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Celebrating Spam's Ten-Year Anniversary 275

Posted by michael
from the hurray-i-think dept.
khalua writes "Netcraft has a story that 10 years ago today, the first widely recognized spam was sent by... oh the irony...a law firm. Hate to see what a beast it grows into when it's 20." Reader prostoalex writes "Ever wonder why spam is so prevalent and who buys all those revolutionary products sold at unbelievable prices? Direct Marketing Association estimates $11.7 billion was spent on goods and services pitched via unsolicited e-mail. The average buy was $155, which exceeds the average of $114 that opt-in e-mail generated. It's worth noting that US e-commerce sales in general generated $50 billion total last year, however, the data was presented by a different researcher."
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Celebrating Spam's Ten-Year Anniversary

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  • "First"? (Score:5, Informative)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:44PM (#8476806) Homepage
    Come on... that Canter & Siegel green-card-lottery spam-scam wasn't the first spam by a long-shot... maybe the first spam to get written up the print media. Usenet was already littered with off-topic commercial posts and crossposted garbage by then, and unsolicited e-mailings (on a much smaller scale than today) were hardly unheard-of.
    • Re:"First"? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rupert (28001) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:51PM (#8476890) Homepage Journal
      I was pretty heavily into Usenet in 1995. C&S caused a huge increase in the number of posts in the groups I subscribed to. Mostly, those were people complaining about C&S, but it was a pretty significant event, even for netizens.

      C&S huge innovation was that it *wasn't* cross-posted. They left a bot running all weekend to post identical messages to every newsgroup. That's why it was such a bitch to cancel them all.
    • Re:"First"? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by no longer myself (741142) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:52PM (#8476913)
      Heck, I remember when it hit FIDO net during my old BBS days over 10 years ago. I distictly remember objecting to it back then, and was flamed for trying to limit "freedom of speech".

      • Re:"First"? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by chickenwing (28429) on Friday March 05, 2004 @04:22PM (#8478543) Homepage
        The idea of free speech is that people who you do not agree with have the right to express their views.

        It is interesting that we have come to a time where corporations (legally equivilant to humans, but with out any of the responsibilities) have more free speech rights than people (remember, money is legally equivalent to speech, but without any of the responsibilies).

        So, non-taxpaying legal person entities have the right to use their free speech to help elect our leaders.

        Translation...

        Corporations are allowed to use money to install a figurehead to help further disempower and enslave regular people.

        Remember the great promise of the internet is that any regular person can put their silly ideas up for other regular people to read (like i'm doing now). Just wait until the free-marketers allow one company to own every switch between you and anyone else, then we will see.

        I guess this seems a little off topic, but I guess what really bothers me is when corporate entities cry that their free speech is being impeded upon, especially when they use that power to silence real flesh and blood human-beings.
    • Re:"First"? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Radical Rad (138892)
      I never got unsolicited emails back then even (for quite a while) after Canter and Siegel. The commercial cross posts that you refer to were usually just to the few usenet groups that were somewhat relevant to the product or service. Canter and Siegel hit every single newsgroup!
      • Re:"First"? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Lord Apathy (584315) on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:33PM (#8477365)

        I was very active in usenet when this shit hit. I was running a smail uucp node using Matt Dillons uucp software and was subscribing to 40 or 50 newsgroups on a Amiga 500. I remember seeing that shit in all the newsgroups that I had. Hell, back then I would get unsolicited email all the damn time, but the difference being it was always from somebody and usually worth my time to reply to.

        Them was the good old days. Usenet was useful and email was the best communication tool there was. Even if you where piping it out over a 2400 bps modem in a forward and store method.

        God damn Fuckers...I hope they die a horrable death and burn in hell forever.

    • Re:"First"? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Cowboy Bebop (540969) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:57PM (#8476969) Journal
      I have a much earlier spam. [templetons.com] And I bet people here could reply with even earlier ones.
      • My favorite quote from his reply supporting spam:

        4) Would a dating service for people on the net be "frowned upon" by DCA? I hope not. But even if it is, don't let that stop you from notifying me via net mail if you start one.

        Yes mister Stallman. There are now many dating services for people on the net. I'm sure you've gotten plenty of unsolicited mail about them by now.
        • Well, Geoff forwarded me a copy of the DEC message, and I eat my words. I sure would have minded it! Nobody should be allowed to send a message with a header that long, no matter what it is about.

          He seems to have had trouble grasping the nature of SPAM before he saw it personally.

    • Re:"First"? (Score:5, Funny)

      by bugnuts (94678) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:59PM (#8476998) Journal
      It by no means was the first. Plenty of spams went out, but were on a small scale (like no more than 20 newsgroups).

      Nor was it the first extreme newsgroup spamming. It missed that by a few weeks.

      The very first, excruciatingly-painful, extreme Usenet spamming was the "The End of the World is Coming!" by some Jesus-freak. Someone generated cancels for it, and then sent out a message "The End of the World has been Cancelled."

      C&S, however, were the first couple of dedicated spammers that proclaimed "we will spam, and be happy to sue anyone that disagrees!"
      • The very first, excruciatingly-painful, extreme Usenet spamming was the "The End of the World is Coming!" by some Jesus-freak. Someone generated cancels for it, and then sent out a message "The End of the World has been Cancelled."

        Clarence Thomas IV, IIRC. It was right after yet another California earthquake.

        • Re:"First"? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by bugnuts (94678)
          That's it... I couldn't remember the name. This is the first non-crossposted mass-spamming I remember.

          The funniest MST3K fan-parody I ever saw was of that post. Here's the MST3k parody [google.com] which also includes the end of the world article, too.
    • No, they weren't the first, but they really did push the bar up. Before that no other commercial post went out on that many newgroups and mailling list at the same time.

      Of course that was also near the end of being able to retaliate by sending people copies of your generic OS kernel in the mail.

      I miss the fronteir days before Al Gore paved a Interstate through the town called Internet :-).
    • Re:"First"? (Score:3, Informative)

      by drooling-dog (189103)
      It seems so long ago... I remember very well back in the late 80s and early 90s when spam was virtually unheard of. There was very strong community pressure against any commercial/promotional use of the Internet. What's remarkable is that this was so effective for so long.
    • Re:"First"? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AppyPappy (64817)
      You are CORRECT, sir.

      Usenet was a haven for "GET RICH QUICK!!" and "ADD YOUR NAME" scams. Everyone was getting rich in those days. Some usenet groups were nothing but get rich schemes. I was always amazed that people would offer their address so willingly. But then, their cousin always knew someone who got rich doing it.

      When the email spam started, people went haywire. But I don't think anyone ever imagined it would explode like today.
    • Yes, they were not the first. But they were the first to do it in such a huge scale. The others were copied to a handfull of groups, and then the provider would pull the plug on the spammers' accounts, and that was the end of it. But the C&S spam was copied to every single newsgroup several times per day, and kept on going for quite a while. Their provider couldn't pull the plug, since the "law firm" treatened to sue them if they did. I'm using the term "law firm" very losely, since they had both b
  • That's Who (Score:5, Funny)

    by mod_critical (699118) * on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:45PM (#8476812)

    I'll tell you who buys this stuff:

    I had an aquaintence who surfing the web while we were in the library one time and freaked out all of a sudden. She went up to ask the librarian if she wouldn't be able to get her "prize" she just "won" because she was in a library and the "web people" wouldn't know where to find her...

    That is who buys this stuff.

    • Re:That's Who (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Em Emalb (452530) * <ememalb@NospaM.gmail.com> on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:48PM (#8476849) Homepage Journal
      Sounds like this was an opportunity for you to explain to her it was a scam and perhaps educate one more person....ah hell, who am I kidding?

      Stupid twit prolly wonders how all those people "found her". Prolly likes to speak with telemarketers too.

      Gah.
      • yep. I had some coworkers run up to me and ask me to come to their computer quick because they were giving away free vacations. They were only giving away a limited number and it was steadily counting down the number of free vacations left.

        Even after I told them it was just a scam they didn't quite believe me. I showed the javascript in the source where it was obviously just a simple countdown timer. Still didn't really believe me.

        A friend of mine told me his father was about to go to amsterdam to meet

    • Re:That's Who (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Spetiam (671180) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:56PM (#8476957) Journal
      seriously, just out of curiosity, has anyone here actually bought something because of a spam ad or know somebody that did?

      but here's the real question: why??
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:08PM (#8477081)
        Yes, and my penis is now much larger than yours. Which makes me feel far superior than you and not a fool at all for purchasing from a spam message.
      • Re:That's Who (Score:3, Insightful)

        by martin-k (99343)
        I receive several hundred spam messages _per day_ (thank you, Mr Bayes, to make that bearable), and have never been offered anything I would want to buy. I don't know, maybe spam would be less sucky if they ever offered anything worthwhile...

        -Martin

    • by Scaba (183684) <joe.joefrancia@com> on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:59PM (#8476999)

      Mmmmm, if only my female acquaintances were so gullible......wait, I don't have any female acquaintances. I've wasted my life with this damn computer!!!

    • by void warranty() (232725) on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:02PM (#8477015)
      And because you didn't kill her, the rest of us continue to get spam. Thanks a lot!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      True story:

      Remember those annoying 'punch the monkey and win $20' ads?

      I had an account exec, mid 30's college educated woman pulling down something in the $30-35k salary range call me (tech, natch) into her office *** specificaly to ask me where her $20 was ***.

      Perhaps she's the mom of the dumb bitch you mention?
    • Re:That's Who (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PYves (449297) on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:24PM (#8477255)
      Obviously the people who buy stuff from unsollicited emails are the same people who answer DMA's surveys.

      I'm not a stats major but I -was- a marketing major (I have since killed myself) and I very much doubt that DMA has a field of 1000 unbiased consumers in their survey, and a sample of 1000 to project 11 billion dollars of purchases? colour me sceptical.

      I mean, "The Online Newspaper of Record for Online Marketers" sounds almost exactly like "spamdot: News for spammers" to me.

      the survey is sketchy
      the projections are sketchy
      the source is sketchy.

      my life remains unaltered.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:45PM (#8476815)
    Netcraft confirm that spam is dying?
  • $11.7 billion... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Walkiry (698192) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:45PM (#8476817) Homepage
    Ever heard the phrase "follow the money"? Yes? Well, that's what they should be doing with Spam.
  • by TR0GD0RtheBURNiNAT0R (734295) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:47PM (#8476832)
    ...that people actually buy the stuff in spam... What kind of idiot would--HEY! look! Cheap Viagra! woohoo!!! what luck!
    • Re:kinda scary... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MCZapf (218870) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:53PM (#8476925)
      Lots of people, sadly. Pretend you are not so web-savvy. Now pretend you need viagra. You've been thinking about buying some, but are too ashamed to do so. Then a nice offer arrives in your email - with a "discounted" price! You can order it from the privacy of your own home. This might be enough to get you to buy.
      • Or could it be that people that are not web-saavy have a small penis that they can't get up because they're worried about their mortgage or that poor guy in Nigeria that can't get his money out?

        Maybe there's an obvious correlation here that we just don't see because we are web-saavy.

        myke (aka "The Tripod")
      • by dev11 (635413)
        OK, but if they can't even use proper grammar, or spell it properly (yeah I know "v1agra" or whatever are usually intentional mispellings to try to bypass simple spam filters), why would someone possibly trust them to sell something that is most likely fake, and probably illegal as well? A second grader writes better than most spam emails I get. Maybe that's the point. The written "quality" of the spam is probably indicative of the intelligence level of the average person responding to it. Want to sell to
      • by Mysticalfruit (533341) on Friday March 05, 2004 @03:00PM (#8477663) Journal
        Funny Story...

        One of my wife's friends (IQ=Bag of hammers) decided to buy birth control from some online pharmacy she saw in a piece of spam...

        Needless to say, she's due in August. (Yes, this is the same pharmacy that got in trouble for selling birth control pills with no birth control in them...)

  • 10 years... (Score:5, Funny)

    by maztuhblastah (745586) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:47PM (#8476833) Journal
    ...of making my mortage three to four inches larger while working at home for a Nigerian with financial problems who gets paid to take surverys online for a company that would like to pre-apporve me for a no-hassle Platinum card that I can use to pay for tuition at "a major university."






    Ok, I'm done now...
  • *sigh*.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tekiegreg (674773) * <tekieg1-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:48PM (#8476854) Homepage Journal
    As long as Spam continues to be profitable (and apparently increasingly so), I fear we may never really see the end of it. Even if SMTP protocols are revised, even if Internet postage is applied to emails, as long as you're doing better revenues over your expenses, which in most cases you are, then there is no hope.

    Tho I may sound resigned and defeated to e-mail's evenutal fate, there are alternates. Instant messaging is easier controlled (I never get any Spam, but then I don't allow people on my buddy list to IM me). IRC and other online chats are tough to pollute as well.

    In short my prediction is in 10 years I will have completely ditched my email address and I will be giving friends my ICQ UIN/AOL Handle/Yahoo Handle in lieu of it.

    Ok I'm through ranting, time for everyone else to.
    • Re:*sigh*.... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by extremesanity (621845)
      If you want to choose every single person that has contact with you you can do that just as easily with email. Its called a whitelist, and whomever is not on it does not get through. Its been around forever.
    • Re:*sigh*.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jfengel (409917) on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:14PM (#8477158) Homepage Journal
      I don't think it's as gloomy as all that. The techniques you apply to IM (keeping your "true name" secret except to people you trust) apply equally well to email.

      The difference between email and IM is one of modes of communication, and they're both valuable modes. IM has immediacy; email has time-shifting. One does not entirely substitute for the other.

      You're right that the spammers will not stop. They will shift to wherever the money is. If they find that they can no longer send email for free, then they will shift to IM, until that route is protected, too.

      They're already starting to explore other domains. Spam comments have started showing up in people's web logs, and I'm sure there's a lot of it in Slashdot, too. We don't see much of it because it's mostly moderated down or rejected by the lameness filters, but when attention is turned to it, the war will escalate on that front.

      The simplest solution, in all cases, is to accept only messages (whether IMs, slash postings, or emails) from known people. But email has a strong tradition of anonymity, and a valuable one. ACs in Slashdot can be anonymous informants inside a company. Or, far more likely, they're assholes. It's hard to tell without reading.

      A friend of mine strongly believes that if it's worth saying, it's worth sticking your name on, and your neck out. She's never lived in China, or Afghanistan, so I can't say if she's right in the general case. But most of the time, she's right, and people afraid to communicate publicly are far more likely to be assholes than hidden geniuses.

      Spammers can establish a short-term identity, but such identities can be, uh, identified. When receiving a message from, say, yahoo.com, ask the server how long this person has had the account, and whether its past behavior is spam-like. Does it receive emails? Does it reply to them?

      Obviously it's not fully worked out, and even more importantly, it will take a long time for such things to filter through the entire Internet.

      But I predict that in ten years, we'll have eliminated most forms of anonymity in email, and spam will be rejected at the server rather than filtered out. (I also predict that a lot of the burden of mass mail will be moved to RSS rather than email, but that's another story.)

      Anonymity, sadly, will fall by the wayside. It'll still be there, but the anonymous informants will be ignored. It sucks to be inside the sort of tyrrany that make anonymity necessary, and I hate to pay the price of keeping them down, but I hope mechanisms will evolve (say, a chain of authentication) that will allow a form of anonymity without the downsides.

      Meantime, get yourself a bunch of accounts, and give different accounts to different people, based on relationship and level of trust. In the future, your identity (and identities) will be one of the most valuable things you own.
  • 11 Billion? (Score:5, Funny)

    by badboy_tw2002 (524611) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:48PM (#8476855)
    Show me 11 billion from spam and I'll show you a guy with a 4 foot long penis.
    • by Em Emalb (452530) *
      You rang?
    • Thing is, this is just from the "non-fraudulent" sales. The DMA doesn't really go for the penis enlargers. They're the "legitimate" spam: people actually trying to sell real products.

      They're the ones who supported snail-mail addresses in email and genuine (rather than fake) unsubscribe addresses (though they don't want to make it easy for you to filter it out based on them).

      They're really the guys who send you junk snail mail. They have stuff to sell, and they hate the fraudsters because that makes it
  • I'm old... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FatRatBastard (7583) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:49PM (#8476868) Homepage
    You know you're no longer a snotty nosed geek when you can remember Canter & Siegel. Back in the days when you said "the internet" most people thought "Usenet", not "the Web." I think I still have an old O'Reiley book Using the Internet or some such thing were mention of the "World Wide Web" was relegated to an Appendix.
    • You know you're no longer a snotty nosed geek when you can remember Canter & Siegel. Back in the days when you said "the internet" most people thought "Usenet", not "the Web." I think I still have an old O'Reiley book Using the Internet or some such thing were mention of the "World Wide Web" was relegated to an Appendix.

      I remember when I first heard of the World Wide Web, back in '92. I thought "Why do you need a gui interface? Gopher and FTP work just fine."

      As you can tell, I am no techo-revolutio

    • Re:I'm old... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by TastyWords (640141)
      I'm old enough to have coined the phrase "the world's biggest secret club" many years ago. There are exceptions, but [for the most part] about the only way you knew about the Internet was if you were on it (and if you weren't on it, you likely didn't know about it).

      What really helped get the ball rolling was Kroll's book in the fall of '92 (Sep/Oct) Around Jan/Feb '93, it hit the computer best-selling lists (yes, there are separate lists for those things) and the major publishing houses scrambled to cat
  • by mrshowtime (562809) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:49PM (#8476869)
    The first spam was sent May 3, 1978 -- 25 years ago . (It was written May 1 but sent on May 3.) The end of the month marks the 11th anniversary of when the first time a USENET posting got named a spam. Once again, Slashdot editors need to start checking the validity of their article before posting.
  • by funny-jack (741994) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:49PM (#8476870) Homepage
    "The 23rd Spam" [satirewire.com] by Sam the Psalmist,Toronto, Ontario
    (real name withheld by request)

    The 23rd Spam

    The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
    He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,
    He leadeth me beside the still waters,
    He restoreth my credit and consolidateth my debts,
    For as little as $1,750,
    If I act now.

    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil: for thou art with me,
    Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
    And can now be 50 Percent Larger in Three Weeks.
    Guaranteed.

    Thou preparest a table before me
    In the presence of mine enemies,
    Thou annointest my head with oil,
    My cup runneth over.
    But as an added bonus,
    I will receive $1,000.00 cash,
    If I complete thy online registration form today.

    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me,
    All the days of my life,
    And I will dwell forever,
    In the House of the Lord,
    Which I shall refinanceth,
    To take advantage,
    Of the lowest mortgage rates in years.
  • Celebration? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lake2112 (748837) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:49PM (#8476872)
    There is no way that we should ever "celebrate" spam ... Maybe we can celebrate the eradication of spam, but never the anniversary.
  • by juggaleaux (725689) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:49PM (#8476874) Homepage Journal
    On my Yahoo! mail account I set up a filter that sends anything with "unsubscribe" to the trash automatically. My spam went WAY down. :)
  • $155?? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:50PM (#8476885)
    The average buy was $155

    Crikey, thats a lot of penis enlargement pills.

    I feel quite inadequate now.

  • by ackthpt (218170) *
    Other ways of viewing this auspicious occasion:

    Mourning Spam's Ten Year Anniversary

    Ten Years of Spam Adversity

    Ten Years of the most villainous scum (outside of Mos Eisley) crawling out of the woodwork

    Ten Years of some putz trying to get $25,000,000 out of a bank account somewhere in the world

    Ten Years of geeks valiantly slugging it out on the front lines of the conflict while Washington dithers

    Ten Years abusing free speech in another vein

    Ten Years watching a valuable resource be clogged by the low run

  • what about Fidonet, or whatever that mail system was that linked BBS's back in the day? I bet spam was sent through that, if nothing more that innapropriate advertisements for other BBS's. disclaimer: i never used fidonet, so this is all just speculation.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:53PM (#8476923)

    While irritating as hell to many, the sad truth is that spam works. And I know this from first-hand experience (Don't you love AC's!?).

    You know all those viagra ads you get? Well chances are it's not from us (I've never met someone who's gotten one of our spams), but maybe you have. In any case, we have margins 100% - 200% higher for people who buy via bulk mail than via other advertising methods, and sales are pretty darn good. I would imagine this isn't too surprising considering the kind of people who would actually respond to spam aren't that wise. In any case, as much as it is hated, it is effective. If it wasn't effective it wouldn't happen.

  • by $lingBlade (249591) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:54PM (#8476931)
    Apparently we've been trying to stop spam by targeting the wrong people. It seems to me that if we want to stop spam, we need to remove, inhibit or embarrass the people who actually BUY their products as a result of the spam they receive...

    now go ahead and mod me flaimbait or troll you useless dickweeds!
  • by bryanthompson (627923) <logansbroNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:54PM (#8476939) Homepage Journal
    [on the tag of a birthday present to spam]:
    To: Spam
    From: Everyone

    [spam opens package] thousands of spring-loaded snakes carrying advertisements for penis enlargers, viagra, and various pointless gidgets flys out.

    Bottom of package reads:
    To be removed from this list, email: okstopspammingmeseriously@yeahrightlikethisisareal address.com
  • I immediately thought that the topic was refering to the average grocery store shelf-life of a can of spam.
  • by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:57PM (#8476981)

    Back in the halcyon days of grad school, this...this...ad! shows up in a newsgroup I favored. I dashed off an e-mail them (several, in fact) including many full copies of their post. I encouraged my fellow students to do the same.

    We were quite happy to learn later the flood of mail took down their server. Yes, there I was riding the crest of the spam fighting movement without even knowing it. And at the time it was just a break from Netrek and posting via anon.penet.fi...

    This message has no point. Just some memories of an old guy. Did I ever tell you about programming the Commodore PETs in the math department in high school? It was like this...

  • A Grain of Salt... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pangian (703684) on Friday March 05, 2004 @01:59PM (#8476996)

    Or how about a ton of salt.

    What's that? The *Direct Marketing Association* released a report saying that spam sales accounted for $11.7 billion?

    But wait, isn't the DMA the very organization that represents the interests of the spam houses?

    Gee, I wonder if they would have an interest in convincing people [particularly retailers] that spam is a successful form of advertising?

    And what's that you say? The $11.7 billion estimate is based on calls to 1000 consumers? I wonder how they decided which 1000 people to call? I'll give you a hint...I bet they didn't opt in.

  • Wasn't this the year (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gr8Apes (679165) on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:01PM (#8477010)
    that AOL connected up to USENET? I personally thought that was the death of decent newsgroups.
  • C&S invented the SPAM concept on Usenet. I remember that it was not only meant to hit each group but that it was not cross-posted correctly (at all) and that you couldn't delete/kill/read(to be marked read) that message in one group and have it gone from all the other groups. This was a double no-no and wrong on more than one level.

    Since SPAM has propogated on to email, I am reminded of my favorite lines out of the Unix Haters Handbook [mit.edu].

    The thing that gets me is that one of the arguments that landed Robert Morris, author of "the Internet Worm" in jail was all the sysadmins' time his prank cost. Yet the author of sendmail is still walking around free without even a U (for Unixery) branded on his forehead. -- An email from dm at hri dot com dated 12-Oct-93 in Garfinkle, Weise and Strassman;
    Unix Haters Handbook; May, 1994; IDG Books Worldwide

    The interesting thing is that all this was published before the C&S Usenet spamming. How much time are admins spending on email management now?

    SPAM has killed Usenet's usefullness for me. At least filters like Popfile [sourceforge.net] and such are keeping SPAM over email bearable; even if they are not fixing the problem.

  • by AtariAmarok (451306) on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:07PM (#8477068)
    estimates $11.7 billion was spent on goods and services pitched via unsolicited e-mail.

    If one person answered all of these penis lengthening ads and purchased the product, the resulting member would stretch to the moon, circle it 3 times, and reach all the way back.
  • Bringing Down AOL (Score:4, Informative)

    by stand (126023) <stan@dyck.gmail@com> on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:08PM (#8477074) Homepage Journal

    This is older than 10 years, but Tim Bray [tbray.org] tells a funny story about how he might have brought down AOL back in 1988 in response to getting a spam email from someone with the email address lipstick@aol.com.

    He launched a job to send an angry response email every 10 seconds. He forgot about it until he heard a couple of guys talking a few days later about how their aol accounts were down over the weekend.

    Check it out [tbray.org], it's pretty hilarious.

  • How many times? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Stonent1 (594886) <stonent.stonent@pointclark@net> on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:08PM (#8477078) Journal
    I submitted a story about a year ago that said SPAM was 20 years old according to the BBC, (going by USENET spam) But I could have swore the anniversary of spam story has been here several times.
  • I doubt those numbers include the refunds that are given either because the product does not work. But there are some people who make the purchase for the sole purpose of tracking down the spammer and filing a lawsuit.
  • Oh Man! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Savatte (111615) on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:09PM (#8477095) Homepage Journal
    Everyone on my contact list and in my address book is going to hear about this monumental anniversary! And hopefully they will all forward it to everyone they know!
  • by MyFourthAccount (719363) on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:09PM (#8477096)
    Direct Marketing Association estimates $11.7 billion was spent on goods and services pitched via unsolicited e-mail

    So how hard can it be to find exactly the companies that sold this stuff?

    These are ultimately the companies that are responsible for spam. Why don't we hold them liable? I think I can proof that spam is costing me a significant amount of money (mostly lost time) even though I do have a fairly good working filter.

    I hear all the time that we can't really get the spammers because they are in China, or recently because they use zombies/compromised boxes all over the internet. Well, at the end of the day, it's not the spamhouses that are responsible for this. If no-one paid them to spam, it wouldn't be a business.

    So someone is paying money to get this spam to you. How come we can't go after them and make them pay?!
  • by va3atc (715659) *
    It will be taking your keys [pgp.com] when its twenty!
  • by saladpuncher (633633) on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:12PM (#8477132) Homepage
    11.7 Billion?!
    Oh man, the dark side is calling me. It's whispering in the back of my mind "Go ahead and just send out millions of emails a day and rake in millions of dollars. So what if you are hated by almost every living person on the planet....11.7 billion!"
    Then I smack myself and remember the most important lesson my dad ever taught me "never degrade yourself for money, only for personal enjoyment".
    They are never going to be able to stop these guys now. With that kind of money they can buy all the influence they need to keep pumping this crap out until the system becomes so overloaded that people stop using email altogether.
  • revenues (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WormholeFiend (674934) on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:13PM (#8477141)
    The black market revenues for hard drugs is in the billions as well, yet no one praises its economic benefits outside of criminal circles.
  • by Dr. Evil (3501) on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:15PM (#8477175)

    From a survey of 1000 respondants... $32.5 billion on solicited and unsolicited combined.

    What's the U.S. population these days?

    250,000,000?

    $130 for every man, woman and child in the U.S.?

    How much per household with a computer and an internet connection?

    By email?

    Based on a survey?

    Of people who responded?

    Of people who knew what email was?

    Of people who knew what it meant to respond to an email?

    Of people who knew the difference between a solicited and an unsolicited email?

    Sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association?

    I call BS.

  • by ultraslacker (597588) on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:18PM (#8477201)
    Oddly enough, hormel's spam first appeared on store shelves on March 5, 1937. Heard on the radio this am...
  • by stuffduff (681819) on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:21PM (#8477232) Journal
    If you do some digging at Brad Templeton's Home Page [templetons.com], his History of Spam [templetons.com] has a different version of the history [templetons.com]. DEC [templetons.com] may have not been the first!
  • Mmmm... nothing tastes better than Hawaii collectors edition Spam [yahoo.com]

    I know, I know. Offtopic. Lighten up though, it's SPAM!!

  • by Drake42 (4074) * on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:30PM (#8477323) Homepage
    I like the quote: "estimates $11.7 billion was spent on goods and services pitched via unsolicited e-mail" coming from people who want you to by their unsolicited e-mail services. Does anyone really trust this number, or does it seem totally made up?

    And if you believe that number I have a new marketing technique for you called 'Silent Marketing'. Just pay me a few thousand dollars and your product will be available to millions of potential buyers! Billions of dollars were spent over the web this year, so obviously my marketing idea will generate billions of dollars for you! Never mind what the idea is, other people are making money so if you give me money, you'll be making money too!

  • This was the SECOND. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mechanist (10536) on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:33PM (#8477362)

    This report is mistaken. The first large-scale spamming of Usenet preceeded this one by nearly two months. I remember it well, as I used Usenet pretty heavily at the time.

    It wasn't lawyers hawking green cards who really got the ball rolling. It was a religious nut warning us all about the end of the world. On January 17, 1994, Clarence L. Thomas IV (not the Supreme Court guy) spammed all known Usenet groups with a message titled Global Alert For All: Jesus is Coming Soon .

    You can see the original message in Google's archives [google.com]. And you can read about some of the after-effects in RISKS 15.49 [ncl.ac.uk], from February 1994.

    Canter & Siegel, the green card spammers, certainly earned their awful reputation. But they were only ripping off someone else's idea.

    • While your account definitely would count as SPAM, I think that they are using a tighter definition of SPAM here, that of UCE, or unsolicited commercial email. The Canter & Siegel email would certainly fall into that category (I remember the email - it was selling green cards - and I was a user of Internet Direct long ago - man, has it been 10 years already?) - while the Jesus email wouldn't (as it sounds that it was not attempting to sell anything for a monetary amount)...
  • I'll only believe it works when you show me a man with a 3 foot penis with diplomas from Harvard and MIT and with several Platinum cards for all the cash that Nigerian billionaires he didn't know left him when they died.
  • I'd like to see the mean instead of the average. That is, I'd like to see how evenly that $155 per purchase is distributed amongst those that make purchases via spam.

    I'd be willing to guess that they included all the scams (such as those of Nigerian type) into those figures, and the actual reality is quite different than reported.

    Not only that, but what about the 'average made per impression'? Seems pretty ineffective. Seems like you'd piss people off more than anything.

    Of course, there's nothing like an
  • Celebrate ! (Score:4, Funny)

    by AtariAmarok (451306) on Friday March 05, 2004 @02:53PM (#8477597)
    I'm so happy about this that I'm going to send an e-mail about the event to 43,000,000 of my closest friends.
  • by kalidasa (577403) * on Friday March 05, 2004 @03:38PM (#8478030) Journal

    The average buy was $155, which exceeds the average of $114 that opt-in e-mail generated.

    What matters is not the average amount spent per transaction, but the average amount spent per email.

  • by Brandybuck (704397) on Friday March 05, 2004 @04:05PM (#8478346) Homepage Journal
    Direct Marketing Association estimates $11.7 billion was spent on goods and services pitched via unsolicited e-mail.

    I say we go back to the days of stocks, pillories and public humiliation in an effort to stop spam. You get caught buying something via spam, you get hauled to the city square, shackeled to a post, and the rest of us get to throw rotten tomatoes at you. For example, buy Cialis and you get to spend your "special weekend" in the stocks.
  • by JuggleGeek (665620) on Friday March 05, 2004 @04:59PM (#8478940)
    If you trust anything the DMA tells you, then you are a fool.
  • by perky (106880) on Friday March 05, 2004 @06:08PM (#8479702)
    Direct Marketing Association estimates $11.7 billion was spent on goods and services pitched via unsolicited e-mail.

    In other news, the American Society for the Sales of Alternative Medicine estimated that new age hippies saved $47.3 trillion by forgoing medical insurance and waving crystals around insead.

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