Spam clock tallies junk on the Internet

Search firm warns that spammers have turned their attention from e-mail to bogus Web pages.

You've probably heard of the Doomsday Clock. It was created in 1947 by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to give mankind an idea of how close it is to catastrophic destruction. A similar clock has been launched by search engine newcomer Blekko, only it's counting how many spam pages are created on the Internet every second. Since January 1 alone, 156.8 million spam pages have been created on the Web, and the clock keeps counting and counting....

"I fear that we are approaching a tipping point, where the volume of garbage soars beyond and overwhelms the valuable of what is on the web," Blekko founder Rich Skrenta lamented in his blog.

Skrenta fears that the Web is headed the way of e-mail. It's estimated that 90% of e-mail traffic on the Internet is spam. Imagine what surfing the Web would be like if 90% of all Web pages were spam racks for advertising.

"What happened to e-mail was the result of very powerful economics," Skrenta explains. "Spammers and con artists discovered they could reach a massive audience for pennies. And this scale of audience essentially guaranteed a very small but profitable return. Today the economic incentives for web spammers are even more lucrative than email spam and almost guarantee a continued blizzard of trash on the Web."

Just as email spammers hire cheap labor to break Captcha puzzles, Web spammers are enlisting low-wage workers to churn out Web pages at anywhere from five cents to a dollar a pop.

"Web spammers simply have to create pages on the Web and sit back and let search engines send them money," Skrenta writes. "Current search engines have abandoned any attempt to enforce even the slightest modicum of quality control. Revenue is guaranteed if a page can draw a click."

Skrenta describes himself as a "half full glass kind of guy," but he's not optimistic about the Web spam problem. "The problems and challenges of spam to the entire world are going to get worse," he predicts. "As the online economy continues to grow at double digits compared to stalled growth for the offline economy, the incentives for spammers get even more lucrative."

This story, "Spam clock tallies junk on the Internet" was originally published by PCWorld.

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