Why on earth do we still have snail mail? For packages? OK. But everything else, really? All the paper, all the transportation, all the man-hours delivering to you thousands of little pieces of paper every year. All of that could be easily digitized...but no. Even with all the glory of e-mail, mail volume is still increasing.
A company called Zumbox wants to change that.
The big advantage that snail mail can claim is that it's actually tied to where you physically are. E-mail addresses change, some people don't have them, and it can be difficult for businesses to get email addresses from their customers. Thus, customers end up continuing to get physical letters...just so people can be sure you're getting them.
Zumbox has fixed this problem by creating a virtual mail box for every physical address in America. So, if you have an address, you already have a Zumbox.
Zumbox hopes that you will soon be receiving notices in the mail along with your bills that say "this piece of mail was also delivered to your Zumbox." If you go to your Zumbox and pick it up, you can select to have that company deliver mail only to your Zumbox.
If you sign up at Zumbox, they send a pin number to your physical address (the only snail mail you'll ever receive from them, I'm promised) that you must enter to certify that you are who you say you are. If messages have already been delivered to your Zumbox, you will see them there. And, with a click of a button, you can tell the mail senders to only send these items to your Zumbox!
Zumbox has just announced that it will offer it's service to "qualified senders" for free. So companies, municipalities, and non-profits who have legitimate lists for sending notices, bills and direct mail will all be able to use those lists at Zumbox. You, as a consumer, will also be able to send a limited amount (possibly in the thousands) of messages through Zumbox. Whether it's a post card to your grandma, or a notice to your neighbors of a lost dog.
All this talk about free stuff is going to make you start wondering how they're planning on making money. Well, your Zumbox will have two boxes, one for mail from certified senders, and one for mail from people who've paid Zumbox to use the service. Zumbox allows unprecedented abilities for geo-targeting. So your spam box will likely actually have some useful spam in it. A local restaurant or snow shoveling service can hit their exact target area for only five cents a letter, instead of up to more than a dollar for direct mail services.
Of course, the success of the program all depends on whether they can get people to sign up. In my opinion, if they can get some big businesses and non-profits in on the idea, and sending out notices telling people to check their Zumboxes, the chances that this will catch on are quite good.
And with the amount of money (not to mention trees) to be saved by the proposition, I'd like to think that they're not having too hard of a time getting big senders involved.