Here is an interesting news post that one of my article writers thought I should share. (I have not used either Posterous or VigLink myself, so I have no additional comments to add.)
Posterous is a very simple content publishing system allowing users to publish to many different services via email. Their business has been going strong for quite a while now, resulting in them gaining many dedicated users.
Recently however, they have committed a fairly large no-no for a web startup, violating their users’ trust.
As one Posterous user has reported, they have been silently converting links inserted in content passed through their service into affiliated links using another service called VigLink. VigLink, in and of itself, is a legitimate company, allowing users to accumulate revenue without inserting affiliate links themselves. It also ignores all already present affiliate links, meaning if you put in your own Amazon link to a certain product, it will still be there when posted.
So in short, VigLink plays very fair, but Posterous, in using them, has not been doing so at all.
Co-Founder of Posterous, Sachin Agarwal conceded in a phone interview that they were definitely in the wrong when not informing users of what they were doing with links. He also brought to light some other interesting tidbits of information.
Apparently, they have been doing this for a while now, it is just that no one has noticed it before. He said they are just experimenting, and are not sure at this point whether or not VigLink will be permanently integrated into the Posterous service or not. Regardless of whichever happens in the long term, users will be able to opt-out, or maybe even have to opt-in to use the feature. Argawal has stated that if the permanent integration does occur, and a user is opted-in to use the feature, then they will be able to generate revenue from using it, which might actually increase the usage of the service, because not only will it be an easy to use content publishing service, but it will be an easy to use content publishing service that can make a user some easy, passive, revenue.
Posterous, Argawal also stated, is in the process of drafting a statement about the integration of VigLink, a company that has recently received capital from the likes of Google Ventures. Little is known about how much this incident have affected their usage right now, but the possibilities of future money making, might actually serve to make this good press for both the Posterous, and the VigLink services.
Argawal needs to get this under his belt and move on, this was a huge mistake and very dishonest business move. Users realize the bills need to be paid, however they prefer transparency from their service provider and regaining their trust after something like this is going to be pretty tough.