in all the USPS has actually succeeded in making money for the last few years.

How clueless can you be?

Any company that gets to raise prices on a whim will always be profitable!!!

Or maybe you haven't noticed the post office raising the price of stamp without any competitve response. Duh!!

[ Parent ]

Re: Good story for discussion.... (none / 0) (#53)
by duxup on Tue May 16, 2000 at 07:43:19 AM EST

I would suggest having a clue yourself before posting.

Due to restrictions placed on it by congress regarding how much and how often the post office can raise rates. The USPS went nearly 20 years loosing money until it started competing in large package shipping 4 years ago.

Duh.

[ Parent ]
This isn't really an editorial. It... (3.00 / 1) (#30)
by surazal on Sat May 13, 2000 at 09:25:32 AM EST

surazal voted -1 on this story.

This isn't really an editorial. It's a rant. I don't even know what the rant is about. Are you complaining because the old school economy is actually wising up and heeding the call that maybe the internet will be the transaction medium of choice? So what? More power to them. Remember that the postal service has fuctioned as the "internet" for a long time before they connected a few computers together and christened it "ARPA Net". Instead of using TCP/IP they've been using envelopes and paper as the transmission medium. Moving to the internet is a natural for them. So why the negative review? Are we so cynical that we can't even recognize the positive things in this type of development. That is why I scored it -1. The article seemed good, but the attached editorial seemed unnecessarily negative.

The current government run postal s... (2.00 / 1) (#32)
by briandamac on Sat May 13, 2000 at 09:50:08 AM EST

briandamac voted 1 on this story.

The current government run postal services are eventually going to be made obsolete as we know them by the Internet. However everything that must be shipped as a real thing and not just some bits will require a postal service. These are things like stuff you buy off the Internet or through catalogs, or official letters that must be delivered on paper for legal reasons, legal notices and things like that will still require a postal service. However the post offices face competition here with companies like FedEx and UPS delivering packages and letters. I don't know about registered mail however, if that can be sent by a non-governmental authority, and that kind of service is required for official legal documents and sending money through the mail.

electronic postmarks? They're defin... (none / 0) (#26)
by guppie on Sat May 13, 2000 at 10:24:43 AM EST

guppie voted 1 on this story.

electronic postmarks? They're definetly living in the past.
They should just acknowlegde that the postcard business is gone, and consentrate on delivering a good parcel-service.

What? The land of the free? Whoever told you that is your enemy.
-Zack de la Rocha

Re: electronic postmarks? They're defin... (none / 0) (#35)
by scheme on Sat May 13, 2000 at 09:48:32 PM EST

electronic postmarks? They're definetly living in the past. They should just acknowlegde that the postcard business is gone, and consentrate on delivering a good parcel-service.

I disagree. I think that postmarks are a useful feature if you want to prove that something was sent at a given time. Normal mail doesn't give this assurance since headers can be forged. However, the post office saying that their postmark server handled a particular email at a certain time is pretty good validation.

I don't think the post office needs to worry to much about their letter business disappearing. Letters are still needed to communicate with people who don't have email, can't access it conveniently, or if something like a check needs to be delivered. In addition, people sometimes need special services like certified mail to insure that someone received and acknowledged receiving a particular letter/package. I don't think these needs are going away any time soon. Plus physical letters provide a level of authentication that is a lot higher than email normally provides.


"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity." --Albert Einstein


[ Parent ]
I happen to still like the U.S. Pos... (none / 0) (#10)
by eann on Sat May 13, 2000 at 12:12:37 PM EST

eann voted 1 on this story.

I happen to still like the U.S. Postal Service, mostly because they really can still compete with FedEx, UPS, etc. And there are many people I communicate with who will likely never have email. I don't object to the USPS (or Canada Post, or anyone else) trying to get into the email business also, although I likely won't use their service. It's a rapidly growing market; there's room for everyone.

What about other countries? Let's hear from somewhere other than North America.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


Re: I happen to still like the U.S. Pos... (none / 0) (#38)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun May 14, 2000 at 02:13:51 PM EST

I happen to still like the U.S. Postal Service, mostly because they really can still compete with FedEx, UPS

No, they can't - the government limits on mail competition gives you thye impression that they can. The government forbids UPS and Fedex from delivering daily mail. Also, the USPS can raise their prices at will in order to maintain profitability. Or maybe you hadn't noticed all those useless stamps in your drawer you don't use following each unannounced and arbitrary one cent price hike?

[ Parent ]

Hmmm ... kinda unclear ... I can't ... (2.00 / 1) (#21)
by MoxFulder on Sat May 13, 2000 at 12:37:41 PM EST

MoxFulder voted 0 on this story.

Hmmm ... kinda unclear ... I can't tell whether you're advocating greater or lesser involvement of the postal services in electronic transfers. It's an interesting topic though, just needs to be rewritten.

"If good things lasted forever, would we realize how special they are?"
--Calvin and Hobbes


Didn't we do this one already?... (none / 0) (#7)
by Skippy on Sat May 13, 2000 at 02:56:33 PM EST

Skippy voted -1 on this story.

Didn't we do this one already?
# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #

Oh yeah, and another thing (none / 0) (#33)
by End on Sat May 13, 2000 at 05:38:34 PM EST

The USPS must be having delivery problems because I still haven't received my penguin mints from rusty fer guessin' that sig. At least I think that's what the problem is... ;-)

-JD

Sheepish Look... (none / 0) (#34)
by rusty on Sat May 13, 2000 at 06:29:58 PM EST

Er, yeah... that must be the problem.

/me blushes.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Versign, and public notaries (4.00 / 2) (#49)
by gooloo on Sun May 14, 2000 at 09:47:00 PM EST

If I was working for Canada Post five years ago, then I would have started a cryptographic notary division. Kinduv like what Versign and... uh... Versign does today.

Canada Post can still break into this market because the current authority hierarchy is a joke. Versign will sign a certifcate for anybody that can cough up the cash. Microsoft has essentially granted Versign a license to make money.

Canada Post has some things that a private corporation will never have:

  • Everybody in meatspace trusts them and believes that they are honest, even organizations outside of Canada. There is a strong analogy for "registered letter" is cyberspace.
  • They will not be corrupted by the profit motive. (But they can still make wads of cash, just like Versign.)
  • They have locations across the country from which to issue credentials in person. No private company would ever spend the money to do that, whereas Canada Post has a federal mandate to have brick-and-mortar outlets everywhere.
  • The federal government could legislate (and ensure) that anything under the Canada Post signing tree is as good as a handwritten signature. Thus, you could do real business with your Canada Post signed keys and certificates.
  • Similarly, it could be law that all browsers shipped in Canada come with the Canada Post root keys and certificates. The government is the only entity with enough power to give a public crytosystem teeth.

Imagine what the Internet would be like if you could walk into a Canada Post regional office with your birth certificate, driver's license, etc. and then walk out with a signed PKCS certificate and a signed PGP key in hand.

I guarantee that our yankee buddies in Michigan would make the trip into Windsor to get their Canada Post credentials. :)

The economic eggheads are always asking, "how do we make the average person feel safe doing business on the Internet". I don't know the answer, but you certainly need a public notary that is TRUSTED. Canada Post is in a perfect position to make a public cryptosystem work.

If Canada Post had started working on their infrastructure in 1995, then it is entirely likely that Canada Post would be the de facto global notary, much like Verisign is today.

It would be nifty (and very right!) to see a guy sitting in China getting a PGP package from Zimbabwe, and saying "oooh, Cahna-DA Pawst", and trusting the message. :)

Moderate this up!! (none / 0) (#52)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon May 15, 2000 at 03:43:36 AM EST

Good idea. Moderate this post up.

[ Parent ]
Postal Service grasping at straws? | 53 comments (53 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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