Wednesday, April 12, 2006

12 Years ago today: Canter&Siegel enter Internet purgatory as inventors of spam

Would you believe spam is only 12 years old? On April 12th, 1994 Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel decided to blanket the entire Usenet population with their infamous 'Green Card Lottery'.

It wasn't the first Usenet spam, nor was it the worst of all - that was Global Alert For All: Jesus Is Coming Soon, which brought Usenet to a virtuall standstill on January 19th, 1994.

But as far as I can see this was the first junk email that was actually called 'spam', a name that was derived from the famous Monty Python sketch in which the word 'spam' is used 94 times. The unfortunate couple unleashed a torrent of criticism with their actions, even giving rise to the invention of special cancelbots that were sent out on the Usenet with the specific purpose of deleting Canter&Siegel messages.

Were Laurence and Martha embarassed by this backlash? Were they sorry? Did they mend their ways? Nothing of the sort. They even published a manual so that others could copy their 'success', How to Make a Fortune on the Information Superhighway, contributing actively to today's staggering number of 12.5 billion spam emails per day.

April 12th, 1994 was a sad day in the history of the Internet.
(Source: 'Woensdag Gehaktdag' (Dutch), column in Planet Internet, Sept 17th, 2004)

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