Freecycle Finder vs Grouply

Groupycans are claiming that there’s no comparison between Grouply’s group invasion and the former Freecycle Finder debacle.  Well, they’re not the same beasts, but there is a comparison.  One is an opt-in scheme, the other is a hijacker who offers a parachute to its victim.

Freecycle Finder was a scheme where The Freecycle Network, Inc. (TFN) coerced group owners to plant a message-harvesting “member” account (finder@freecycle.org) as a member of their Yahoo! Group, set for Individual Emails delivery mode.  TFN collected the messages and published them for public view on their secondary website freecyclefinder.org, where they used Google context-sensitive advertisements triggered by member postings to generate revenue.

After more than a year in operation, it got shut down when Yahoo! declared the scheme to be contrary to their Terms of Service (TOS) and Groups Guidelines (enforced under the TOS).

Grouply says that they will only make Yahoo! (and some day Google) Groups message archives available on their site to existing members of the respective groups they sink their hooks into.  They have said that they intend to use the message traffic to generate revenue with targeted advertising, assuming their product survives beta.

So grouplycans are saying that Grouply’s invasion is not the same as Freecycle’s, and that is true.  It’s not the same.

It’s worse.

Freecycle owner-moderators remained in full control of their groups.  FreecycleFinder could not plant itself as a harvester at the behest of any single non-moderator member.  The moderator had to put it there at TFN’s behest.  Mods who didn’t like it balked, and either walked (disaffiliated their group from TFN) or fought until they convinced Yahoo! to step in, as they did, after a long fight.

Grouply plants itself into a group without the moderator’s knowledge.  If just ONE member of a group subscribes to Grouply, via Grouply’s possession of that member’s Yahoo! ID (YID) and password, Grouply harvests the group’s entire message archive forever, and opens the group to a variety of risks, including security problems already identified and overrides on some moderator controls of archive access, among other problems.

If a moderator did not want to participate in FreecycleFinder, all they had to do was refuse to install the Finder account in their group.  To participate, they had to OPT-IN by intentionally adding the Finder account.  Grouply, in a far more intrusive manner, lets any one member “opt-in” the entire group, without moderator permission or knowledge.

After an outcry from wary moderators alerted to the scheme by Grouply’s spam guns blasting at their back door, Grouply bestowed upon them the gift of opting-out via their new access control for moderators.  Wasn’t that nice of them?

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