Yes, we've been listening…

March 22, 2006

Over the past year that I’ve been at Plaxo, I’ve met quite a few people and they almost always after they find out I work at Plaxo, they say: "Oh, you guys send out all those e-mails…" Well, I’ve been pushing hard to get us to stop doing that and now we’ve got some results. For those that haven’t seen yet, Todd Masonis, one of the Plaxo founders, wrote up an entry on the Plaxo blog about our plans.

Here are the real guts of the post:

We quickly responded by adding opt-out and throttling features, but 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.

I’m one of the main drivers behind these efforts so if you have any feedback, please let me know. In the next few weeks, we’ll be completely removing the mass update request mechanism from all of our new user flows; we’ve already significantly cut down on the number of e-mails we send – I think we’re down more than 50% from our peak already and over the next few weeks we should see an even more significant decrease in the amount of e-mail we send out.

We’re also starting to get a bit more open on our blog; our employees now have license to blog on our corporate blog with pretty much 0 editing. We’ll see how it works out 🙂

Also, a bunch of Plaxo employees are starting blogs. Here’s a quick list:

On another note, I’m currently trying out Flock; so far I like it (it’s got a performancing like blog console built-in 🙂 ) and I’m looking forward to exploring more of it. Anyone got any really cool bits that I should make sure to check out?

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14 Responses to “Yes, we've been listening…”

  1. someone Says:

    Yay. No more spam. Now if you guys could just solve that pesky privacy issue. I know, i know…you guys have a privacy officer. But at the end of the day, what does that really amount to? Microsoft has plenty of security people, yet, they get owned everyday on the security front. At the end of the day, if Plaxo where to get bought out that data (about my friends and family) would be sold as well and i would have little recourse.

    The real reason you guys are probably removing the mass spamming feature? You’ve saturated the market that will use plaxo, the other N million people all have negative feelings towards getting spammed by people affiliated with Plaxo. So you’re trying to clean up your image – your subscriber growth has peaked.

  2. markjen Says:

    Hi someone 🙂

    Our subscriber growth has actually been stellar so we no longer need to depend on mass e-mails to get good growth (nowadays thousands of users just show up at plaxo.com and join our service daily; plus being distributed with AIM helps too 🙂 ).

    As far as privacy goes, we have very strict controls on where your information goes. If Plaxo gets acquired, your information would not be sold. So no need to worry about that; we even go so far as to say that if we need to change our policy and can’t contact you about changes, we’ll continue to honor the original privacy policy.

    Thanks!


  3. […] Plaxo have made a couple of high visibility blog posts today saying that they are restricting the amount of automatic emails (a.k.a. SPAM) get sent out by users of their service. This seems like a good thing but it’s the way that they went about it that is leaving a bad taste in people’s mouths. […]

  4. stuart Says:

    Mark Jen, can you hear yourself – you’re basically admitting that the only reason for the spams was so that you could grow your market base! Todd’s post says the same thing.

    Mark Jen:
    “Our subscriber growth has actually been stellar so we no longer need to depend on mass e-mails to get good growth”

    Todd Masonis:
    “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.”

    How can you say that you want to be “good net citizens” but at the same time admit that you knew you were spamming people to build your customer base. I think an apology is in order from Plaxo. Here’s my take on things

  5. alex Says:

    see: What will happen to my information if Plaxo is sold or acquired?

    http://www.plaxo.com/privacy/q_and_a#q7

  6. markjen Says:

    Stuart – Thanks for the comment. We’ve always been working to try to decrease the spamminess of the e-mails we’ve sent out. This is our latest attempt to decrease the amount of e-mail we send out. FWIW, our e-mails are similar to the invites that other services use to let people know about a cool new service.

    Alex – Thanks for pointing out that link!

  7. someone Says:

    Thanks for the reply. So with this AOL partnership? How much access does AOL have to my data? Does Plaxo do anything to proactively prevent a malicious developer internally or a over-zealous partner? Encryption?

  8. bernie Says:

    An opt-out feature?!…Sweet. Plaxo still remains the spam king of the world – soon to be dethronded by Jigsaw.

    Plaxo is a nice idea ruined by a terrible first impression.

  9. markjen Says:

    Hi Someone – AOL doens’t have access to your data unless you download the latest version of AOL Instant Messenger and explicitly run through the Universal Address Book Setup Wizard. Along the way in the wizard, we’ve tried to put useful information about exactly what’s going on. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

    Malicious developers and/or partners need an individual user’s credentials (e-mail/password) before they get access to any data 🙂

    Bernie – Sorry you feel that way; hopefully we can remove that title from us soon – and not just becuase someone else is sending more e-mails…

  10. someone Says:

    So is the data encrypted in the database? Lets assume i have the SA password. Can i lookup anyone’s information? Or is it encrypted on a per user basis?

  11. Sidonie Stoller Says:

    “…as of last week, we’ve past 10 million members”

    I think you mean “passed”

    HTH and HAND.

  12. markjen Says:

    Someone – We have pretty tight security, but at the end of the day if you have root access, I guess all bets are off. Even if you couldn’t get access to the data directly in the database, you could sit there watching packets and grab all the data from users when they login to the service. I’m sure if you have root access pretty much anywhere, you can access whatever you want.

    Sidonie – Thanks for the correction! 🙂

  13. Someone Says:

    So there is no way to prevent a malicious developer from compromising a users data. Your previous statements are incorrent. Plaxo is insecure. It does not store the data encrypted. In a properly designed system, a system that was designed with data security in mind, system compromising would not matter. This is the same reason systems store password hashes with salts and not clear text.

    Personal information should be stored securely. Credit card processing companies use similar methods.

  14. Will Pate Says:

    Mark, one of my favorite features in Flock while blogging is the shelf. It’s sweet to just drag some text from a page up there, drag it down to the blog post editor and have it automatically create a blogquote with attribution link.

    *takes off Flock guy hat*

    Really, really glad to hear you guys stopped the spammy stuff. I’d say more, but beating dead horses isn’t my forte.


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