The world is giving up on popups because of spams. Will we someday be forced to give up e-mails because of spam? What about forums, chatrooms, and instant messaging? Comments and trackback are also starting to come under assault from spammers. Where is the line in the sand?
I used to feel comfortable with reliability of e-mails. When I send something to somebody, I felt reasonably sure that it will be delivered and read. That is no longer true today even with wide use of spam filters. When I send an e-mail now, I no longer feel sure of it being read by the receipient.
Of about 300 e-mails I get each day, about 200 are deleted. Out of 200, about 175 gets classified as spams or likely spams by my spam filter. Since there are so many, I tired of scanning the headlines to catch false signals long time ago. Wham. They are wacked even though I know that no spam filters are perfect and aggressive filters signal falsely as much as 17%.
25 spams that pass through the filter undetected are found by glancing at the sender's address and the subject of each e-mail. Are they really spams? I have grown to care not. If I don't recognize the sender or the subject line looks overly chummy like "Did you get my mail yesterday?", they are wacked without hesitance. Foreign e-mails? I wack them without mercy.
Constant avalanche of spams have de-sensitized me to the point where I no longer care if I delete legitimate e-mails. Next step is accepting only digitally signed e-mails from known sources. I don't think we are too far from that. Spam filters actually seem to promote de-sensitization. More reliable the filter is, more complacent the user gets. When was the last time you looked inside the spam and suspected spam folders?
Taking my own attitude about e-mails and spams into account, I expect everyone to be doing pretty much what I do. When I observed how my wife and son handle e-mails, I found that they are even more brutal than I am. They don't even look at the subject line, relying only on the sender's address. If they don't recognize the address, it is deleted without even a glance.
Now, step back and think about how much businesses around the world have come to depend on e-mail to do business, communicating with each other, their partners, and customers. Then think about what the loss of e-mail reliability means. Already, my friends in spam-suspect countries like Korea and China are having difficulty reaching me by e-mail because their messages are thrown into the spam pile. This has direct impact on the ability of companies in these countries to do business.
We are in serious boo-boo, Toto.
Update #1: The message I was trying to convey in this post is not that we need better spam filters. The message is that spam is not only annoying like dinner-time telemarketing phone calls, it is hitting businesses below the belt by degrading a major communication channel.