Several years ago spam was introduced. It was a revolutionary new way of exposing billions of people to advertisements and bombard them with merchandise and services. I grew up through the internet revolution in South Korea. South Korea, in case you did not know, has had, and probably still have, the highest high-speed internet subscription rate in the world. Korea was one of the earliest countries to adopt to high-speed internet. When I came to Canada in 2001, I was absolutely appalled at the fact that they still sold 56Kb modems!!! They were non-existent in Korea at that time already. So back to my point. I was smack down in there along with all major developments in the internet world, and I went through all the revolutionary changes and phases. And spam was one of them.
First, I will recall the evolution of spam as I remember it :
When spam was first introduced, I had no idea what it was. I only knew that there were people out there collecting my email address, and sending stuff out to me that they thought I might purchase. For a while I remember reading these spam emails with interest. Why? Because I did not know the nature of these things and I thought it was pretty darn interesting. You’d understand if you know the feeling of having your first email address ever and using it. Back in the 90’s, it was just all new and cool.
Now, it got to a point when this was getting annoying. As marketers jumped on the bandwagon to take a bite out of this internet and email cherry pie, there was more and more spam. Finally it got to a point when people stopped reading those, and deleting them right away. I was one of them. Now, this caused some inconveniences. At those days, email accounts were rather small for the free ones provided to you. And since not everybody would check their email every day, you’d get situations where the email accounts were already full by the time you try to send your friend something meaningful, not a penis-enlargement pill advertisement.
Also, the type of spams were becoming diversified. Pyramid schemes were introduced. Nigerian scams were more recent, but the primitive forms of it were already roaming the internet in the late 90’s. Porn advertisements were a given. Illegal software. Freebies. Women who supposedly wanted to sleep with you. And more recently, with the alarming growth of spyware that actually nest within your computer, they started advertising anti-spyware software. One of the most ironic things I see these days is malicious spyware that opens a browser page that advertises anti-spyware software. Anyways back to the type of spam : You name it. They came up with it.
So. A few spam-prevention measures were introduced. Email providers would pre-screen any email that had specific keywords in it (mostly pornography and penis-engorgement related), and spam filters were introduced for other non-web based email clients. Also government bodies started putting in new laws indicating that any service provider or internet company cannot give out the email addresses they collect to anybody else unless without consent from the owner of the email address. And a lot of people started catching up to the facts : spam was an annoyance and a matter of invasion of one’s private space!
Also, a lot of websites that have bulletin boards or guest books and other user information stopped displaying the email addresses of the users so that they cannot be harvested by spammers. Form mails became more and more popular as that would screen the email address from any outsider, yet deliver the message to the appropriate email address. And then of course to prevent the automated systems entering stuff into these forms and bulletin boards and what not, they had to introduce visual recognition filters. I’m talking about the squigly letter images we see with lines going through it, and we cannot proceed with the submission of the form unless we type it into the field.
And then came the dot com crash. The stocks plummetted. Many companies and agencies who were supposed to have struck gold and grow forever were bankrupt all of a sudden. Turns out it was just too overblown – this internet and spam marketing. Of course, I know that it has a lot more to do than just that, but this was part of it. It had to self-control itself so that only the finest would survive.. like Amazon, Yahoo and what not.
At this point I thought (I was young and naive still) spam would be a dying breed. There are screens out there. There are laws out there. And nobody clicks on spam emails anymore – they all end up in the junkmail folder, the images or any other content in them are strictly concealed by email service providers and software protection. Who the hell would waste their time and money on spamming anymore?
WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG.
I do not have the statistics for spam emails, and I do not know the figures spent on these things. But I will give to you a very simple theory :
SPAM exists because there are still people who will click on these spam emails and fall for them. If there is no money to be made they wouldn’t be spamming anymore. But there is. And that’s why the spammers devote their time and energy into spamming. Simple as that.
So, what is my solution? EDUCATION. It seems like education solves a lot of problems all over the world. Or at least many of us think so. Oprah Winfrey certainly does! I think so do. The more educated people are about internet safety and security, and the more resistant they are against unwanted advertisement bombarding their inboxes, the less spam will work. And when there is no money to be made in it, and it’s just not providing a good ROI, they will stop spam.
Everybody on the internet needs to understand that they should not be giving out their email addresses to sketchy websites or companies. And those companies who hold emails of people should understand that they should keep it secure. But most of all, DO NOT click on or respond to any email that appears to be spam. Be aware of it. The very definition of ignorance as my very respected English teacher in Grade 11 taught me was “not being aware.” Be aware. Beware of spam. And do not give them the spoils of war. If you don’t put out, they’ll stop. It’s a choice that the public can make!
That’s my thesis. Any thoughts? Write comments.