CAN-SPAM Turns 15

On December 16th, 2018 CAN-SPAM will turn 15. Yes, really, it’s been 15 years since the email protection bill was signed into law by former US President George W. Bush in 2003. Much has changed since then, and it’s easy to forget just how far we’ve come. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit 2003, shall we?

  • There were no iPhones. Nokia dominated the cell phone world with its popular 3100 series phone, but it lacked a touchscreen or keyboard. It did, however, have the game Snake. The iPhone wouldn’t be released until 2007.
  • Spam made up between 55-70% of all incoming correspondence worldwide. And you thought your inbox is cluttered now! Kapersky Lab referred 2003 as “The Year of Spam.”
  • Texting was just becoming popular, but it wasn’t easy. Sending a text meant using multi-tap technology, unless your phone had T9 enabled. That year, the TV Show American Idol set records for having the largest single text-messaging event in the US. Texting was also priced at $.10 per text for many carriers, unless you upgraded to a bundled text package.
  • MySpace was released. In August 2003, Tom became everyone’s first friend. And Facebook? What’s The Facebook? It wouldn’t be released until the next year.
  • No one had been fired. NBC’s The Apprentice started filming in September 2003 and premiered in January 2004.
  • Broadband was not commonplace. Only 31% of home internet users had a high-speed connection at home, such as DSL, cable, or fiber. The remaining 59% had dialup.
    Apple launched the iTunes Music Store. Songs were available for $.99 each. Good thing, too, because Napster had already shut down.
    You still had your Friends. The TV show ended its run in 2004 after 10 years of being “Must See TV.”
  • was not your email address. Gmail launched an invite-only beta in 2004, starting with Google employees. Gmail was made publicly available in 2007 and dropped its “beta” status in 2009.
  • Your BlackBerry was now in color. In 2003, the company debuted its first phone with a color screen and a cobalt blue shell.


But there are a few things that remain the same, and have stood the test of time:

  • Email still rules. Worldwide email use continues to grow. The Radicati Group, a technology research firm, has proposed that by the end of 2019, the number of worldwide email users will increase to over 2.9 billion. Over one-third of the worldwide population will be using email by year-end 2019.
  • Brands still overwhelmingly rely on email. And consumers consistently rate email as the top channel for receiving communications from companies—regardless of their age.
  • Following best in class sending practices is still necessary. Brands rely on products like Return Path Certification, for example, to make it through to their subscribers – because reaching the inbox doesn’t happen by itself.

What can we learn from the past 15 years? Technology is always evolving, but the premise behind our favorite emails remain the same – send your subscribers things they want, and they will engage with your brand.

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