Daily Archives: April 12, 2014

Commercial Spam Turns 20 Today!

Some other time, some other place
We might not have been here, with egg on our face
I just wanna tell you, made up my mind
You know I can’t help the way I feel inside

Oh, this heart’s on fire
Right from the start, it’s been burning with rage
Oh, this heart’s on fire
One thing buddy, spam fills it with rampage!

And 20 years ago today, Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel unleashed the “Green Card” spam upon the world. While this was not the first instance of Usenet spam, it was the first instance of commercial Usenet spam and, quoting Wikipedia, its unapologetic authors are seen as having set the precedent for the modern global practice of spamming.

Canter and Siegel sent their advertisement, with the subject “Green Card Lottery – Final One?”, to at least 5,500 Usenet discussion groups, which was a huge number at the time, posting it as a separate posting in each newsgroup so a reader would see it in every group they read. Their internet service provider, Internet Direct, received so many complaints that its mail servers crashed repeatedly for the next two days! You have to remember, this was back in the time of dial-up and the highest speed modems available at that time were fax-speed 14.4K modems, with most people still on 2,400 baud modems! But this effort, and their subsequent efforts through Cybersell, which was a “spam-for-hire” company, ushered in the age of spam that we are still dealing with to this day.