May 8, 2003

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if we could simply say no more Spam please? Of course we have the right to say no thank you to this particular menu choice, but there is another type of Spam that's causing way more trouble than the canned meat substance ever did. I always went home hungry when they popped the top on another can of that stuff at day care when I was little. Eventually I swayed enough of my fellow toddlers to join my hunger strike that Spam was permanently banned from the menu.

Now there are plenty of people following in those footsteps as they attempt to get another type of Spam banned. These folks want to stop the growing flow of unsolicited e-mail. With the growth of the Internet has come the exponential expansion of electronic marketing that has grown to what experts predict will be epidemic sizes in the near future. When I first started on the Internet some seven years ago it was like I was a little kid. Remember when you were a youngster how big a deal it was to get something in the mail? Well it was the same way when I opened my e-mail account. It was so cool to start up the program and find that someone had sent me an electric message. Yesterday when I started my e-mail program at work I had 119 new messages with at least 80-90 of those being unsolicited marketing, or Spam. I had everything from the newest diet plans, cheap travel fairs, CD and DVD clubs to dating services, cheap insurance offers and even a few unmentionable that you definitely wouldn't want to have been opening in front of the kids.

According to published reports Spam is spreading at an unbelievable rate. Brightmail, an anti-Spam group centered in San Francisco, CA, has reported that Spam has grown from 16-percent of all e-mail in January of last year to more than 45 percent today, in a little over one year. The problem is so bad that three of the main competitors in the Internet provider market, AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo! Have begun to work together to create filters and other systems to allow users to say no to Spam.

Ultimately the issue will be turned over to legislators who already have begun to discuss laws to curb the problem. Missouri has seen the success of the No-Call list that allows citizens to sign-up for a list that prevents the majority of telemarketers from making unsolicited phone calls to them. The increasing postage costs and other markets factors have helped to curb the amounts of junk mail we get in the mailbox now. And if there is any positive from the Spam issue it is the switch over from junk mail to the electronic mass marketing. You have to admit it is much easier to click delete on your computer and remove the unwanted Spam than it is to fill up your recycling box and have to haul off all that junk mail.

Of course the issue goes well beyond the nuisance of a filled mailbox. If the mass e-mailing Spam is not stopped it could ultimately pose traffic problems on the Internet bogging down the electronic information highway just like it used to bog down the lunch line at day care when I heard them pop another top on a can of Spam. As one can tell looking at my belly I haven't missed too many lunches since and I sure would hate to miss out on any important e-mails that might get lost in the shuffle. SO I guess I am anti-Spam all the way.

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