30 Years of Spam

Thirty years ago next week, Gary Thuerk, a marketer at the now-defunct computer firm Digital Equipment Corporation, sent an email to 393 users of Arpanet, the US government-run computer network that eventually became the internet. It was the first spam email ever.

That commercial message, sent on 3 May 1978, drew a swift and negative reaction. Recipients complained directly to Thuerk, who had made no attempt to hide his identity, and DEC was reprimanded by the Arpanet administrators.

Nevertheless, the email was a portent of things to come. Today, spam makes up 80 to 90% of all emails sent – around 120 billion messages per day – and is a multi-billion dollar industry. . .

But while the cost to spammers remains low, ISPs and their customers pay a higher price because of the bandwidth wasted, and the cost of the filtering technology. Ferris Research, another San Francisco-based firm, estimates that the cost of fighting spam will be $140 billion globally in 2008. (Full Story)

Gmail has a pretty good spam filter, so I usually don’t worry about spam all that much. The 140 billion, however, will make you stop and think about it for a second.