Quechup Quandry: Today, we’re all Spammers

Quechup Quandry: Today, we’re all Spammers

I like to think that the blogosphere in general has a certain amount of power. One blog out of milions may not, but when something happens that runs counter to expectations and a good chunk of bloggers complain publicly, the results seem to be pretty dramatic.

Case in point: social networking site Quechup created a splash in the last few days by asking users to enter their email addresses and passwords so that the system could check to see if any of their friends were already members. (Personally, I don’t see why anyone would do this in the first place. While I guess there’s some email from my closest friends and family in my inbox somewhere, I don’t really use email to communicate with the people I see on, say, Facebook, or in Second Life or on IRC. Email is too formal for that, and I’d rather search for my friends some other way. I’d rather look up one and see who they have friended already, etc. I found a lot of people I know on Facebook through the groups. Anyway.) So the system does what one would expect; it looks up the email addresses in your contacts lists and checks to see if those people have accounts yet. Then it shows you the ones it found. Do you want to add these people are friends? Sure! Who wouldn’t push that button? Why not. Add them. What Quechup does next: it emails out an invitation, from you, to everyone you’ve ever corresponded with, personally inviting them to join this rockin’ new site you found. Without warning you that it was going to do it.

This is really not what email is for, and it’s a real abuse to use it that way.

In what universe is this okay? In what universe, seriously, is it okay for a system to prompt you to send out mass email to people who have not signed up for it? It’s one thing to send a message to people in a facebook group; they’re there on purpose. People in your contacts in email? Didn’t sign up for squat.

It’s a trust issue, certainly. You see an invite from someone you know (heck, there are a handful of people whose mere name in email would get me to click a button somewhere, sure!), follow through, and suddenly…you’re in the same boat! You’ve just spammed every living soul you know! So Quechup was certainly taking advantage of that trust, but is in return eroding people’s trust not only in social networking systems, but also in us. (Will people think twice when you ask them to have a look at something? Sure they will.)

So now if you run a google search on “quetchup” (like this one) you see a zillion posts by angry bloggers who are incredibly sorry to those they accidentally emailed, and incredibly angry at Quetchup. I’d love to see what happens. Will that mistake, and the widespread reaction to it, destroy Quetchup? Or is any publicity good publicity, and will this be the making of them?

Moral of the story: don’t give anyone or any website your email password. Ever!

0 thoughts on “Quechup Quandry: Today, we’re all Spammers

  1. Don’t all the social networking sites do that, though? I know Faacebook, LinkedIn, Xing and MySpace all have the ability to look up your email contacts and tell you if they are on the network. That’s nothing unusual. I get the impression from your post that Quechup sent invitation emails *without* asking the user to click Yes, Send Emails to Everyone I Know?

  2. See, I hadn’t heard of Quechup (also, worst startup name ever). Now I’m not even going to go to their site.

    However. Email, and allowing trusted websites to log into your address book. I’m kind of in favor of this, because it’s the closest thing that we have to trusted networking so far. Look at some of the work that David Recordon and Brad Fitzpatrick are doing on explaining why there’s a need for me to be able to link up my livespacefaceter accounts. They’re calling it “social graphs”, and I know there’s a rename needed for that, but it’s basically saying “okay, you’re person x on servicefoo.com, and you’ve just registered with servicebar.com, and now you want to find all your friends from servicefoo.com so that you interact with them on servicebar.com”. Currently, the closest I have to that is going into Facebook’s ‘find user’ function, entering my email password and have it look up people for me. Of course, that predicates Facebook’s being a trusted site (like hell I’d have done that with Quechup, frankly).

    What Brad and Dave (seriously, the sixties boy duo band of tech) are doing really interests me from the perspective of someone who wants to keep his fannish activities apart from his family, professional and non-fannish lives. I’m already considering setting up a professional!me Facebook account, for example. It kind of makes me wish I were a married woman, so I could use my maiden name professionally and my married name personally.

    Oh, identity.

  3. Bonibaru: Yes, lots of sites do that, but they generally warn you before they email everyone you know. These people had no idea they were spamming everyone they knew until later.

    folk: I don’t object to hooking up systems, or trying to, but why should email be the authoritative database? I’ve never been a big fan of email, though.

  4. There’s no good tech reason why email (or, more accurately, one’s email address book) should be the authoritative database, just a sociological one — email is how many of us came to the internet, how we tend to communicate when we’re not logged into social networking site X or Y (comment/message notifs, etc.), and has a unique identifier: that is, one’s email address. Don’t get me wrong, I think email’s totally the wrong medium for just about everything, but at the end of the day it’s the one that most of us use. I’d be happy to see it go the way of the AOL walled garden (not that that’s likely, given the Facebook walled garden approach!).

  5. If they want a solution that goes into the future, they probably shouldn’t use an email address book. It seems the statistics are indicating that people are increasingly moving away from email. You might catch your mother and your work colleagues (or possibly the people you got stuck working on a group project with) but it might miss the people you are closest too.

    If you wanted to bring over people from facebook to something else, it would be smarter to ask for the facebook password. I’d prefer to have it work more like moving content from blogger to wordpress…directly. Not through email. Personally.

  6. Hallo there! While I do appreciate a subversive librarian (goodness only knows there aren’t nearly enough of you!!!), I feel I should point out that this whole “Quechup SPAM” thing is totally blown out of proportion.

    Simply put, everyone harping on about their contacts being “spammed” didn’t:

    1) Read the text on the webpage
    2) Exercise due caution

    Here is the text from the signup page:

    — snip —
    Congratulations! Welcome to Quechup. Find out which of your friends are already members. Choose the address book with the most contacts and we’ll search for matches so you can add them to your friends network and invite non Quechup members to join you. By inviting contacts you confirm you have consent from them to send an invitation. We will not spam or sell addresses from your contacts. See our privacy policy. Your username or password will not be stored or saved.
    — snip —

    See the section where it says “By inviting contacts you confirm you have consent from them to send an invitation”? That means Quechup is gonna send your contacts an email.

    Oh! But then one might retort with something like, “Ahh! But they also said ‘We will not spam or sell addresses from your contacts’!”. Well if you read that part, you should have also read the earlier part.

    And also, I mean — REALLY. Do you honestly think that websites just do this stuff for free? Haven’t you all got enough spam from Friendster, MySpace, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Orkut, etc etc etc to understand that the entire reason these companies exist isn’t to give everyone the ability to post crap videos on garishly-designed pages?

    They exist to MAKE MONEY. And how do they make money? By getting more and more people to get on their site. And how do they do that? They send EMAILS and post ADS.

    Rochelle said:
    — snip —
    Bonibaru: Yes, lots of sites do that, but they generally warn you before they email everyone you know. These people had no idea they were spamming everyone they knew until later.
    — snip —

    This is factually incorrect. These people (had they read the text and understood it, and perhaps exercised a little common sense) should have realized what was going to happen.

    People are just far too likely to type and click without actually READING what they are typing and clicking for!!!

    And, so to address your comment:

    — snip —
    In what universe, seriously, is it okay for a system to prompt you to send out mass email to people who have not signed up for it?
    — snip —

    It’s not OK!!! But that didn’t happen in this case.

    Look, I’m not looking for a fight here, and I’m not even flamebait. I HATE and DESPISE all the bloody spam I get from social networking sites, I don’t even use them myself, I stopped after Friendster.

    It just really irks me when people complain about websites’ services when they DIDN’T ACTUALLY READ what the website TOLD THEM IT WAS GOING TO DO!

    Thanks and great blog!
    -Rick.

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