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What postmasters and Webmasters have in common

Okay, Cybergeek confesses. He, too, sometimes likes to make fun of the U.S. Postal Service -- referring to "snail mail," or saying "going postal" to mean go violently nuts. But the Geek has to admit that the Postal Service is, very steadily, getting its act together. It's taking some business back from the overnight delivery services, and it's got a killer marketing culture newly built and functioning like a dream. And now postal executives have come up with a really interesting new Internet application. One of the Postal Service's unique (if old) strengths is the ability to postmark and certify mail. These have legal implications that courts and governments have accepted for years. A postmark is considered absolute legal proof of a date, and sending someone certified mail still means a serious, heavy-duty notification. None of the private competitors has anything so respected by law, judges or custom. Working with private contractors, the Postal Service has developed a way to certify and postmark electronic mail, guaranteeing time and date of transmission and also guaranteeing that the contents haven't been tampered with since being sent. This is important stuff and has vast implications for businesses and lawyers. The private contractor that worked on this project, Aegis Star Corp., is conducting tests of the new system, which requires a special plug-in software package. You can download it for free from this Web site and add it to almost any browser you might use. The software remains invisible until you send or receive mail that you want stamped, when it kicks into action. Ordinary e-mail is not affected. The postal certification will cost money if you are sending something -- 22 cents for up to 50,000 bytes and a little more if you are sending more -- but that's very cheap when you need the kind of legal proof this requires. Does this mean "going postal" could someday mean going on the cutting edge? Don't quit your day job, Reid (better yet -- get one) John Reid Greco is a 28-year-old Springfield, Mass., college student who until recently was famous only for two things: He came in dead last in a Springfield city council election, trailing even a felon, and he demonstrated on Japanese national TV the remarkable innie-outie versatility of his belly button. …


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