Its an example of how social networking sites can go horribly wrong.
Quechup is being accused of sneaking into members address books and spamming their contacts.
Quechup, owned by Las Vegas-based iDate Corporation, is part of the social networking mix that includes MySpace.com, LinkedIn, Facebook and Flickr. The site enables users to connect with others, maintain a blog, share videos and photos and chat with other members.
While bloggers are railing against the site, Quechup claims users arent reading the fine virtual print, and has vowed to change its system to avoid the problem. The issue underscores how social networking services are enduring some bumps along the road to maturity.
Read more here about the Quechup mess.
At issue is Quechups method for inviting new members contacts to the Quechup.com party. Basically, Quechup practices e-mail importing, scanning new members e-mail address books and sending invites to their contacts to join the service.
The site alludes to this practice in step 2 of its registration process.
Quechup said: “Choose the address book with the most contacts and well 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.”
But some users, who signed up only to find that they were blasting out mass e-mail invites to friends in their address book, do not think that Quechup is explicit enough because it does not specifically say the service will e-mail everyone in a members e-mail address book.
Quechup has yet to issue an official statement, but Quechup spokesperson Mike Wilson tried to explain the confusion in a Sept. 2 post on blogger Chris Hamblys site. Hambly, incidentally, chastised users for not reading the fine print in Quechups registration process.
Noting that Quechup has successfully employed the “check who you know” feature in question since 2005, Wilson said the emergence of a “standard” of how such features work on social networking sites, which is different from how the feature works on Quechup, is to blame.
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Most social networking sites today allow users to see who is and isnt on the service, and then offer the choice to e-mail some, all, or none of the contacts that arent. When users go to Quechup, they are likely expecting the same practice. But Quechup, through e-mail importing, pumps out e-mails to all the addressees in a contact list.
Wilson said this discrepancy between the standard method and Quechups traditional method has lead users to skip or disregard the statement about how the site works.
“This has caused problems with users expectations and while the site may have gained some extra users from unintended invites going out, these are outweighed by dissatisfied users who feel their expectations havent been met,” Wilson said.
To remedy the situation, Wilson said Quechups development team is redesigning the system to include the “standard” method for such systems. No time table is available for the redesign.
Forrester Research analyst Oliver Young said Quechup likely did a great deal of damage to its brand as a result.
Noting that the convention of social networking sites is that users have to agree to invite their friends, Young said, “if youre not participating in the exact same convention, you wouldnt necessarily need to do that.”
“Obviously, Quechup is correct that its got in its end user license agreement that this is how were doing things. But nobody reads them, so its a little bit dishonest to say it was in the end user licensing agreement,” Young added.
Young said the Quechup mess, while a “nothing in the grand scheme of the Web,” underscores a broader privacy issue for social networking sites than it has to do with Quechup itself.
“For something like Quechup, you say heres my e-mail address and my e-mail password and youve given them a lot of control and information,” Young said. “Theres an inherent trust that theyll behave appropriately with that information. As we can see, that trust can be easily broken.”
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