Last week, I got an invitation to join Quechup, a new social networking site, from someone I'm pretty sure doesn't want to network with me. Unfortunately, this person uses Gmail, which adds all new email addresses to the contacts list, whether you want it to or not. Since this person had emailed me in the past, my email address was still in their contacts list.
The problem with Quechup is that during the account creation process for new users, they are asked to give permission for Quechup to view their email address books in order to see if any of their contacts are already on Quechup. What most people seem to miss is the fine print that indicates Quechup will be spamming everyone in the new user's contact list who is not already on Quechup.
I have two theories about why they chose to market their site this way. The first is benign, and assumes that someone at Quechup thought that users would read the text that indicates Quechup would be sending non-members email invitations.
The second theory is that someone at Quechup expected that few would read the text closely, and that it would be a simple and effective way of collecting a large number of active email addresses.
I suspect that the truth may be somewhere in between those two theories. Social networking sites do not exist out of the goodness of some programmer's heart. They exist to gather information about you and your friends, and to use that information to make money off of you. Quechup is no different in that than sites like MySpace and Facebook. However, unlike other sites, Quechup is quickly getting a bad reputation for mass emailing, and that will be a tricky spot to pull themselves out of.