Friday, August 28, 2009

SPAM: Skype vs Flickr

Something very interesting is happening on the net. It seems that sex workers or internet criminals have found a new way to access their potential "customers". Two examples of potential targets are flickr and skype. The criminal organizations basically exploit the fact that user lists (directories) are freely and publicly available, so it is quite easy for them to send millions of spam messages to those users in an automated way. But the way both companies are reacting to that is quite different:

thousands of users get a invitation to contact an unknown person (often with a "sexy" name and to optionally click on a link). If you do click, you are "dead" because the link goes to a site with malware and typically installing a nice Trojan on your PC. Never click or react to such a request (I never ever did). The problem for Skype is that more and more users are complaining because they get several (up to 30 according to forum posts) unwanted connection requests/messages a day and there is NO way to stop this. Skype is just asking the users to "block" the person and to report the abuse. They are basically doing nothing even if they say they are working on it. From a user's perspective, this is a very wrong attitude because more and more people are complaining about this. Skype is just under attack by those spammers, and it just seems that they don't realize they could just disappear (I am serious) if they don't handle this issue in a professional way. I am not willing to use Skype anymore in the same way, and I am definitely not willing to pay a cent for a service which cannot be reliable and user friendly anymore, not even taking the potential extremely severe threat on your PC and its contents. Skype also almost "denies" the problem in a soft way on their forums, making the situation very unclear. Anyway the whole attitude is very unprofessional and will definitely destroy their image IF they don't address this quickly in a more serious way, and if they don't communicate clearly about the issue.
I am very curious about what is going to happen in the coming weeks, and what the press is going to tell about this.

A very different story, but basically another form of SPAM started yesterday (as far as I am concerned). People, most probably sex workers linked to criminal organizations are creating users and leaving comments on your pictures (flickr is a picture sharing community), with a strange message including a request to comment on their pictures. They typically have only one, and it is a way to get you on a sex site or to contact a sex worker. The approach was VERY different from Skype: within a few hours the users who started this spamming have been deleted (I have seen the same messages by other dummy users appearing on several friends' pictures within minutes so it seemed to be a general issue). And later the messages have been deleted and everything has been restored. Not only the reaction was extremely fast, but the users themselves didn't have to do anything and many probably didn't notice this was happening. We'll see how the situation evolves, but this approach at least, is much more professional than in the Skype example.

This is to me another real life example about the paramount importance of listening to the customer (VOC voice of customer) at all times and to differentiate by pleasing him/her, the best longer term investment you can do...

Recent update:

as far as I could check, flickr did not experience that kind of spam recently, at least in a visible way, while skype users still regularly are getting annoyed by spam. They partially solved the issue, because it is happening once a week maybe on average, while it has been a lot of times each day. Not so many people are complaining and it does not seem to have an influence on their business. Strange sometimes how people react.

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