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Any time some company presents you with eye-popping statistics on five-star ratings or skyrocketing downloads, it’s wise to be suspicious.
There are plenty of ways to fudge the numbers these days so that your statements about growth can be technically true, but not tell the whole story. And it seems that Glide, the video messaging app that launched in April, falls into both camps: It’s experiencing rapid growth in the number of messages people are are actually sending each month, but it also engaged in shady practices when it comes to acquiring user downloads.
The company told us that it ended those tactics this week. Up until a few days ago, when you signed up for Glide, the app auto-suggested that you invite all of your friends to join Glide. You had to un-select your friends from a list to not send them an invite.
From the company’s perspective, it can always say that users had the option not to invite all their friends. But depending on how the app is designed, and how quickly people roll through the sign-up process, it’s an dubious practice.
Not surprisingly, plenty of people didn’t realize they were automatically inviting friends, and they were surprised to find that they’d messaged people inviting them to join. TechCrunch delved into how Glide use this strategy to fuel growth, and the move prompted more than a few complaints from users, who found themselves inundated with invite messages from friends.
But when I asked Glide’s PR representative about the accusations this morning, she said that the company has changed its tactics in the “last few days.” She explained:
“Glide initially had users’ invite opt-out of sending invites to all friends, but users reported they were often confused by this and mistakenly sent invites to friends without realizing. In response Glide removed the select all and now forces users to opt-in to send to all your friends in hopes that this will help prevent users from inviting friends unintentionally.”
In a meeting earlier this week with Ari Roisman, Glide’s CEO, he showed me charts of the app’s growth — the number of downloads it was getting each day and number of messages sent per user. Even though there were recent spikes in downloads that could be attributed to widespread spamming of friends, the number of messages per user was increasing as well, indicating that it was actually catching on.
In other words, once people started using the app, they kept going. The company announced new stats today: a 5X increase in videos sent since the beginning of July, 120 percent increase in daily active users, and 12 million seconds of private messages sent daily.
There’s no worse feeling than realizing you’ve downloaded an app that’s spammed all your friends without your knowledge. Path tried the exact same tactic earlier this year, and I wrote that it was indicative of the company’s greater issues around user trust (although Path’s move came after previous infractions, so it’s a slightly different situation). Obviously, if the spamming continues, Glide could suffer real reputational damage.
But if Glide sees continued growth and new users aren’t auto-inviting friends, then the spamming chapter may simply fade into the background.