Web Security Web Technology

Contact Forms are Totally Lame

Remember the mid-to-late 90’s?

Music was awesome, there were less browsers to support, and people got spammed to death if they posted their email address online.

Having your email address posted online was the worst thing that could happen to you. We didn’t have spam filters back then. You would get so much unmanageable spam that you would have to change your email address. It was that bad. You had to tell everyone you knew about your new email address, then just kiss the old one goodbye. It was ok, though, because normal people just didn’t post their email addresses online.

Ah, but the bloggers…

That’s right, those pesky bloggers with their please-contact-me egos. They had to find ways to post their email addresses on their websites. What did they do?

First, they did nothing. And got spammed. It sucked.

Contact me at!

Then, obfuscation kind of caught on. So instead of writing your email address in plain HTML, you would write some basic JavaScript that would dynamically insert your email address into your mark-up. This worked pretty well, until the spammers got wise and updated their tools to match.

Contact me at !

You have JavaScript disabled, so you can’t see the JavaScript example.

Next, everyone settled on this idea that instead of linking your email address automatically, you could hint at what your email address is and let the users figure it out — and manually punch it into their email clients.

This worked well against spammers, because it made it look like there was no email address. But it also worked against users, burdening them with added responsibility. It was annoying then, but understandable. When people do it now, it’s just plain annoying.

Contact me at my first name at dan-menard dot com!

Finally, serious bloggers settled on the contact form. Instead of posting an email address online, these bloggers would post a form that asks you to enter your name, the subject, and the content of your email. When the user submits the form, some back-end server somewhere fills in the email address, far and away from anything spammers can see or touch.

Enter your name:

Enter your email address:

Enter the email subject:

Enter your message:

(That form doesn’t actually do anything, especially when you have JavaScript disabled.)

This was a foolproof anti-spam system, and held up well until Gmail came along and I never saw another spam message ever again. Wait, that’s worth repeating on its own line:

Then Gmail came along and I never saw another spam message ever again.

Seriously. I have three email accounts that I use daily, all of them running on Gmail. Do you know how often I see a spam message in my inbox? Maybe a few times a year. And I post those addresses online as much as I please. I don’t even think about it anymore.

And this is where we get to the point I’m trying to make:

Why are people still using contact forms?

Contact forms are unfriendly. Have you ever tried to write a heartfelt, meaningful message in one of those things? It’s impossible! They remind me that I’m monotonously typing into a machine when I should feel like I’m composing a message to a real person. I cringe whenever I see one.

They’re just not necessary anymore. We have spam filters! They work! You can post your email address online and you won’t get spammed. I promise!

And it’s pervasive! Blogs that I know and love still use them. Forcing me to shoehorn my beautiful prose into their stale, no-longer-necessary and mildly-annoying form.

I don’t get it.

I just want to use my own email client to write them an email on my own terms. Why are they making this so difficult?