Monty Python’s Flying Spam Circus

This past Monday, Basex named spam e-mail Product of the Year.  More akin to when Time magazine named Adolf Hitler Man of the Year in 1938, rather than honoring spam, the Product of the Year designation serves to single out spam as a disruptive force that has had a major impact on almost everyone who uses a computer.  In other words, spam is truly the great equalizer, no one is immune, even Bill Gates gets spam.

The Product-of-the-Year designation is meant to recognize technologies that have had a major impact on how we work using information technology – and nothing has had a more profound effect than the disruptive nature of spam.

The past twenty odd years have been greatly influenced by technology and, in particular, the Internet.  Even compared with just two or three years ago, people today place a greater reliance and perhaps have a greater habituation to Internet-based technologies, such as the Web and, in particular, e-mail.  But what if a sinister force were to neutralize the simplicity and ease-of-use we take for granted?

Spam e-mail – thanks to its sheer volume alone – could easily be that force.  Spam accounts for almost 50% of all Internet traffic today, and is far from a victimless crime.  Basex estimates the cost of spam to companies worldwide is approximately $20 billion, including lost productivity, cost of anti-spam software, and user support issues.  Spam is omnipresent; it is the subject of newspaper articles, television news features, and analyst reports.

But was spam inevitable?  Bob Kahn, the co-designer of the TCP/IP protocol, says that spam is “hardly surprising.”  Brad Arbogast, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and executive sponsor on the issue of spam, notes that spam “is our customers’ number one complaint concerning e-mail today.”

In conjunction with the Product of  the Year announcement, Basex has released a report, Spam E-Mail and Its Impact on IT Spending and Productivity.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

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