Early Yoomba users say the service spams contact lists

New e-mail to voice or chat service sends invites to users’ 'closest friends'

Some early users of Yoomba's new e-mail calling and chat service are complaining that the service spams their e-mail contact lists.

Launched on Thursday, Yoomba is a free, peer-to-peer service that lets any e-mail address owner place a VOIP call or begin an instant-messaging session with any other e-mail address, whether or not the recipient is also a Yoomba user. The service adds a button to e-mail interfaces allowing users to call or chat with anyone on their e-mail contact list.

But some users are complaining about how the service sends out e-mail messages to all of their contacts inviting them to use the service.

"It spammed my entire contact list.... I call that a 'virus,'" said one reader in an e-mail, who asked not to be named.

Another user had a similar experience. At the prompt that read "Here are your closest friends on Yoomba, let them know you are on," the user hit the "next" button.

"Of course those were not in fact my closest friends 'on' Yoomba, but rather my entire contact list, which it proceeded to spam," said the user in an anonymous posting to the Network World Web site. "How embarrassing. Needless to say, I uninstalled."

Yoomba CEO Elad Hemar defends the service, saying it doesn't send initiations to contacts without user approval.

"Yoomba identifies your closest friends [and puts a checkmark next to them for sending e-mails to]; you can always uncheck them," he says. "And you have to click a button" to send the e-mails.

Yoomba defines "closest friends" as the fifty contacts on a user's list that are communicated with most often.

"We give information to our users on things that are happening, we don't do things automatically behind the scenes," Hemar adds.

Another user believes the service should be clearer about sending e-mails to contacts.

"These guys put in this cute little feature where after install, it brings up a screen to add contacts. If you don't read carefully (or maybe even if you do ... I can't seem to get back to the screen) it spams all of your freaking contacts!!!," said the user in a posting. "Looks to me like it's just another IM / VOIP client, but with an auto-add-all-your-contacts-and-spam-them `feature.'

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Cara Garretson

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