According to, SPIM "is a self-contained software simulator for running R2000/R3000 assembly language programs." (R2000 and R3000 are MIPS® CPUs.) Versions are available for most POSIX, DOS, and Windows® systems. It was written by James Larus, who once taught at University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI (thanks m_turner). Sadly, Larus left it maintainerless when he went to work for Microsoft; it still remains somewhat short of being Tetris complete.

Spim Spam Spoom

You are already feeling irritable as you begin the process of wading through the hundred or so spam messages that have accumulated over the weekend, and it doesn't help that your email client is set to pick up new messages automatically every five minutes and that most of the new stuff is just more spam. So when your AIM client pops up on the screen and happily announces that a new message has arrived, and that message turns out to be an unsolicited advertisement as well, you just blow a fuse and wander off in search of coffee and Tylenol...

Sad but true, spim ( Instant Message Spam) is on the rise and has all the earmarkings of inevitability.  The world's marketing geniuses have yet to see a channel they didn't love and mercilessly exploit.  Spam-style messages delivered over the instant messaging networks may well be their next target.  Although the volume of spim is still fairly low, 500 million messages in 2003 according to Ferris Research, it has almost doubled since 2002.  That exponential rate of growth  suggests that spim will reach the threshold of annoyance sometime very soon and become a major problem for users in the near future. Of course spim has a long way to go to catch up with spam.  Ferris Research reports that last year one anti-spam service provider, Brightmail, trapped 800 billion spam messages in 2003.  The term "Spim" seems a likely candidate for widespread use. Near as I can tell it was first used in a Jabber discussion group1.  It was recently picked up by Information Week, a launch pad for upwardly mobile memes.

Spim Control

Ironically, so far most spim messages are sales pitches for software that will prevent spim. No doubt the spimmers will soon branch out into the more common Paris Hilton videos and organic viagra sales.  Anything that is currently clogging the spam filters is a likely candidate for spim in the near future.  Officials at AOL and MSN, two important IM providers both acknowledge that they've observed a recent increase in spim.  They are both taking some measures to deal with spim; MSN Messenger doesn't allow messages from people not on your buddy list, and AOL 9.0 includes a feature called IMCatcher, that quarantines messages from users you don't know.  These measures are marginally effective, but won't serve to stop the rise of spim as marketers begin to adopt the same process of harvesting IM addresses from websites and public chat rooms.  IM users wishing to avoid spim are advised to only release their screen names to those they know and not to post them on public websites.

The one factor effectively serving to control the growth of spim at this time is the fragmented nature of the Instant Messaging networks.  As long as AOL users can't talk directly to MSN or Yahoo IM users marketers are forced to work harder for their audiences.  Unfortunately, at least in this narrow perspective, talks are ongoing between the IM providers about increasing the interoperability of their networks.  This convergence would dramatically increase the rewards for spimmers and likely hasten its increase in volume.

Spim is also becoming visible in the wireless market where, according to Zachary Rodgers of InstantMessagingPlanet.com2, "The wireless advertising industry's Mobile Marketing Association (MMA)  has released a six-point industry code of conduct for North American wireless marketing campaigns, hoping to stop a spam epidemic before it starts."  The MMA's Privacy Policy Advisory Committee includes such heavy marketers as Procter & Gamble, The Weather Channel and Verisign3, none of whom can be expected to be overly sympathetic to beleaguered users. Their guidelines appear to give a favorable nod to spammers who collect detailed demographic information for their marketing campaigns and solicit "targeted audiences" only, on the presumption that these unsolicited messages are therefore less annoying to consumers.

Prepare for the flood...


1 Jabber discussion on Spim:
2 covers the IM beat:
3 Mobile Marketing Association is the belly of the beast:

Notes & Errata

Master_Villain says re SPIM: You forgot to talk about ICQ and the porn spam that did/does the rounds on it. Had the added effect of being able to send spam before people had started using the number, but ICQ had the functionality needed to stop it built in from the get-go

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