Monday, 23 May 2005

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam....

Of late, I have been receiving more spam in my inbox than I have for some time. It seemed as if it had declined from since a year or so ago, but now it is once more on the rise. Of course, like most people who use email, I despise spam.

Interestingly enough, spam actually has a very long history as far as the Internet goes. In fact, spam even pre-dates the existence of the World Wide Web. The first internet spam email was sent in 1978 to virtually all ARPANET users on the West Coast from the computer company DEC. This spam email was essentially invitation to receptions celebrating the launch of their new computer, the DEC-20. The reacton of users was swift and largely negative. This first spam email was not referred to as "spam" at the time as the term would not come into use for some time.

Of course, most people are familiar with Spam as a propreitary name of Hormel Foods for their brand of canned luncheon meat. Most people may even be familiar that its use for mass emails or unwanted messages on USENET, mesage boards, and so on, ultimately came from a Monty Python's Flying Circus skit. In the skit a group of Vikings drown out every other sound in a diner by singing a song about Spam (one of the primary things served at the diner). Its etymology goes a bit deeper than that, however, according to the web page "Origin of the Term "Spam" to Mean Net Abuse" (it is from this web site that I got much of the information for this article), the word was born in the MUDs of the late Eighties. For those of you who don't know, the acronym MUD refers to a Multi-User-Dungeon, essentilally a text based, multi-player roleplaying game on a computer MUDs are the ancestors of MMORPGs). Like most role players (and speaking as one myself), the MUD players were very familiar with the oeuvre of Monty Python. It should then come as no surprise that they used the terms spam and spamming for a wide array of online activities, everything from flooding a computer with too much data (causing a crash) to flooding chats with text generated by a programme.

From MUDs the term spam apparently made its way to USENET. In fact, it was apparently on USENET that it was used of unwanted messages, ususally some solicitation for some business or product. It had apparently been in use for some time when in April 1994, the Phoenix law firm of Canter and Siegel used a programme to post an advertisement for their services on every single newsgroup on USENET. The message was soon labelled "spam" and the term spread more swiftly than it had before. Of course, from USENET the word came to be applied to the mass emails we know and hate today.

Indeed, it seems that for most of the nearly 8 years that I have been online, there has not been a day that I have not received spam. It seems to me that many make the biggest noise about spam advertising pornography (which is admittedly a problem), when in my exprience very little of the spam I receive actually deals with porn. At any rate, most spam deals with things in which I am not the least bit interested. I am guessing the majority of spam I have received over the past years have dealt with mortgages, home loans, and just loans in general. Now I own my own home. It is not mortgaged, nor do I intend to mortgage it. And if I did, I would not go to someone who sent me spam anyhow; I'd go to my bank. I am guessing the second biggest subject of spam I have recieved in the past few years has dealt with pharmaceutical drugs. Now I am in fairly good health and I do not take any pharmaceutical drugs regularly. When I do get sick and have to take medicine, I get it at my local drugstore. I would not get it online and definitely not from someone who sent me an email. They are less common now, but for a time I was receiving a ton of spam for various "male enhancement" products. Now I don't know about the people who send out this kind of spam, but I have never needed any kind of male enhancement product and I very seriously doubt I ever will.... As to the spam for hardcore porn, I am not interested in harcore porn whatseover.

Beyond the fact that most spam deals with things I have no interest in, it seems to me that nearly everyone (except possibly the spammers themselves) despises spam. It seems to me that even the spammers know this. Consider, why else would most spammers take such drastic measures as spoofing addresses ("spoofing" is a term for faking email addies), changing their addresses more often than they change thier underwear, using misleading subject headers on their emails, so on and so forth? Quite simply, it is because they know people do not want to receive spam. That having been said, then, I have to wonder why spammers even bother spamming? I can only guess that there are foolish individuals out there who actually respond to spam. After all, it would not seem likely to me that spammers would conitnue spamming if spamming was not worth their while.

As much as we might hate spam, then, I suppose much of the responsiblity for stopping spam rests with us. I have never responded to spam and I never will. What's more, I use spam blockers to keep as much of it out of my inbox as possible. And in many cases I have even reported the spammers to ISPs. I rather suspect if enough people took action against the spammers, then we could at least see a sharp decline in spam. Spam may always be with us, but we can at least make sure there is less of it.

3 comments:

LiLaC said...

yes, why do spammers send spam? interesting info, though. had fun reading. :)

The Talking Mute said...

I got rid of this problem by providing an alternate e-mail address, say for example, yahoo. Never give out your primary address. Then if you receive a deluge of spams or suspected viruses, simply change your address and abandon the old one. And I never give out my address to friends who are fond of forwarding "forwarded" messages.

Mercurie said...

Thanks for the advice. (-: I learned this a long time ago, but unforutnately it was too late by then. I do have very good spam blockers, so it really isn't that big of a problem, although a few do creep through now and again...