Brad Feld

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The First Spam Email

Feb 02, 2007
Category Technology

I’ve been talking about, dealing with (in a “user-generated content context”), and thinking about spam a lot lately.  As an investor in email related companies going back to the mid-1990’s, I started experiencing spam as a real problem around 2000.  Chris, Ryan, and I spent a lot of time thinking about it and ended up investing in two companies – Return Path and Postini – which have both been very successful companies on the good side of the war against spam.

I was trying to remember when the first spam appeared (I had early 1980’s in my mind) so I went to the source of all knowledge (Wikipedia) and looked up spam.  I turns out the first official email spam was in 1978.  The ramp of spam – especially in the last three years – has been incredible.

  • 1978 – An e-mail spam is sent to 600 addresses
  • 1994 – First large-scale spam sent to 6000 newsgroups, reaching millions of people
  • 2005 – (June) 30 billion per day
  • 2006 – (June) 55 billion per day
  • 2006 – (December) 85 billion per day
  • 2007 – (February) 90 billion per day

Due to the magic of Postini, I see none of it (although according to Postini I’m now getting over 2000 per day on average.)