RealTime IT News

Real Stamps from Stamps.com

It's been a rough go for the Internet postage business, but things could get better with word from Stamps.com that it has the go-ahead from the U.S. Postal Service for a new form of e-postage that can be printed out and used just like regular stamps.

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company said the new postage product will be called NetStamps, and Stamps.com trademarked the name.

NetStamps, the company said, lets customers print sheets of postage stamps in any denomination and for any mail class, allowing for expanded use, including international mail. And NetStamps postage is not tied to either a destination address or a mail date, allowing the postage to be printed now and saved for later use.

The company said the USPS approval follows years of development effort, including a six-month beta field test.

"This feature promises to dramatically increase the convenience and hence the value proposition of the Stamps.com service," said Ken McBride, Stamps.com CEO.

Wayne Wilkerson, head of Postage Technology Management for the USPS, said that NetStamps retains the key security elements of Stamps.com's original Internet Postage solution, "which allows us to offer this form of postage."

The new Stamps.com Version 2.5 software lets users print both NetStamps and the company's old form of Internet Postage interchangeably. Current customers will obtain a free upgrade upon software login. Users can print one or as many as 25 NetStamps at a time on 8 1/2-by-11 inch NetStamps label sheets, which Stamps.com sells for $3.99 for a pack of 125 labels.

Pricing for the service includes a plan for a $15.99 flat-rate, monthly service fee or a simple 10 percent service fee on monthly postage printed with a minimum of $4.49.

Stamps.com rival E-Stamp Corp. sold its patents and other intellectual property rights as well as the E-Stamp name and E-Stamp.com domain to Stamps.com in April of 2001.

The company, which has yet to have a profitable quarter, has been in turn-around mode for some time and last August it made its third round of job cuts in less than a year.