21 December, 2007

Doing Your bit to reduce Spam - Using BCC

In 2001, spam accounted for an estimated 5% of our email. In 2007, it clogs our inboxes* to the tune of 90-95% of all email sent, according to a new report released recently by Barracuda Networks. Barracuda, a leading vendor of spam filtering technology, based their analysis on the over 1 billion emails that the company's software scans each day.

Spammers need email IDs to send the spam to, and there are many sneaky sites out there who collect addresses from visitors and sell them to the spammers. Email addresses are also collected by spambots, which crawl the web just like regular search engine crawlers (like Google's Googlebot) , but looking for email IDs in webpages (say, in comments) instead of keywords.

Another source of valid email addresses are, believe it or not, your own forwarded emails. Whether sending jokes, amaaaaaazing pictures, inspiring presentations, friendship quotes or, the worst of them all - Chain Mails, the way you send it could very well be helping spammers send more unwanted messages to your own friends, relatives & colleagues...

As I mentioned in the last post, when you put all the addresses in the 'to' or 'cc' boxes while forwarding an email, the email IDs of all the recipients are visible to each other!. The actual use of 'cc' is for intimating persons other than those whom the message is meant for about the email. For example, you want to let Archie know that you have sent the mail to Jughead, while the letter isn't actually meant for Archie himself. If you didn't want Jughead to know that, then you'd put Archie's email ID into the 'BCC' box instead. Since email IDs in 'BCC' aren't visible to any of the recipients, the addresses remain safely within your contact list, away from prying eyes.

Another responsible thing you can do is to clean up the mail being forwarded before sending it across - remove the huge list of previous forwarders & forwardees from the mail. That isn't what you want your friends to read, right? You want them to see the contents of the mail itself. I have seen forwards with three to four PAGES of

"Forwarded Message: Fwd:Fw:Fwd: Subject
From: xx32, To: yy1, yy2..... yy56, yy 57...
Forwarded Message: Subject
From: zz20, To: xx1, xx2, xx3.... xx71

... followed by a One-Liner Joke. What gives?!

Once I even got a mail with just the list; no content - it had been clipped due to the mail being too long.. ( In Gmail, you can view the full content through the 'Show Original' link in the Reply button drop-down. )

Same thing with the Subject line as well - whatz with the 'Fwd: Fw: Re: [Groupkkk] Fwd [MailingList DingDong]....' ?? In Gmail, you should just click 'Edit Subject' link, clean it up so that just one 'Fwd:' & the Subject itself remains before sending it.

Inspired by a post at Yahoo! Mail's blog, where they explain the use of BCC through a screencast. The video itself isn't that impressive, so I'll just link to it rather than embed it here in the blog. > Using BCC Feature (Yahoo! Video)

* The part about 'Clogging your Inboxes' assumes that you aren't using Gmail :D

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