Spam is an inherent part of our online lives and its impact has some weird implications.
First, a few words on how spam works. Masses of infected computers form botnets, which are controlled by spammers. These formidable armies of zombies have been proven to number up to 30 million computers:
and who knows how big they actually get.
So, аll those people that have tried to search for porn with google and have clicked on all the links, and as a result have loads of porn popups opening all the time are part of the botnets. When someone is unknowingly taken to the dark side it can be less obvious sometimes and quite likely some of you are sending spam right now, and in any case all of us have done so in the past.
A BBC article got my imagination running while I was hanging proper stoned at a long queue at the post office last week (the usual mess that we get when there is 5cm of snow in London - delays that outlast the snow!):
So what happens is that suddenly there is a drop of 50% in global spam levels, but still experts detect that the botnets are alive and well - they just aren't sending spam! So, my stoned head was thinking, what the hell might they be doing with all this computing power in their hands? This is no joke, this is no SETI, these are a hundred fucking million machines that are responsible for the spam that each and every one of us receives every day (indeed, you might have good spam filters and not have it in your inbox but they are still wasting your provider's resources). They could be predicting the global warming, looking for the Higgs, running a simulation of WWIII or FSM knows what?
Unfortunately, it turns out to be a lot less exciting :-( It appears to be just a marketing technique - 64% of email spam is about medical products which I guess are not much sought after around the holidays - actually all the spam that disappeared was v1agra and the like (probably in some rough correlation to the peak of cocaine usage), all the rest was still going, and it all went back to normal on 10th January:
So I guess spammers aren't taking over the world after all.
Not this time, at least.