Digsby, doing more evil

Digsby is one of my essential apps that I virtually have running all the time.  It’s really my window to the social world, through their Twitter & Facebook integration, as well as using it to manage my IM’s and emails.  I want to say it’s my favorite program, but with their latest actions I feel like I did a little inside every time I fire up this program.

Digsby has always had one of the most evil installers, which sneakily offers your crapware that you don’t want, making it pretty hard to escape unscathed .  Back in August they released a new version that stepped up the amount of crapware, but to make things worse they used your computer to “search the web” and do processing for other commercial companies.  As if that wasn’t unbelievable enough, it was originally opt-out.

Lifehacker did a great job of chronicling the ordeal and rightfully ripping Digsby for their misdeeds. It’s worth a read.  After enduring a PR firestorm, Digsby finally reneged on these restrictions, crying “mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” [see LifeHacker reaction].  In their blog post apologizing for (and defending) their actions Digsby proclaimed:

“We are still a young company that is trying to figure out our long term revenue models.  At the end of the day, we need to keep the lights on and pay salaries so we can keep making Digsby even better ..  The reason we decided to test these two revenue models is because they would allow us to accomplish this while keeping Digsby free and ad-free.” [Digsby Blog]

So I gave Digsby the benefit of the doubt, until I saw their Twitter post from last night:

Text DIGSBY to 41411 to be the first to know when there are updates and new releases!

So now they’re resorting to collecting cell phone numbers.  I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I think that a social media & communication tool – rather than using said social media & communication methods to send their updates – is now going into left field and sending them through cell phones.  How does this make sense?  It only makes sense if you’re looking to graft ads at the end of these messages or perhaps even build them up for more sinister purposes (like renting them to another company).

I’m surprised there hasn’t been a backlash about this, but maybe it’s building up somewhere.  I hope people see this as another one of their shady tactics and don’t buy into this crap.  If there is a backlash I’m sure Digsby will apologize on their blog, saying they need to keep the lights on and will go doing good until they get their next “Pinky & the Brain” evil scheme to take over the world.

This is a disturbing and recurring pattern that is being displayed in some of these cutting edge Web 2.0 companies.  Many deploy these slimy tactics and don’t see the problem with them until there is a backlash from their users.  What this tells me is that their ethical compass isn’t pointing north and there doesn’t seem to be a pressing need to correct it.

I hate this because I think Digsby is a great app and I want them to succeed.  I wish they simply would just go ad-supported and offer a modest price for a professional version.  This has become an essential app every day and would gladly pay the price. but not like this.