Let's Not Put Tagged In The DeadPool Just Yet

Harsh words from peHUB yesterday about social networking site Tagged. They took an article complaining about invitation spam and drew a line practically putting the company into the deadpool. In our opinion, Tagged is actually humming along quite nicely.

On the spam issue: Tagged has always been aggressive about “encouraging” users to add their address book and invite new users. It’s sadly a proven way to get lots of new users, as Plaxo showed to everyone’s dismay earlier this decade by turning invitation spam into an art form. Back in 2007 I noted that Tagged was very aggressive with address book imports: “Tagged is also very aggressive with signing up new users. At registration users are strongly encouraged to invite their entire address book as friends. It’s a highly viral, albeit controversial, way to quickly add lots of new users.”

The fact is though that this is largely standard practice now. Facebook, Microsoft, MySpace, Google, and everyone else encourages users to sign in to their email accounts and invite everyone they know to try out their services.

Tagged definitely went overboard this time, forcing email recipients to open an account just to see pictures. But CEO Greg Tseng told me today they shut it down almost immediately (after a few days) based on user complaints.

They definitely deserve a slap on the wrist. But the picture peHUB paints, wtih fleeing board members distancing themselves from the company:

In the meantime, the company’s investors aren’t saying much, either, and some appear already to have distanced themselves from the startup. Former PayPal CEO Peter Thiel, Scott Banister, who cofounded IronPort Systems, and LinkedIn founder and CEO Reid Hoffman were among other high-profile angels who gave Tagged $1.5 milllion back in 2005. All three were on the board at one point. Hoffman, who hasn’t returned a request for comment, is the only angel who has kept his seat.

They added “What anyone is still doing on the board of this company mystifies me, honestly.”

Here’s the story of Tagged as Tseng sees it: Peter Thiel was never on the Tagged board of directors because of the conflict with his Facebook board seat. Scott Banister left to focus on his startup, Zivity. And Reid Hoffman, as the article noted, remains on the Tagged board.

Tagged has less than 40 employees and has been profitable for more than two years. They’ve raised just $13.5 million in capital and have revenue in the $10 million – $20 million range.

And the site is growing. Comscore says nearly 32 million people visited Tagged in April 2009, up from 14 million a year ago. And they’re not just hitting the site and bailing. Those visitors racked up over 5 billion page views in April 2009, up from less than a billion/month a year ago (chart below).

Clearly, they aren’t dead. Here’s hoping they keep the spam down to reasonable levels in line with competitors. But in the meantime, this small social network isn’t anywhere near the deadpool.

Update: Tseng apologizes for the email spam on the Tagged blog, and links to this document showing exactly how the process worked. Points for transparency.