Friday, May 2, 2008

30 Years of SPAM

30 Years ago the world got its first taste of SPAM (not the meat product), though the small distribution to 400 recipients is hardly comparable to the BILLIONS of bogus messages sent today. I've often wrestled with the fundamental question of SPAM: "Are there people out there that actually respond to this stuff?", and I always come the same conclusion: "There must be, otherwise why would anyone do it?".

That depressing fact keeps the SPAM growing. However, I think the most profound and unfortunate effect of SPAM is NOT in the people who get scammed, the deluge of bogus mail filling up servers, nor the burden of trash traffic clogging the web. The most profound effect of SPAM is that it broke email. What should be an incredibly efficient, inexpensive and trustworthy tool for communication has been irreparably damaged. As a marketer, I'd love to be able to get a message to my audience via email, but there's virtually no way it will be heard among the noise. More importantly, as a security provider, I often NEED to get a message to my customers that addresses a critical security issue, and yet again the message will be lost in an inbox full of phony Viagra offers.

When you need to get a message to a large audience of people, it's nearly impossible to do it in a cost-effective and timely manner. Print/mail is expensive and slow, telephone calls are equally laborious, and traditional 'advertising' mediums don't allow you to target just your existing customers with an important message.

SPAMMERS have been crying wolf into the email village, and have guaranteed that no one will listen when real danger arises. That is the most unfortunate cost of SPAM.

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