An e-mail extractor is a program that finds e-mail addresses and stores them in a list file, with each line containing one e-mail address. The list can contain thousands of addresses and can be copied, modified, searched, or merged into other files.
An e-mail extractor can be used to scan files, folders, hard drives, external storage media such as CD-ROM, or the Internet. Personal and business users can employ an e-mail extractor to locate all the e-mail addresses on a computer or local area network ( LAN ) for reference purposes. An e-mail extractor can also be used by a network administrator or employer in an attempt to determine e-mail addresses to which messages have been sent, or from which messages have been received by subscribers or employees.
E-mail extractors are commonly used to gather e-mail addresses from Web sites and Internet forums, generating lists for the purpose of sending spam . A powerful e-mail extractor can find more than 100 e-mail addresses per minute. The resulting list can be pasted into the "sent to" box of a sophisticated e-mail program, allowing an unsolicited e-mail message to be sent to thousands of e-mail addresses in a short period of time with minimal human effort.
E-mail addresses can be formatted so that e-mail extractors cannot (at least in theory) find them on the Internet. Several vendors offer programs designed specifically for this purpose. These programs are sometimes used by people and businesses in order to reduce the volume of spam they receive.