Understanding Spam - Definition of Spam Mail

Almost anyone with a passing awareness of the Internet is familiar with spam mail. Just as junk mail is the demon of the Postal Service, junk email is the computer equivalent. So what exactly is the definition of spam mail.

Spam is unsolicited email or junk email, usually with some claimed commercial objective, but nearly always unwelcome. Spam email is sent by automated bulk email server to millions of email addresses, most often offering products and services such as prescription medicines, get rich quick schemes and pornography.

As much as the objectionable content, it is the means of sending spam email that upsets most people. Unlike junk mail that is delivered by the Postal Service at the expense of the sender, the cost of sending junk email lies almost completely on the reciepient and the transmitters. There is a minimal cost to the sender but that is only when they use paid services to distribute their spam messages.

So why is spam email so hated? After all, it can be eliminated with a simple delete. While receiving one or two unwanted emails a day is a minor nuisance, when the figure rises to ten, twenty or a hundred per day it becomes a major problem.

Before email became an accepted means of communication, spam was mostly restricted to the USENET newsgroups, which were initially established to chat about particular topics. As the USENET grew, so did the technology, and advanced mechanisms were introduced that allowed the sending of one message across multiple newsgroups.

This ability to cross post across multiple newsgroups was swiftly exploited by the spammers with the same message being sent to thousands of newsgroups with no regard for the actual interests of that group.

With the rise in popularity of email, spammers gained a entirely new arena in which to inflict harm. They use software, called spambots, to collect email addresses posted on web sites or newsgroups, and send out their unwanted junk email to millions of recipients at once.

Spambots are programs which are used to harvest email addresses for subsequent compiling into mailing lists in order to spam large groups of individuals in one easy way

The sheer number of messages sent makes spam very lucrative. This is known as shotgun advertising although it is difficult to determine the difference between advertising and scams. Most respectable advertisers use targeted marketing, which involves soliciting email addresses by choice or at least attempting to analyze the recipient to send only messages that are likely to be welcomed.

The majority of people would not fall for get rich quick schemes or be interested in random merchandise offers, but even if only one recipient out of a million provides his or her credit card number, the spammer's efforts have been worthwhile.

These days, companies, trade groups, legislation and technology are all combining forces in an attempt to make spam junk email a thing of the past. Although this effort will never be 100% effective in preventing spam email, large strides are nevertheless being made in all areas.