Here’s a thought. What is the killer app online? How would you measure such a thing? I’ll throw this out there: follow the spam.

Spam = unsolicited commercial bulk messaging.

Spam is a mass market play. Paraphrasing the words of Matt Mason (of the Pirate’s Dilemma), spam is a market signal.

Why? Spam follows the money. You need massive quantities of people (who preferably don’t know what they’re doing online) to make spam work, since it probably has a conversion rate in the hundredths of a percent. Likewise, spam requires a marketplace where a minimal amount of work generates maximum results. Create once, send everywhere, wash, rinse, repeat. Spam that requires babysitting, customization, and customer service is a no-go. In the largely unregulated world of the Internet, spam is the marketplace acknowledging value and potential for commercialization.

What does this mean for social media and all things 2.0? Simple. You can measure the probability of success for a service by how easily it is spammed, or by how much time the service has to devote to fighting spam. If spammers move in, congratulations – you’ve got a product or service that the marketplace thinks can or has the potential to reach large groups of people. You’re starting to see plenty of blog and podcasting spam in the form of RSS scrapers. You’re seeing spam on MySpace and Twitter. You see a never-ending flow of spam in your inbox.

Spam is a market signal. If you operate a 2.0 service of any kind, and more of your time is going towards fighting spam, congratulations. The marketplace thinks you have serious, legitimate potential.

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