The latest edition of a book of global digital facts has exposed spam as an even more massive problem than previously imagined. Two-thirds of all email sent in March was spam, while only 20 percent of it was legitimate, according to the 2006 edition of the Digital Economy Fact Book, released yesterday by the PFF (Progress and Freedom Foundation), a conservative think-tank based in Washington DC. PFF researchers gathered data from a variety of public and private sources in the fact book.

The fact book is available for free download.

Nine percent of all email sent bounced, while 3 percent was virus email and 1 percent was phishing email.

Nearly 44 percent of all spam came from the US and another 13.6 percent came from China, the book says. More than 52.2 percent of spam focused on pharmaceutical products, and 15.5 percent pitched "enhancer" products.

More digital facts

Did you know that 18.3 percent of the world's internet users are from the US, while 11.1 percent are from China and 8 percent from Japan? Did you know that venture capitalists invested less money in the US software and biotechnology industries in 2005 than they did in 2004? Would it surprise you that venture capital investment in IT services grew by more than 50 per cent between 2004 and 2005?

This eighth edition of the fact book, 135 pages long, includes information on the growth of the internet, plus the hardware sector, the communications sector and e-commerce.

For example, while there were a combined 233.6 million residents of the US and UK using the internet as of the end of 2005, English was the language used by 312.8 million internet users. Chinese was the second most popular language of internet users, with 132.3 million Chinese speakers online this year.

The total number of internet users passed 1 billion in 2005, up from 420 million in 2000, the fact book says.

People online are spending money there, the fact book says. US online retail sales were $23.6bn in the fourth quarter of 2005, up from $19.1bn in the fourth quarter of 2004 and $9.4bn in the fourth quarter of 2001. E-commerce represented 2.5 percent of total retail sales in the US in the fourth quarter of 2005, steadily rising from 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 1999.

Global revenues of security software vendors grew from $7.9bn in 2003 to an estimated $10bn in 2005, the book says.