America Discovers New Ways to Communicate - E-mail
spam internet people computer
E-mail was the first of these new communications technologies to emerge. Not more than two years after the initial ARPANET test in 1969, Ray Tomlinson of ARPANET created the first e-mail program. Tomlinson got the idea from a program that had been floating around on time-share computers. These computers, prevalent in the early sixties, consisted of a number of remote terminals all connected to a central host computer where all the office files and programs were stored. The remote terminals, which were typically spread throughout the office building, consisted of little more than a screen and a keyboard, and the office workers shared the resources of the central computer. Programs were written for these systems wherein people could leave messages for one another within the core computer. Tomlinson simply adapted one of these static internal mail programs into a program that could send messages to other computers on the ARPANET. The first mass e-mail Tomlinson sent out with his program was a message to all ARPANET terminals informing them of the availability of "electronic mail." He told them to address one another using the following convention: "user's log-in name@host computer name." This same convention is still used today.
The first e-mail program was not very user-friendly. The e-mails did not have subject lines or date lines, they had to be opened in the order that they were received and
|Cellular telecommunications industry, 1990–2002|
|[Calendar year data, except as noted (5,283 represents 5,283,000). Based on a survey mailed to all cellular, personal communications services, and enhanced special mobile radio (ESMR) systems. For 2002 data, the universe was 2,481 systems and the response rate was 87 percent. The number of operational systems beginning 2000 differs from that reported for previous periods as a result of the consolidated operation of ESMR systems in a broader service area instead of by a city-to-city basis.]|
|1The basic geographic unit of a wireless PCS or cellular system. A city or county is divided into smaller "cells," each of which is equipped with a low-powered radio transmitter/receiver. The cells can vary in size depending upon terrain, capacity demands, etc. By controlling the transmission power, the radio frequencies assigned to one cell can be limited to the boundaries of that cell. When a wireless PCS or cellular phone moves from one cell toward another, a computer at the switching office monitors the movement and at the proper time, transfers or hands off the phone call to the new cell and another radio frequency.|
|2Service revenue generated by subscribers' calls outside of their system areas.|
|3As of December 31.|
|SOURCE: "No. 1150. Cellular Telecommunications Industry: 1990 to 2002," in Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2003, U.S. Census Bureau, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Spring 2003, http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/03statab/inforcomm.pdf (accessed October 25, 2004)|
|Service revenue||Mil. dol.||4,548||19,081||27,486||33,133||40,018||52,466||65,016||76,508|
|Roamer revenue2||Mil. dol.||456||2,542||2,974||3,501||4,085||3,883||3,936||3,896|
|Capital investment||Mil. dol.||6,282||24,080||46,058||60,543||71,265||89,624||105,030||126,922|
|Average monthly bill3||Dollars||80.90||51.00||42.78||39.43||41.24||45.27||47.37||48.40|
|Average length of call3||Minutes||2.20||2.15||2.31||2.39||2.38||2.56||2.74||2.73|
they read as strings of continuous text. Despite these flaws, the e-mail application caught on in the ARPANET community quickly, and the talented computer scientists in the organization worked out most of the kinks. Within a couple of years, users could list messages by subject and date, delete selected messages, and forward messages to other users. E-mail soon became the most popular application for the busy researchers working at ARPANET. When communicating by e-mail, they did not have to worry about the formalities or the long delays inherent in letter writing. Unlike a phone conversation, no time was wasted on small talk, and a copy of the communication could be retained. Finally, people could send e-mails to one another at any time of day or night. By the late 1970s, e-mail discussion groups had formed within the ARPANET community. Two of the more popular were the science fiction group and a group that discussed the potential future social ramifications of e-mail.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, other networks began to develop, such as Usenet and BITNET, which consisted of mainframe computers that connected to one another over telephone lines. The central purpose of these networks was to connect universities and government agencies that were not on ARPANET. Some of these networks, such as Usenet, were set up for the express purpose of sending e-mail and posting messages on newsgroups. Usenet consisted of computers of various sizes all over the country. A relatively small number of large, powerful computers formed the backbone of the network, and a large number of smaller computers logged on to the network through the larger ones. To send an e-mail from Indiana to South Carolina, for instance, a person on a small computer in Indiana would first dial into and post an e-mail onto the nearest large computer. The person operating the large computer in Indiana would then pass the e-mail via modem along with other messages from the region to all the other large computers in the network, including those in or near South Carolina. When the recipient of the e-mail logged into the network through the nearest large computer, the e-mail would then automatically be downloaded.
By the late 1980s, e-mail was available commercially for home users to a limited extent. Such companies as Quantum Computer Services (now known as America Online, or AOL) and Prodigy set up chat room and e-mail services that could be enjoyed by people with home computers. Quantum Link, for instance, was a service compatible with the Commodore 64 computer. Home users dialed into local Quantum Link mainframes, which were located in most major cities around the country. The mainframes were interconnected via open phone lines, so that anyone using the service could e-mail or chat with anyone else logged onto the service across country. A member, however, could not contact someone on another commercial service or on the much larger Internet.
E-mail Becomes Widespread
The development of NSFInternet and the standardization of Internet protocols (TCP/IP) in the mid-1980s brought most of the smaller academic networks such as BITNET together, allowing people throughout academia and government agencies to communicate with one another via e-mail. The invention of the World Wide Web, Mosaic, and the widespread use of more powerful personal computers allowed home users access to Internet e-mail by the early 1990s. In 1994 AOL began offering people a limited service on the Web with the ability to send and receive e-mail. Within a year, all the established dial-up services such as CompuServe and Prodigy moved their e-mail subscribers onto the larger Internet.
Since the mid-1990s e-mail has become the most used application on the Internet. According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in 1996, fifty million adult Americans had used e-mail. A Pew/Internet survey in spring 2000 revealed that the number of Internet users who took advantage of e-mail leapt to seventy-eight million people. Still another Pew/Internet survey, conducted in June 2003, showed e-mail use among Americans was at 117 million people. Most people said that e-mail helped them to maintain social ties with friends, communicate better on their jobs, and interact more effectively with local governments.
Who Uses E-mail?
A December 2003 Pew/Internet study entitled America's Online Pursuits reported that different demographic groups incorporate e-mail into their lives to varying degrees. In 2002 95% of online women sent and received e-mail, while only 90% of men did so. Women also saw e-mail in a more positive light then men and were more likely to say they looked forward to checking their mail. Along racial lines, however, the differences were greater. Only 87% of online African-Americans used e-mail, compared with 93% of whites on the Internet. A higher percentage of English-speaking Hispanics in general sent and received e-mail than whites. However, 54% of whites used e-mail on a daily basis, compared with 39% of online Hispanics.
Trends for e-mail use by age do not reflect trends for general Internet use. Figure 2.1 shows that of all age groups online in December 2002, those over sixty-five years of age had embraced e-mail the most. A March 2004 Pew/Internet survey report entitled Older Americans and the Internet revealed that 94% of online seniors sent or received e-mail, compared with 91% of all Internet users. E-mail is by far the Internet activity that seniors engage in more than any other. E-mail use, just like Internet use, varies with wealth and education. Thirty-nine percent of high school graduates sent e-mail on a typical day according to the December 2003 Pew/Internet report of American's online activities. The same study revealed that some 61% of college graduates were e-mailing daily. Furthermore, only 37% of adult Americans making less than $30,000 per year used e-mail. In households with incomes of more than $75,000 per year, 58% of people sent and received e-mail.
By far the biggest problem facing e-mail today is spam, which is generally defined as unsolicited e-mail
sent in bulk. Many people, including Orson Swindle of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), believe that spam may be on the verge of making e-mail an impractical means of communication. In 2003 Fallows had reported in Spam: How It Is Hurting Email and Degrading Life on the Internet that spam had reached epidemic proportions. As noted in Spam, the research marketing firm Radicati Group found that nearly half of the thirty billion e-mails passing back and forth on the Internet each day consisted of spam. The spam most Internet users saw in their e-mail boxes was only a fraction of the total spam sent to them. MSN and AOL both reported that each day they trashed 2.4 billion spam messages that would have otherwise reached their customers' electronic mailboxes. For AOL customers, this amounted to about sixty-seven spam emails per inbox or 80% of e-mail traffic. As stated in the Pew/Internet report, the price to American businesses to deal with all this spam totaled between $10 billion and $87 billion annually as of 2003.
Spam means many things to many people. According Fallows in Spam, most people (92%) in 2003 agreed to the statement that spam is "unsolicited commercial e-mail from a sender they do not know or cannot identify." Beyond this basic definition, however, opinions varied widely. As Table 2.2 shows, some 78% of adults believed that unsolicited mail containing health, beauty, or medical offers was not
|E-mail recipients' definition of spam, 2003|
|Sender or subject matter||% who consider it spam|
|Notes: For items 1–5, N 624. For items 6–13, N 648. UCE is unsolicited commercial email. E-mailers' definition of spam depends on the sender and the subject matter of the message.|
|SOURCE: "What E-mailers Consider Spam," in Spam: How It Is Hurting E-mail and Degrading Life on the Internet, Pew Internet and American Life Project, October 22, 2003, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Spam_Report.pdf (accessed October 25, 2004). Used by permission of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which bears no responsibility for the interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of the data.|
|Unsolicited commercial email (UCE) from a sender you don't know||92%|
|UCE from a political or advocacy group||74|
|UCE from a non-profit or charity||65|
|UCE from a sender with whom you've done business||32|
|UCE from a sender you have given permission to contact you||11|
|UCE containing adult content||92|
|UCE with investment deals, financial offers, moneymaking proposals||89|
|UCE with product or service offers||81|
|UCE with software offers||78|
|UCE with health, beauty, or medical offers||78|
|Unsolicited email with political messages||76|
|Unsolicited email with religious information||76|
|A personal or professional message from one you don't know||74|
spam. If the sender of the spam was promoting a nonprofit organization or charity, then only 65% of the recipients considered the e-mail spam. People were even less judgmental toward organizations with which they conducted business. Only 32% of e-mailers agreed that unsolicited emails sent from someone they did business with is spam. On the other hand, there were those (11%) who believed that an unsolicited e-mail from someone who was given permission to contact them was still spam.
Figure 2.2 shows a breakdown of the percentage of people's daily e-mail that was made of spam in 2003. Roughly a third (34%) of the e-mailing population said their e-mail consisted of 25% spam or less, and another third (35%) replied that their e-mail was made of 60% spam or more. As to the amount of time people spent on spam, Figure 2.3 reveals that 35% of e-mailers took less than five minutes a day clearing out the spam in 2003. Some 13% said they spent between fifteen minutes and thirty minutes on spam, and 15% said they spent over a half-hour or more. Overall, spam affected people's private accounts more than their work accounts. A third of people said their personal e-mails received more than 80% spam on a typical day, compared with 5% of people who responded that their work e-mail received this much spam. Only 7% of people said they received no spam in their personal e-mail inboxes, and nearly 40% said they received no spam in their work e-mail inboxes.
The vast majority of adults who received spam did not like it. Twenty-seven percent of people surveyed in the 2003 Pew/Internet study agreed spam is a "big problem." Most people (59%) said spam was "annoying, but not a
big problem," and only a small number of people (14%) responded that it was not a problem at all. Table 2.3 shows the single biggest objection people had to spam was that it was unsolicited. They were also upset at the volume of spam, its offensive and oftentimes obscene nature, and the fact that spam took time to deal with. Nearly one-third of all adult e-mailers expressed concern that in an attempt to cope with spam, either they or their service provider's e-mail filters were accidentally deleting legitimate e-mails. Still other people claimed that they miss out on e-mail because spam clogs their e-mail accounts to the point where they cannot receive any more mail. All of this amounts to a continued erosion of trust in e-mail. If spam volume continues to grow, it could eventually become heavy enough to jeopardize the system itself.
The problem is that sending out spam costs next to nothing per message sent. Even if 1% of people respond to a spam attack, be it for a legitimate digital cable filter or a fraudulent credit card scam, the spammer stands to make a lot of money or bring in a lot of credit card numbers. The October 2003 Pew/Internet report on spam revealed that 7% of people said they occasionally responded to spam ads. Bringing this number down to zero would likely be impossible. Until an effective law is put into place, the lucrative spam industry will probably continue to thrive. People will still get paid to build and sell huge lists of e-mail addresses. Software makers will continue to make money putting together programs that generate random lists of e-mail addresses and programs
that help spammers find easily exploitable e-mail servers with lists of e-mail accounts.
A group of some of computer scientists and engineers met at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the spring of 2003 to begin researching technologies that can stop spam. In addition, representatives from AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft met to share intelligence on blocking spam in 2003.
ANTI-SPAM LEGISLATION. The federal government has also become involved in limiting spam. On January 1, 2004, the "Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003" (CAN-SPAM Act) went into effect. This Congressional act, enforced by the FTC and the states' attorneys general, lays out a number of provisions that commercial e-mail senders (spammers) must follow. One provision states that commercial e-mail senders must clearly identify unsolicited e-mail as solicitations or advertisements for products and services. Commercial e-mail senders must also provide a way for the recipient of the mail to opt out of receiving any more e-mails from them, and all e-mails must contain a legitimate address and use honest subject lines. While these provisions address the issue of spam, enforcement has been very difficult. Creating a false identity on the Internet is easy, and once spammers know someone is tracking them down, they can easily relocate their operations to a different state or country. As of October 13, 2004, emarketer.com, one of the premier Web sites devoted to Internet marketing, reported that the level of compliance of CAN-SPAM has only managed to reach the 4% mark.
|Aspects of spam that bother e-mail recipients, 2003|
|Bothersome aspects of spam||%e-mailers bothered|
|N = 1,272.|
|SOURCE: "Aspects of Spam That Bother E-mailers," in Spam: How It Is Hurting E-mail and Degrading Life on the Internet, Pew Internet and American Life Project, October 22, 2003, http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Spam_Report.pdf (accessed October 25, 2004). Used by permission of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which bears no responsibility for the interpretations presented or conclusions reached based on analysis of the data.|
|Unsolicited nature of spam||84%|
|Deceptive or dishonest content||80|
|Potential damage to computer||79|
|Volume of spam||77|
|Offensive or obscene content||76|
|Compromise to privacy||76|
|Can't stop it||75|
|Time it takes to deal with it||69|