Promote Responsible Net Commerce: Stamp Out Spam!

Why Spam Sucks

``Spam'' is a derogatory label attached to bulk email, that is, email which is sent in huge quantities to people who did not ask to receive such mail. Typically, the practice is done to present some sort of crass commercial advertisement.

Spam Doesn't Work

Contrary to the claims and promises of those who are trying to make a business out of "advertising" at everyone else's expense, spam doesn't work. Why? Several reasons.

Further, the spam that does actually make it to its destination is often deleted unread, included in a complaint letter to the originating host's postmaster, and used as the basis of blacklists of companies, products, and services to be boycotted.

Spammers are Leeches

Spammers take advantage of the economics of the Internet. In a nutshell, we pay to connect, and we pay for our own level of service, including the speed of our connection, the amount of equipment needed to relay mail, news, web, and other traffic, etc. By "advertising" through email, spammers shift the cost of advertising to the recipient. Further, because they so commonly relay through an unsuspecting third party and/or forge domain names, spammers even push the costs of cleaning up their mess to another party.

Another thing to consider is how large ISPs and organizations with a large number of users being hit by a spam have their email relays backed up, causing delays in service, and problems in taking care of the organization's own needs. Effectively, spammers are denying the company of their own Internet services because of overloading the machines that process the mail with advertising junk.

Everyone Hates Spam

Another common claim among spammers is that some relatively large percentage of users like to get spam. This could not be further from the case. In the survey below, a full 94% of respondents say that it is proper to complain to sites sending email spam, and/or their ISPs. That's leaving only six percent, to be shared among everyone who is annoyed, but not enough to complain, or annoyed and don't know how to complain, to the few people who actually do like to receive it. (That number is so low, I have to wonder if anyone besides other spammers actually like to get the junk. I bet not.)

And ask yourself: if so many people like to get spam, why is it that the spammers so commonly forge their addresses, and try to mask their identity and origin? Further, why aren't any "real" advertising or PR firms using the technique?

Spammers Aren't Marketers

Spammers aren't marketers. You don't hear too many cases of someone who has been successful in advertising and marketing moving into spam. That's because such cases don't exist. You don't see too many reputable advertising or PR firms sending spam. That's because they don't.

A friend of mine noted that ``push media is a failure of the imagination.'' He's incredibly correct in this observation, and the issue of spam is case-in-point. Charged with making a buck off of ``this Internet thing,'' people have scurried around looking for a way to separate Internet users from their money. Unable to understand the potential that the technology of the Internet has to offer, or the richness of a new medium, the marketers sought technology that would turn the web into little more than a television. Enter: push media. Now even web surfing can be a mindless, passive experience. (Duh.)

Unable to get even that far, spammers try to do the same to your email box, in such a way that they have no consequences for their actions. Undeliverable mail piles up and complaints come pouring in to the poor sucker who happened to have the domain name that the spammer thought of, or who happened to be running a mailhost through which the spam was bounced. By the time the dust has settled from this mess, the spammer has cached his check, and is on to his next target.

Unfortunately for the poor sucker, that extra work can either hurt the business, in its ability to service its customers' requests (such as was the case with Netcom), or even worse, push the small, struggling company over the edge and out of business.

Spammers are intolerable parasites, completely unbridled in their own desire for the Almighty Dollar, and don't care what they break in pursuit of their self-serving goals. These lack the technical competence to understand the damage they cause, and lack the marketing expertise to understand why spam is a bad business model.

And so, I conclude with a note to every spammer on the 'net, and those that are still trying to figure out how to do that: Get a clue, get a life, and get off the 'net.

See Fight Spam on the Internet! for more information on spam, why it's evil, and how to deal with it.

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C Matthew Curtin
Last modified: Mon Dec 8 22:48:01 EST 1997