Spam is the scourge of the Internet. Spam, as everyone knows, is the unsolicited advertisements that clog up email inboxes worldwide. Even occasional users of the Internet will know how annoying and time consuming spam can be: when logging onto the Internet to quickly check your email becomes a time consuming process of sorting through offers of romantic encounters and get rich quick schemes.
An immigration law firm in Arizona is popularly described as sending the first intentional, mass commercial email advertising their services over Usenet in 1994. This event is commonly referred to as the “Green Card spam”. Since then, the movement of spam over the Internet has exploded.
One government study even put the cost of spam to organizations in the United States at $10 billion a year and growing! This number is so high because the cost is not just in lost productivity; money has to be spent to buy more hardware to deal with the influx of email messages, and software and staff assigned specifically to deal with spam. It is clear now that spam accounts for the majority of Internet traffic. Studies have estimated that there are 55 billion spam emails sent every day worldwide: this accounts for 80 to 85 per cent of all incoming email!
Spam makes our lives harder. Instead of being able to quickly respond to emails and get on with
other more important tasks, Spam makes us waste our time sorting through our inbox to differentiate emails from friends and colleagues from badly worded emails trying to sell us the latest fad medicines. While spam may not seem that bad for you, keep in mind that your ISP tries to block most of the spam that is sent your way before it gets a chance to make it into your inbox (which in turn leads to higher ISP costs).
As horrible as spam is, it must be profitable, or else it would not be so prevalent. Although you would never respond to spam, because it is so cheap to send massive amounts of spam, a very low percentage of recipients have to respond for the advertiser to make money. As opposed to direct mailings, which can costs cents per letter, spam costs a fraction of a fraction of a cent per message. Because it is so cheap to send out, you can send out extremely high volumes of advertisements and only require a very small number of recipients to respond.
Never responding to offers in spam is the most obvious way to deal with the problem; if there isn’t a market, then no one will bother to send spam. However, as discussed above, because only a small percentage of people need to respond to spam for it to be profitable, this method will never reasonable deal with the issue of spam. In the absence of any strong regulatory programs by the government, Internet users are left trying to find the best filtering software they can to try to stop the spam before it reaches their inboxes.