I was going to do more research before I posted this, but since it appears that I've created a minor epidemic in my local community, I'm posting this a bit uninformed. I received an email inviting me to SMS.ac, which I would normally ignore, but it was from someone who's judgment I trust. I clicked through the signup process without finally completing it, but unwittingly gave the service access to my MSN IM information. This spammed my whole buddy list with invitations. It was unintuitive to unregister even though I hadn't completed the registration process. Also, I heard from someone that if you don't unregister, the service continues to send invites to people you add to your buddy list. Anyway, I have no idea if the service is interesting, but the the fact that you invite your whole buddylist before you actually try the service and the difficulty and deleting your account makes me skeptical about it.

Anyway, I'll post more information when I get it and apologies for sending invites to people to a service I'm not even using.

This is the first time I've used rel=nofollow in a post. ;-)

28 Comments

Sorry. Losts this post during the move. Here are the comments that I think I lost:

---
Posted by: Michael Boyle

SMS.ac really is an amazingly abusive service. It's clear they've studied the norms on the internet currently and lull people into a sense of security that it will work just like they do - and then unwittingly dupe people into giving information that will start a process of unrelenting spam with your name on it.

Unfortunately, it does continue even if you delete your account. Someone close to me was trapped as you were but deleted the account - and I still get emails, ostensibly from that person, urging me to click through and register.

---
Posted by: Mario

That probably explains the flooding of my mailbox with sms.ac invitations. As usual, I forwarded them into my spam folder but knowing where they stem from is a big plus. Inviting other users without your knowledge is big no-no.

---
Posted by: Franz

a simple google search would have spit out some rip off reports like: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/ripoff102047.htm
http://www.unleadedonline.net/uo-243-1.html

---
Posted by: Per Mosseby

Ha - I understood that something like that happened. I started the registration process too - "This must be pretty good since Joi is recommending it". It turned out it was pretty hard to go through the process without inviting your friends. In the end, when I was completing the process - it turned out that it didn't work...

---
Posted by: Jay Fienberg

I think you used rel=nofollow "wrong". You used it intentionally (to mean something like: I don't like this site), but nofollow was created to tag unintentional links (i.e., links that mean something like: I'm not really linking to this site).

This is a good example of how nofollow actually makes links less clear in terms of indicating intention (which, if it's ends up being done widely and used by search engines, might make search results worse).

Also, I wrote a bunch about this a couple weeks ago: More on passive aggressive linking with nofollow.

---
Posted by: Oblivia

Exact same thing happened to me - trusted source, signed up - the service was AWFUL. I un-registered.

It also took the liberty of placing "free bids" for me with their rewards points of amounts that would ensure I would never win anything for things I don't want and sending me an SMS every time it would happen...like twice a day. I suspect they are trying to acheive the appearance of an active social network. Horrid service.

---
Posted by: Joi Ito

Jay, I'm not sure that I would agree I used it "wrong". I don't want to give the page Google juice, that's how the tag functions so it is "right" to me.

---
Posted by: Jay Fienberg

Joi, right--if you are thinking of the purpose of your link as seen by search engines in terms of Google pagerank, that makes sense.

So, I guess what I'm really saying is: I thought your post was useful information about SMS.ac, and that it's unfortunate that you were thinking in terms of pagerank rather than in terms of adding to the web of useful information about SMS.ac.

Assuming the search engines respect your nofollow, if I am searching on SMS.ac to see if anyone has any negative experiences with it, I probably will not find your post (whereas, I probably would if you had not used nofollow).

Before nofollow, links were always "follows" and that allowed posts like yours, positive or negative about their subject, to add to the web of info about that subject.

Nofollow lets you not bestow pagerank, but it does so by also being a "no connect"--in other words, you are not connecting your post to the pool of info about SMS.ac.

To use Technorati's language, you've left post out of the conversation about SMS.ac.

Interesting point Jay. But won't Google go ahead and index my blog entry for SMS.ac? If people find my post, they can choose to go their site. I don't think that not linking to their site really reduced my ranking for a search on their name does it?

Good question Joi. I don't know for sure, but, in the past, one of the ways Google determined relevance of a site on a topic was links to other sites on that same topic (as determined by some kind of word density, etc.).

The link as a relevance connector works both ways, and Google's original idea was to heavily value links *in* as an indicator of relevance. But, it also valued links *out*, as earlier search engines had (remember when Link Indexes often used to be at the top of search results?).

We really don't have a clear definition of nofollow or how it affects things. You don't really know how/if your use affects SMS.ac in search results at all, or if your post will still show up in searches on SMS.ac--and it may vary widely between different engines/services.

I think the focus on PageRank is unfortunate, because PR is just an abstract number that plays a role in the techniques Google uses figure out how to provide better search results. Obviously, they have a ton of techniques that make sophisticated use of the page contents, the context for links out, and the context for links in, etc.

You're a bit wrong, Jay. nofollow tells google not to index the linked page, but Joi's entry will be indexed anyway. Take a look at http://www.google.com/search?q=sms.ac&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 and you'll see this entry in the top 5.

Here's what it says on the registration page. Seems pretty clear to me. You just need to pay attention to what you are doing, especially if someone asks for your password. This is the Internet, people.

The people who just blindly do this probably have more to worry about than some invites from SMS.ac. These people probably also click 'Yes' to every ActiveX window that pops up asking to install 'software' (spyware). Some people have an inherent need and skill for learning the hard way. End of rant.

The registration text -------------------------------------------------

Import and invite your contacts
New optional service

As you add more friends, your network will grow and you'll be connected to new people
View the guide (pdf file)
http://www.sms.ac/registration/docs/SMSacAddressBookSynchronization.pdf

Enter your Hotmail login to see who's connected and automatically bring your friends into your SMS.ac address book.
If you do, you get FREE text messaging with your contacts. We'll even automatically reserve free accounts for them and invite them to SMS.ac on your behalf.

Enter your Hotmail login below:
Hotmail Email Address:
Hotmail Email Password:

Privacy:
Find out more about how your privacy is protected. We do NOT record your password after address book import. If you leave out your password (and proceed with registration without importing and inviting) you can add your contacts at a later time. Additionally, on the next page you will have the opportunity to choose "manual selection" of your contacts, in case you do not want to import and invite them all. You must have an existing relationship with any contacts you invite, providing an implicit consent by the recipient to receive your invitation.

Adriaan, I don't know if Jay is so wrong. Joi's post indeed shows up when searching for sms.ac, but it probably won't show up when you do a Google link: search to see who's linking to sms.ac.

As Google's link: operator only works after a while (no idea why that is), it is too fast to verify this though.


I came back looking for the post containing information on who to contact with complaints re: SMS.ac - but it's gone!? Any chance someone out there has those phone numbers handy? Because I'd sure like to make it clear to SMS.ac that I *DO NOT* want them to continue sending invitations to my "friends," ostensibly from me, despite the fact that I cancelled my membership/account/whatever.

I had the same problem, a trusted friend sent a invitation and I started to sign up then backed out, but had already entered my email info. I've read some of what you all were writing, and you say to unregister. I deleted my account but it is still sending out emails, how do you unregister?

Adriaan--thanks for the clarification. But, SMS.ac is indexed. So, if Joi's link is telling Google not to index SMS.ac, then what?

"no follow"
Funny, sounds english to me. what part of "no follow" is giving you all difficulty?

"Hi, Google, pretend I didn't link this. Thanks." Simple.

(Sorry Borris, I guess I've crossed over into crackpot land.)

I understand what you're saying, but the issue is something like: how does Google ignore the link? Or, what happens to search results when Google ignores the link (since how Google looks at links between sites is a big part of what has made it the best search engine to date)?

Joi and others have talked about this as if it's just a matter of affecting the PageRank number, but I wonder how it affects search results.

Borris, maybe you could restate your simple statement in terms of search results?

It's as Boris says. It tells Google not to index the linked site, and fewer links to sms.ac and the lower its pagerank. That's all.

(First off, I wanna say I wasn't trying to be snarky.. I forgot to put my usual smiley. :)

The point is you don't want to give the linked site any positive link "karma" (which would increase *its* search result ranking.

If a web page has no incoming links, it essentially "isn't part of the web". A "no follow" is sorta between a link and not a link. You and I don't see it and we can click through. But Google, and other search engines' spiders, will simply not follow the link and crawl it (at least no from the link in question).

If I am not mistaken, it is Google themselves who suggested the use of no follow. It gives the person making the link the political power to point at something but not be responsible for the link's eventual "findability".

It is convoluted, I think, but I don't think it is bad or wrong or anything like that. As with everything, it just IS. Use it or don't, live with it or fight it. Up to you. :)

I don't think Jay is that wrong - using rel="nofollow" will result in this entry not showing up up when somebody does a Google link: search for sms.ac. However, as the link: operator for some reason only works after a while, it's too early to verify this.
(second time I post this - seems like some comments were lost here)

Andreas: but why would you do link:sms.ac when you have Technorati. Seriously though, the link: results aren't really useful in my opinion. I rarely use it.

Maybe because Technorati referring links only last for a short period? ;-) If I'm correct, once an entry is off a blog's frontpage, it's not part of any Technorati cosmos anymore; it's here Google's link: operator comes in.

Borris, thanks.

This comes around again to my original point/question: doesn't the nofollow link then also break the relationship between Joi's site and SMS.ac (as far as Google is concerned)? And, isn't that relationship a more fundamental feature of Google's search results than "Google juice"?

If the relationship is broken (and, then it's not apparent in search results), I think that's more of a bad thing.

Also, if nofollow doesn't break the relationship but somehow demotes the site linked to, e.g., Joi's authority on SMS.ac goes up because he uses that word, but SMS.ac's authority on SMS.ac goes down because it was linked to with a nofollow, that's also more of a bad thing in a bunch of ways like, e.g., my commenting on Joi's site makes Joi more of an authority on "Jay Fienberg" than it is on my own site that this comment links to with nofollow. (It's hard for me to believe this is how nofollow works.)

But, at this point, the main thing I'd say is that it seems like there has been a lot of promotion of nofollow like it's a simple and clear way to do something good, and I think it's still something that should be looked at more critically and skeptically, especially with regards to the ways in which its affects are not all that clear.

Also, Joi, isn't Technorati respecting nofollow? Is it just in terms of rank number or also in terms of the link cosmos?

I have been receiving those "invitations" on my hotmail account (funny that it's not my regular email, I just use it for the MSN messenger) and even though I haven't reply to any of them I keep getting them and getting them, especially from one particular person (so I think he's been signing up again or something). Anyway, what I did was to block the entire domain for my hotmail address. It's stopped since.

This is the third request. Should [NAME] give up on having you as a friend in his mobile friends network?

Simply click the link below to confirm your relationship with [NAME].
http://www.sms.ac/registration/Intro.aspx?InviteId=[etc]

Dont want to be invited by your friends? Click on the link above to block future invitations from family and friends.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Can you believe it -- this is the fourth request to be in [NAME] friend network.

If this means that you do not care to be in [NAME] mobile friend network, then just say so - and save both of you the hassle. It only takes a few seconds!

Just click here to confirm or reject your relationship with [NAME]
http://www.sms.ac/registration/Intro.aspx?InviteId=[LINK]

If you dont want to be invited by your friends, just click on the link above and choose block future invitations from family and friends.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

personally, i think the emails to 'join' the network is very strongly worded, suggesting emotional blackmail.

Fortunately for me, i'm one who is inclined to suspect 'free' services... they usually have some caveats somewhere... and a friend warned me about SMS spams that she has received and mysterious calls that always ring and cut off. something that has never happened before, until after she subscribed to this service.

I just got hit by this. I got far enough to enter my email and phone number, but I didn't click on the button to subscribe. Instead I read the privacy page, got cold feet, and clicked on the thing to forget I exist. Any ideas if I got far enough to be burned?

I just saw your website when I searched for "SMS Spam". I'm experiencing the same problem, are there any lawyers here? This is a class action suit waiting to happen!

From SMS.ac's Frequently Asked Questions...

How do I delete my account?

If you wish to delete your account, go to the "myAccount" page, and click on "Delete your account" in the Account Information section. You will be required to enter your email address, SMS ID, and password. You may also add any comments, and tell us why you are choosing to delete you account.

If you delete your account, any messages you have purchased will be forfeited.

--------------------------------------

I have no idea how reliable this is, but I'm about to do it. Thankfully I have no Hotmail accout, I don't habitually enter friends' email addresses, and my cell phone doesn't have the capability to send text messages (only receive). So I think I've avoided most of the yuck.

But it's eddifying to realize that the invite I got might not have actually been sent with my friend's actual intent.

If you sign up properly, that is, opt-out of the services when they give you the opportunity, it is perfectly possible to have a hassle free and cost free experience with sms.ac. I've been using them for a good while now. I'm not being charged and I'm making full use of my 5 texts a day to keep intouch with my international friends.


Keep in touch me Raj from Nepal

Hi,

We all received theses bloody SMS.AC spams. I am offering simple solutions to fight back: Someone is actually sending them on SMS.AC's behalf and another comapny is hosting their website.

1. Blacklist sms.ac spam servers:
Go to spamcop.net and report all mail sent by "your friends" as spam using sms.ac (Very quick once you’ve created you’re account). This will not hurt your friends only the server that sends the email that is rented by sms.ac. Future emails from theses servers will be blocked. (SMS.ac tend to have this problem often and change the company that sends their emails) Let's make them change even more often!

2. Write to the company that hosts the sms.ac website:
I wrote to this company and asked them to stop doing business with sms.ac. They never answered. I would recommend you guys to do the same! They might make a move then. Also let everybody know that this company is working with sms.ac (Bad publicity!).
Hosting company:
Cardi.net
8913 Complex Drive
San Diego, CA 92123
Toll Free : 888.221.5902
To send them an email go to the following page
http://cari.net/contact/index.php

Cheers, good luck in cooping with these terrible emails. Let’s get back to sms.ac!

ryt

Holy Crap.

I just got one of these things and was looking for info when I found your nifty little updates about it. Then I looked at the sms site and it suddenly hit me as to why it seemed familiar - I almost took a job with these fools about 6 months ago.

Thank god I didn't

I almost took a job too. It's a privately-owned company that makes its low-level employees work for stock options.

Hint: It has yet to go public after 9 years in operation.

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11 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Apologies for spamming friends with SMS.ac.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://joi.ito.com/MT-4.35-en/mt-tb.cgi/3233

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February 4, 2005 7:48 AM

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Responding to complaints, "Sean" from SMS.ac (that's where his IP resolves) comments (here and elsewhere) that there's a PDF guide on the registration page explaining... Read More

I think it actually started a few years ago. It came across my attention, but then I kinda forgot about it. Well, anyway, it turns out they also spam you through SMS.... Also, it turns out that when you sign up, it will spam your MSN buddy list w...

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SMS.ac warning from Anders Jacobsen's blog
February 8, 2005 12:30 AM

A number of friends on MSN Messenger have been messaging me/emailing me and asking me to use www.SMS.ac. For anyone using it: You should all check your phone bills and / or read the below warnings before signing up (apparently the signup itself trigger... Read More

An amazing example from mikel.org | Michael Boyle's weblog
February 22, 2005 12:29 PM

of an abusive service: Joi Ito recently signed up for the incredibly abusive SMS.ac "service" - which immediately started spamming his contacts to try and get them to sign up as well. Viral marketing, but WAY over the line that anyone would consider ap... Read More

I recently received an invitation from a friend to join the SMS.ac mobile phone text messaging service. My friend said he never knowingly invited me, and digging around I see that blogger Joi Ito is being potentially sued for calling... Read More

Joi Ito's Web: Letter from Kevin B. Jones of sms.ac: I received the following email and this attached Word document from the lawyer at sms.ac. It looks like a form letter to me. I have no idea what activity... Read More

Just seen over at J-Walk, SMS.ac is the "most popular community for mobile users on the planet" and allows you to send text messages to any phone in the world. Whilst the service sounds great there are one or two Read More

"Kevin B. Jones, Esq." of SMS.ac sent Joi Ito a cease-and-desist email saying "UNLESS YOU IMMEDIATELY CEASE AND DESIST YOUR ILLEGAL ACTIVITY, YOU WILL BE PROSECUTED" but failing to say exactly what Joi's done that's "illegal." The email includes a... Read More

I have zero tolerance for company bullshit and threats. First, SMS.ac had all of my friends spam the hell out of me with their scam-like service (most of whom apologized immediately afterwards). Now they're sending cease and desist letters to friends w... Read More

SMS just won't make it in America, if things proceed on their present course. The reason being, we are just to trusting to newfangled service providers. That should be a good thing, but those same service providers are often the... Read More

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