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Form-to-Email Gateways

A form-to-email gateway is usually comprised of a web page, written in HTML, ASP, etc., and a script, which can be written in Perl, C, Visual Basic etc. The page gathers the information and the script then takes that data and sends it via email.

Some examples of form-to-email gateways include the Support Contact Form we use in this support area, greeting card scripts, and even some forms used for ordering products or services on the web.

Flaws with Form-to-Email Gateways

Despite the functionality and ease of use form-to-email gateways offer, they sometimes have flaws in their design and implementation. For instance, in an effort to make forms easy to use and administer, many script designers allow most of the configuration of the script to be done at the HTML level. Both FormMail, the popular script available from Matt's Script Archive and Mailform*, the script available through the Unix-based version of the netConsole, fall into this category. Although this does make the script easier to set-up and modify, it may also allow any and all users on the internet the ability to send email through the mail server.

Greeting-card programs allow users to send an electronic greeting card to any email address they like. These too are also often abused for the very same reasons that form-to-mail gateways are. If you decide to run a greeting card script, please make absolutely certain that the script only allows one user to send a card every 10 minutes or so. This is called tarpitting and, while it certainly won't stop spamming, it may serve as a deterrent against the script's abuse.

* Although both of these scripts allow configuration of the script with HTML in the form page, they also take steps to ensure the scripts are not abused. For more information on this, please visit the respective pages detailing MSA's FormMail and Internet Connection's own Mailform.

Why is spam bad?

This is a subjective question with a subjective answer. In short, spam is not bad, and can be/has been a powerful marketing tool while both exploiting the postal service and Internet mail servers. When a letter is sent using the postal service, there is a charge (stamps) for its delivery. This helps the postal service to operate and improve. But when a letter is sent over the internet, the sender is usually not charged, and this leads many people to believe that it doesn't cost ANYBODY anything. However, in many countries, users are charged per-minute to download their email. The majority of these users do not want to be spending money on someone elses advertising. And of course, every computer on the internet is (still) finite. Each machine can only handle so-many messages per day. As that limitation approaches, the administrator has no choice but to upgrade the machine (thus costing them money).

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