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The Death of BCC 366

An anonymous reader writes "An interesting op-ed at NeoSmart discusses the demise of BCC in emails at the hands of Facebook and the like. It discusses how certain technologies that are slowly being supplanted by 'cooler' yet less effective alternatives have actually been spoiled for all, since they rely on a basic community-wide awareness regarding these technologies for them to work."
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The Death of BCC

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  • Nope (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eison ( 56778 ) <pkteison.hotmail@com> on Sunday February 20, 2011 @07:51PM (#35263042) Homepage

    BCC was killed by spam filters, not facebook.

    • Re:Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @08:17PM (#35263258)

      Saying BCC is dead because people use facebook is like saying SSH or FTP is dead, because my mom doesn't use either.

      • by ls671 ( 1122017 ) *

        I guess you are right because when I started reading, I actually thought TFA was about the BBC. It could have made more sense I guess...

        • by Lifyre ( 960576 )

          Good it wasn't just me. I thought I had missed something momentous and it turns out I just missed an idiot talking about something he doesn't understand.

      • Saying BCC is dead because people use facebook is like saying SSH or FTP is dead, because my mom doesn't use either.

        Close enough.

        When was the last time you saw anyone but the alpha geek use a stand alone FTP client?

        • by isorox ( 205688 )

          Saying BCC is dead because people use facebook is like saying SSH or FTP is dead, because my mom doesn't use either.

          Close enough.

          When was the last time you saw anyone but the alpha geek use a stand alone FTP client?

          Our journalists are continually using ftp, when it works (often doesn't work from hotels). On the otherhand, anyone with a clue uses sftp.

    • Not to mention nobody outside of corporate knew what the hell a BCC was anyway. I've shown users how to BCC themselves when sending pictures so they have a copy in their email and every single time I get "Is that what that was for? I didn't know what that thing was."

      It is one of those techs like knowing how to set up your own DNS or change your IP that few outside IT and corporate EVER use or even has a clue is there. I have a feeling if it dies completely out of non corporate environments there will be s

      • Yeah, it's most useful anyway in a corporate setting, and then I'm in the habit of telling people to expect it. The only reason I'd use it outside of work is to send a bulk mail in which I put everyone on BCC. That though is incredibly rare.

      • Are you talking about sending a copy to a different email address of yours? I ask, because if you're talking about keeping a copy in the same account, then it seems simpler to just save a sent copy, which also keeps the attachments. Some services keep the attachments, and some don't.

        • Yes, I have multiple email accounts and one is set up simply to be a backup storage facility for things such as files and emails I may require access to out in the field, or want to make sure I don't lose like pictures or important correspondence.

          You see that way my main email address is nice and neat, with only outstanding shipments of parts and currently open conversations in my inbox, whereas my bulk backup is currently at 500+ emails with everything from certain must have files I often find a need for o

    • It ain't been killed till we have a new version of smtp without it, imho.

      • Re:Nope (Score:5, Informative)

        by mr_mischief ( 456295 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @09:33PM (#35263814) Journal

        SMTP doesn't know "BCC". SMTP knows "RCPT TO". The MUA knows "BCC" and "RCPT TO" both because it speaks SMTP and also knows the mail content format for TO, FROM, CC, and REPLY TO headers. BCC is an extra version of CC that adds more RCPT TO requests to the SMTP session but doesn't add a header like CC does.

        Unfortunately, since so many implementors included the completely non-standard capability of multiple recipients in the "TO" field, CC itself is terribly underused itself.

        So now you know... and knowing is half the battle.

        • by Toam ( 1134401 )
          Having multiple addresses in the "To" field is useful, though.

          Often I might need to send an email that is explicitly intended for more than one person, while other people might need a copy of it simply so that they are "in the loop" for some reason or other. In that case, I would put the people who I was addressing in the "To" field and the others in the "CC" field.
    • by grumbel ( 592662 )

      I'd say it was "killed", if one wants to call it that, simply by not being very useful in the first place. The article itself gives the answer already: "Send a message to X, copy and paste it, and send it to Y.", that serves the same as BCC, allows you to add additional information and is far easier to understand for both the sender and receiver, thus people use that instead of BCC. Also I don't think the original design purpose for BCC was to allow easy sending of nasty messages while letting a third part

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @07:51PM (#35263048)

    Seriously, given all the people using email that don't know when to use BCC rather than CC or vice versa, I'm surprised it hasn't already been yanked.

    • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @08:04PM (#35263158) Homepage Journal

      The crux of his point isn't that people don't know how to use BCC, although that's part of the problem. His point is that even for those who do know how to use BCC, recipients don't know what BCC means.

      Here's a typical example of things I've had happen. Someone sends me a misguided nastygram at work over something that I have no control over. I reply to them basically saying, "I can't do anything about this, you need to contact x." Also, because I know they've been dog-cussing me over it to their boss, who is good buddies with my boss, I BCC his boss so that I can 1) let him know that the stuff he's hearing is unjustified, while simultaneously 2) trying not to agitate someone who's already bothered by looking like I'm needlessly escalating something to his boss.

      Unfortunately, his boss is also a dipweed, and next thing I know, he's done a "Reply All" and said something like, "Hey, make sure you call x today, because we need this up and working for close of business."

      Now, not only does the person know I sent the e-mail to his boss, but he knows that I did it surreptitiously, and he's even more pissed off than if I'd just CCed his boss on it so that he would know.

      Having said that, I do wish that people would learn how to use BCC. Here's another typical scenario we have happen now and then:

      Someone sends out some dumb little, "Hey everyone, we're having a party in the marketing group tomorrow, so bring in some food!" Unfortunately, they make two mistakes: 1) They accidentally send it to the entire company, including offices in Europe, Asia, Africa, etc., and 2) they address it in the To: or Cc: field instead of Bcc:. Next thing I know, I'm being inundated with, "PLEASE TAKE ME OFF YOUR DISTRIBUTION LIST!!!11!11!!" e-mails. And then after that come the inevitable deluge of, "PLEASE STOP REPLYING TO ALL!!!11!11!!" e-mails. The first one isn't so bad, but then there's this global e-mail flame war that breaks out between the people saying they want to stop getting e-mails and the people who are fussing about the people who want to stop getting e-mails. Sometimes it even descends down to a third, people fussing about people fussing about people who don't want to get e-mails, level.

      I never cease to be amazed by how dumb people can be.

      • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @08:29PM (#35263356)
        Actual scenario, that I've been on the recieving end of: A company decides to send a mass-mailing to a group of customers. The employee CCs them all... and thus inadvertantly gives out half the company mailing list to everyone on it.
      • Reply All to 13,000 people [msexchangeteam.com]

      • As someone who has worked in a corporate environment for a number of years, I would say bringing someone's boss into a spat is childish enough. Bringing someone's boss in via bcc is downright shitty.

        • As someone who has worked in a corporate environment for a number of years, I would say bringing someone's boss into a spat is childish enough. Bringing someone's boss in via bcc is downright shitty.

          You should meet some of the people I work with. I don't disagree, but unfortunately, it's a necessary evil sometimes.

        • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
          Unfortunately, depending on the corporate culture, there is often no choice but to bring a boss into a spat. Of course, if you must, then CCing the boss is the best course anyway. The boss knows it's only an FYI, and the other employee knows that everything from that point on is out in the open.
      • I don't use BCC because other people are stupid. (I summarized it for you)

        I agree completely. The only use I have for BCC is to copy myself in on something. (BCC my personal account from my work account on occasion).

      • Gmail's "Mute" ftw.
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday February 20, 2011 @07:53PM (#35263060) Homepage Journal

    Every single time I use BCC these days I think "this is gunna bite me in the ass".

    That said, try to find an email program that gives any "help" or description of the functionality. Email software is arcane and unlearnable by the isolated individual. They really are a relic of a long forgotten time when people were introduced to computers with "training" provided by competent professionals, in a community where someone was available to provide gentle reminders of appropriate etiquette.

    Yes, email is now our lightsaber.

    • When was the last time you used BCC? I'm not sure I used it at all in the last five years. Is it even useful for anything practical?
      • Re:So true (Score:5, Informative)

        by Kidbro ( 80868 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @08:10PM (#35263202)

        It's useful when you're informing a large group of people that may not know eachother already about an event. For instance when sending out an invitation to a party.

        It's just plain rude to share people's email address without their permission.

        • On the flip-side, you have to assume that anyone you email is clueless and will share your address, and will get some kind of virus that adds it to spam lists, so you share a forwarding alias that you can kill if it gets misused.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Amen. I am not in the corporate world, being retired. But I am frequently the recipient of jokes and cute pictures and such which include long lists of email addresses of who knows who. And nested deeply through the 3 or 4 times the stuff was forwarded.
          I feel very strongly that one should not willy-nilly expose email addresses in that way, so I carefully delete all that from any email that I forward on.
          Frequently I will forward one of these to my friends and family, many of whom do not know each other
          • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
            Seriously, I am surprised at the number of Slashdot users that don't get that. They should be complaining that it isn't used more instead of claiming that it is never used. When most people are rude, you don't remove the mechanism needed to be polite.
      • by e4g4 ( 533831 )
        We use BCC all the time at my work, any time someone sends an email that remotely effects the entire (small, startup company) everyone@ gets BCC'ed.
      • by geoskd ( 321194 )

        When was the last time you used BCC? I'm not sure I used it at all in the last five years. Is it even useful for anything practical?

        I use it all the time at work, when I want person X to know that I am on top of a situation dealing with person Y, and person Y is being a douche. I usually only have to do this once with any given douche before they do what I tell them to without the stupid games.


        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by phantomfive ( 622387 )

          I usually only have to do this once with any given douche before they do what I tell them to without the stupid games

          This may be part of your problem, instead of telling people to do stuff, ask them to do it. It could be you are acting like a douche without realizing it.

      • by jaymz666 ( 34050 )

        Any time I send an email to a group of people who don't know each other or other's email addresses. Like, people who signed up for a beta test or something

      • by macshit ( 157376 )

        I quite often BCC myself at another address, e.g., if it's a mail I'm sending from work, but I want a copy in my non-work mail account too.

        Less often, but still occasionally, I'll BCC somebody so they also have a record, and I don't necessarily want the recipient to know -- you know, the actual intended use of BCC header...

        BCC is certainly useful, if not something you typically use on every email. Sure the masses are ignorant of it, but they're ignorant of vast numbers of useful features.... that's certa

      • by g253 ( 855070 )
        For keeping someone informed? I see a lot of people sending an e-mail and then forwarding it to someone just saying "fyi".... Why not just bcc that someone?
      • When sending an email to a group of recipients whose email addresses you do not want to disclose to each other. Even when the fact you have copied them is not secret, their actual address should be kept in confidence in many situations.

      • We use it at work a lot when sending notes to large groups of people. If you were to use To: or CC: to these groups, you always get the couple of blockheads who "reply all" to say, "take me off of your distribution list". They are too stupid or too busy to realize that it makes no sense to do a "reply all", but that's what they do. Then you get the storm of people who equally stupidly use "reply all" to tell people to stop using "reply all". Many years ago we had some folks mistakenly send to a DL that cont
      • [cover my ass], often, esp. w/ committees when we're not supposed to discuss something, but someone inevitably tries to drag my ass into an email conversation. To be polite, I respond with a bland 'we should discuss this at the next meeting' and cut the original post except the header, and BCC to at least one other member to prove I didn't start any conversation, and don't intend to be part of one.

      • by Gonoff ( 88518 )

        I occasionally help a couple of voluntary groups and try to get them to use it when they are sending notices out to members.

        The problem is, every time I show someone how to do it, someone else takes over the secretary job and I have to start over. Otherwise at meetings someone complains that everyone else now has their email address.

  • Perhaps email clients could be modified to highlight, or give a textual warning at the top of the preview/document pane/window (much like our browsers today warn us about a site wanting to install an addon, and whatnot) saying that "YOU WERE BCC'D ON THIS EMAIL."

    Default this feature to 'on.'

    Ideally built-into the client; an easy-to-install addon/plugin would work as well but guarantee most don't have it.

    • All distribution lists are BCCs, so everyone receiving a distribution list email would say that.

      • by Gonoff ( 88518 )

        If someone can't do BCC, there is a good possibility that they can't do distribution lists and are adding a whole boatload of addresses manually!

  • It's dead? (Score:5, Informative)

    by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @08:06PM (#35263164) Journal

    Strange, I see it used all the time - in the workplace, that is. For one thing, it's a very convenient way to "loop out" someone from a long-going email thread (when it's no longer relevant to them).

  • Gonna miss that site (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @08:07PM (#35263172) Journal
  • by epine ( 68316 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @08:08PM (#35263184)

    The only time I ever used BCC was to send a copy to my other me on some other account, whose existence I didn't wish to publicize.

    I don't know why FB doesn't implement "burning carbon copy". Never been on the service, maybe that's also too much to ask people to understand. Perhaps the major downside is getting sued for implementing this by the visually impaired.

    The upside of Facebook is that we can now explain dark matter to your average dim bulb: it's like a person without a FB account. It shows up on an abstract census, but there's no public record of its birth date, mother's maiden name, or SIN number, and it doesn't even interact with likinos, so for most practical purposes, it's not really there.

  • Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @08:09PM (#35263196) Journal

    Bcc: is usually used for juicy emails. It's used a lot for CYA, and to keep certain people in the loop on touchy subjects. Whenever I get interesting emails I always check the to/cc fields to see who the players are, and who is involved. And if I'm not on there, you can bet I'm going to keep my trap shut until I need to say something.

    Bcc: is alive and well; it appears that the author of TFA got burned by bcc'ing a clueless sot. You've got be careful on both ends...

    • Bcc: is alive and well; it appears that the author of TFA got burned by being a clueless sot.


    • I always check the to/cc fields to see who the players are

      Hrm, there must be a Thunderbird extension to more actively alert the reader that he was bcc:'ed. Stepping carefully across a minefield is great; having a bomb-sniffing robot go out in front of you is better.

  • by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @08:23PM (#35263300) Homepage Journal
    You mean, I won't be able to send out generic, "I love you Babe, you're so special to me!" emails to my multitude of girlfriends without them finding out about one another anymore? Oh the horror!

    *insert Slashdot virginity jokes here*
  • People like him. The guy seriously believes that people are the problem, not the poorly designed email clients and protocol (then totally confuses himself and bizarrely hurls the blame at Facebook). If BCC was the best solution to the problem (that is, the problem of, er, betraying your friends), then it would work. As he demonstrates, it doesn't. Regardless, he pig-headedly believes it is because it works just fine at his end, and hey, nothing that's been around since the command line can be a bad thing.
    • is the rise of the "consumer centric" tech model. One of the things I miss about the old Gates era MSFT is how you had the business line in WinNT and the consumer line in Win9x. With the line split like that those that didn't want the bling bling BS and just wanted a corporate centric desktop had it, while the consumers got the bling bling hand holding.

      Now and with the rise of Apple it has considerably gotten worse, is everything made for the home user FIRST and business second. If TFA is correct and BCC is

  • Carl is just mad that someone found out he couldn't keep a secret. If someone tells you a secret, you need to keep it to yourself, and not worry about how you can share the secret and not get caught.

    • If someone tells you a secret, you need to keep it to yourself, and not worry about how you can share the secret and not get caught.

      That's why I use forward, it totally doesn't have this problem.

      Fw: Secret

      Fwd: Fw: Secret

      Fwd: Re: Fwd: Fw: Secret

      Doorg: Fwd: Re: Fwd: Fw: Secret

  • Mail programs should insist on BCC if there are more than say 8 addresses. I'm tired of getting mail with a TO: list a mile long. One of the people will have an infested computer and everybody will be put on a spam mailing list.
  • by Kaz Kylheku ( 1484 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @08:43PM (#35263454) Homepage

    Great! I can add one more reason why I don't use Facebook: I'm helping to keep Bcc alive.

    If you want to reach me with a group e-mail that looks like it is only going to me, you will just have to blow the dust off that Bcc header.

    Bcc is useful when you're sending an e-mail to many people without intending to start a virtual mailing list discussion where people can "reply all".

    It is essential in situations where you need to ask a bunch of people some personal question where an accidental "reply all" leads to embarassment.

  • BCC? Borland??? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GuruBuckaroo ( 833982 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @08:54PM (#35263524) Homepage

    It took reading the summary twice for me to realize this story wasn't about the Borland C Compiler [wikipedia.org]. I couldn't figure out what the hell Facebook had to do with the best cross-platform C compiler and library ever written.

    I was actually just talking to my Domino admin the other day about BCC:. Every chance he gets, he reminds our users about it. Almost nobody knows what it is, can't imagine a use case, and thus fail to even try - until we give them a couple of good solid examples.

    • Yeah, I was going to remark that BCC was killed off way back in the early 1990s by Borland Builder and Microsoft Visual Studio. Apparently it's not totally dead though; it seems that they still offer downloads old versions of Turbo C++ for free.

  • Huh? What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @08:57PM (#35263550)

    BCC was dead ages ago because nobody hardly ever learned to use it. It was dead before Facebook. It was dead before the large influx of spam. It was dead about the time Gopher came out.

    Ever get a "chain forwarded" email with hundreds of email addresses of people you don't know?

    That's because nobody uses BCC. Nobody ever learns how to trim FW: lines either. FFS, nobody ever learns to reply in-line with quotes. Replies are all top posted, mostly because of that crawling horror called Lotus Notes and that other crawling horror Exchange. Nobody ever learns how to trim replies either - a one line top posted reply to 10 screens of text or multiple forwards? Sure!

    The death of BCC is not because of Facebook. The death of useful email features is because most people are unwilling to learn, rude, or stupid.


  • Global CPU condition codes for program logic are largely dead because they are hard to parallelize.

    In modern instruction set architectures, CPU flags are for things like interrupt masks and privilege modes, not for "the most recent arithmetic instruction produced a carry". :)

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @09:54PM (#35263910)

    I don't know that I've ever used blind carbon copy on a personal email, so whether or not I use Facebook's messaging instead is not relevant. I DO use Bcc in work emails, and I have a hard time believing Facebook messaging is going to supplant email for the workforce.

    I'm guessing the submitter has not yet entered the workforce? That seems like a blindingly obvious miss on his part.

  • by seifried ( 12921 ) on Sunday February 20, 2011 @11:02PM (#35264300) Homepage
    I used it recently to send a couple hundred emails with myself as the recipient and BCC'ed to all the people that needed to receive it (not worth doing a list since we only had to email them once). No BCC means any replies create a reply storm, no thanks.
  • by FoolishOwl ( 1698506 ) on Monday February 21, 2011 @01:16AM (#35264938) Journal

    The point of the blog post seems to be that since Facebook doesn't offer BCC, people aren't using BCC anymore. It makes the rather bizarre assumption that Facebook has supplanted email. That's simply not true, as a glance at anyone's email inbox will reveal. In fact, it's a laughable presumption.

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