Plaxo: Now With Less Evil

Plaxo tends to bring on strong negative emotions in people. Frustration. Revulsion. Dismay.

The reason so many people hate Plaxo? Those of us who aren’t customers, which is the vast majority of everyone, get multiple daily emails from those few misguided souls who’ve chosen to sign up for the Plaxo Spam Service (my name, not theirs).

When you sign up for Plaxo, they make it misleadingly easy to spam your entire address book with your contact information and a Plaxo advertisement. And any updates they do are likely to be sent to their entire address book as well. As millions of people unwittingly do this, we, the non Plaxo users, are hit with a massive aggregate cost: dealing with all of this spam.

Jeff Nolan
and many others have dealt with Plaxo by putting it in their spam filter. I’ve gone through their multi step (and very hard to find) process for removing each of my five emails from their system (the process includes replying to yet another email from them to prove you own the account – how nice).

And all along the way, as we are forced to deal with Plaxo spam and various avoidance processes, we are told by them that the best way to avoid the spam is to simply become a member of Plaxo.

If you join Plaxo, you can fill out your contact information once and choose who gets to see your information. From then on, updates are handled through Plaxo so that you won’t receive any more e-mails.

It’s like a stalker telling his stalkee that if she will only marry him, he’ll stop.

And if you blog about Plaxo, or otherwise publicly voice your discontent, Plaxo will send a representative to patiently beat you into submission in the comments.

Well, Plaxo has finally announced that they’ve harassed enough people into joining and won’t be making it quite so easy to for users to spam their entire address book. The words they chose certainly tell us that, at least internally, they fully knew how miserable they were making all of us:

…we’ve always known that the update requests were a means to an end — our goal has always been to get as many members as possible so that these e-mails were unnecessary. And it looks like we’re finally getting to that end.

As of last week, we’ve past 10 million members. We are now growing at over 50,000 users a day. Due to this great growth, the depth of our network, plus our heartfelt desire to be good net citizens, we have started phasing out update requests.

This feature will probably always exist in some form, but we are no longer aggressively pushing new users to send out e-mails and are adding restrictions to prevent existing users from sending out large batches. Within the next six months (allowing for releases and upgrades to our base), you should see these messages drop to a trickle.

I’ve bolded text above that I find particularly incredible given Plaxo’s longstanding position that their email blasts were perfectly legitimate, and really, even though we didn’t know it, good for us.

So overall, I’m happy that Plaxo is doing this and I applaud them for it. But how about an official apology as well?

Nevermind, they’d just send it by email anyway.