Internet Driver’s License

4 minute read

Today I received one of those silly “forward this email to your friends and Microsoft will send you money” emails. I was in a mood to rant (err, I mean educate) and wrote the following response. I carefully extracted every email address in every previous forward of the message and probably made 97 new enemies.

Ok folks, listen up. Today’s class, “Remedial Internet 101,” is now in session. I’m your host, Professor Jeff Barr. Everything you learn today will be on the final. No, you can’t be excused to go to the bathroom, there will be no makeup exams, and I don’t have any stinking office hours.


Sorry to disappoint you, but this is simply not true. This is an urban legend that has been running around since 1997. Please pass my message along to all of your friends instead.

You can read about it here:

I am doing my part to stop this. That’s why I spent nearly 45 minutes extracting out all of the email addresses and writing this message. All 97 of you should think twice before doing this again. In fact, if there was such a thing as an “internet driver’s license” some of you might be in danger of losing it at the moment.

>>> Microsoft and AOL are now the largest Internet companies
>>> and in an effort to make sure that Internet Explorer remains the
>>> most widely used program, Microsoft and AOL are running an e-mail
>>> beta test.

Does any of this make any sense? Have they not heard of Google or Yahoo, both of which have kicked the wrinkled pink @$$es of Microsoft and AOL in the last 10 years? And how the heck could forwarding an email promote the use of Internet Explorer? Other than building a list of gullible people (not such a bad thing to have, now that I think of it), how could one email address possibly be worth $245? Those of you in school, have you studied the term “cost of customer acquisition?” Would any of you pay $245 to a random person to promote the use of a free program? No? I didn’t think so. Presumably Bill Gates got to where he is because he’s smarter than you, so this probably wouldn’t make sense to him either. Think about that….

> If anyone can affoard this, Bill gates is the man. It's all marketing expense to him.

Guess they never heard of spell check or capitalization either. For the record Bill Gates hasn’t had an operating position at Microsoft for several years. He’s half retired. You should know this, you promiscuous and all-knowing email-forwarding folks. And just because it is “all marketing expense” doesn’t mean that they have a license to give money away.

Not to point any fingers because I’m sure all of you mean well and like to share good news, but could I ask everyone to simply think and to do some research before passing along something like this again? Can I ask you to read it and realize in 10 seconds that the subject line references Microsoft, and the body of the text then references AOL and Intel. Does that make you think there’s something odd going on here? Well, it should.

With the internet at your fingertips, with search engines like Google just a click or two away, and with the Urban Legends database at up and running 24 hours a day, checking out the veracity of a story like this shouldn’t take you too much time at all.

There’s a name mentioned in the document, one “Pearlas Sandborn.” If she’s so important, she should be in Google, right? Give it a shot and you’ll end up at . Visit that site and here’s what you will find:

“Pearlas Sandborn is not a real person. She (or maybe he) is a figment of someone’s imagination, invented to give credence to an internet e-mail hoax.”

Hmmmm. That might be your first clue.

As much as we all “want to believe,” do you really think that Microsoft is in need of email addresses? Do you know how easy it is to buy CDs with millions of addresses already burned in? Do you really think that Microsoft would write checks this big? If you do, please enroll in my other class, “Marketing Budgets 101.” Our first topic will be “No, you stupid fool, you really can’t spend all of our corporate funds to buy email addresses from suckers.”

Judging from your email addresses, some of you hold presumably responsible positions in churches, schools, and governments. Some of you are students and some of you apparently work at investment banks, places where you had to actually qualify to get in. Did you fall for that prank about the word “gullible” not being in the dictionary too? I sure hope not, but I won’t bet on it. Sorry, it had to be said.

I have to say that it is positively scary to think that I could trick some of you into doing something by simply crafting an email like this. Perhaps I could even sell you an internet driver’s license. Send me $10 and a good picture of yourself, and I’ll get your license to you as soon as possible.

So the lesson is: next time, please do some research, and make the internet a better place.

Merry Christmas to you all.