Major Bummer: WriteThat.Name Wants You To Pay To Keep It From Spamming Your Friends (Update: Hooray!)

Shame on you, WriteThat.Name. After more than one personal recommendation, not to mention glowing reviews around the web, I finally got around to signing up for WriteThat.Name, a service which automatically updates your Gmail address book with your contacts’ current information, which it pulls from their email signature lines. To be clear, the service is not new – we covered its $1.55 million seed round in January. But you know how it goes, things launch, you forget about them for a while, then you find them again thinking, “wow, how did I miss that?!” The service sounded amazing, and in the brief period of time I used it, it worked beautifully. It seemed like one of those under-the-radar must-haves that just make life easier.

But something I came across in the settings concerned me. WriteThat.Name wanted me to pay in order to keep it from spamming my friends? What?

Yes, that’s right, WriteThat.Name brings back the Plaxo-like “confirm your contact information” emails, and they are sent without your consent. (You’ve consented by using the service.) As the company CEO Philippe Laval explains via blog post, “from time to time some of your contacts may receive an email from us.”

“Here is why,” he explains. “When we detect a contact in an email that you have received, we sometimes send an email to this contact to see if he/she wants to validate their details.” He then goes on to assure us that emails are only sent out once per year per contact, at most.

The frequency of the emails, however, is not the concern. What’s concerning is that the business model is that if you want to spare your friends/family/co-workers/colleagues’ inboxes from this needless “confirm your contact info” spam (which is really just viral marketing for the service), you have to pay to disable this feature. The premium plan, while a reasonable $3/month or $20/year, is the only way to shut this “feature” off.

Guys, that’s just naughty.

Yes, I know. It’s free and all, and you get what you pay for, yada yada yada. But WriteThat.Name doesn’t have to stoop to this level. It already has worth-paying-for premium features like HighRise CRM integration, multi-account support, support for unlimited (as opposed to 40/month) contacts created, and more.

I suppose I could just pay for the service, and continue to enjoy it, but I’m opting out on principle. Accessing my network – whether email, Facebook, Twitter, or anything else – without my consent, is spamming.

For an incredible little lifesaver like WriteThat.Name, this is hugely disappointing. While not a major technological achievement, it worked in the background, plug-in free, and accurately. It delivered unto Gmail a feature that Google should have added itself, if it wasn’t so obsessed with smooshing your G+ Circles into your inbox.

Major bummer, WriteThat.Name. Major bummer.

UPDATE: Hooray! WriteThat.Name is changing its evil ways.

Laval just sent us the following:

I’m Philippe, the Founder of WriteThat.Name. I’ve just read your post and while it’s great to see that you were excited about the service, it’s tough to know that you view the confirmation emails in such a negative light.

As Brad said in his comment on the post, we saw this as both a quality control feature for us (especially at the start) and also a way that non-paying users could contribute to the overall quality of the service. More specifically, around 10 % of our premium users do actually opt to still send out confirmation email

That being said, our team has just had a little pow-wow, and in the end, I know that I created WriteThat.Name to make our users’ life easier, and above all not for anyone to think we’re spamming their contacts, be that the reality or not. SO, I’ve decided to make this confirmation feature optional for all our users, both freemium and premium. I’ll add this comment directly on your post right now and we’ll make an official announcement by this time tomorrow.