I was sort of interested at first, but now I’m not so sure any more

Date:July 13, 2007 / year-entry #254
Orig Link:https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20070713-00/?p=26023
Comments:    26
Summary:Some time ago, there was a product under development that was starting to get some buzz, so I thought I'd go check it out. I went to the product's Web site, but the product was so new that they didn't have any substantial information available. The only way to learn about the product was to...

Some time ago, there was a product under development that was starting to get some buzz, so I thought I'd go check it out. I went to the product's Web site, but the product was so new that they didn't have any substantial information available. The only way to learn about the product was to download the documentation. And before they would let me do that, I had to register with my email address and some demographic information.

I closed the window and never went back.

Now, if the registration page had told me why they wanted this information, I might have offered it. Maybe because the product was still under development and they wanted to notify me of any significant changes. Maybe because they wanted to know what type of people were interested in their product. Maybe because they wanted to send me advertising about their other products. I'll never know, because the registration page didn't say.

If you're going to ask for my email address and demographic information, you have to tell me what's in it for me. I was only sort of interested in your product in the first place, but asking for personal information quickly put me into the "I'm not interested any more" category.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to highlight a new ground rule, one which I hoped people would figure out by watching the pattern but apparently needs to be made explicit: Do not identify companies, programs, and people. You may have noticed that as a general rule, I do not identify the programs or companies whose products I discuss in computer-related entries, because my purpose is not to mock and ridicule the computer industry but rather to highlight a problem. Here, we discuss problems and solutions, but we don't point and say "ha-ha, Company X is such a moron!" If you want to mock and ridicule, you can do it on your own Web site.

Comments (26)
  1. Dave says:

    Well, to not name company names – you might want to point this blog
    entry to XYZ, who routinely asks for information (or to
    fill out the damned XYZ demographic page again) at the drop of a

    Also, I don’t personally think naming names is a BAD thing.
     There are cases where I’ve named names in my blog and those
    companies have actually contacted me for more feedback and to try to
    help fix the issue.  (And Microsoft was one of those companies –
    their attention to random blogs out there is VERY admirable.)

  2. John says:

    I have given up on that stuff.  The spammers are going to get you one way or another; resistance is futile.  Only three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and spam.  I bet we solve death before we solve spam.  I wish we could go back in time 25 years and redesign all the specs the modern Internet is based on.

    On the other hand, every so often I will get a spam that is hillarious.  My recent favorite is for some kind of colon cleansing product that claims to flush out up to 20 pounds of excess waste.  All the claims are funny, but the icing on the cake is a woman giving the thumbs-up.

  3. Andrew says:

    I’ve seen a blog post similar to this recently, and assume you are talking about the same company.  They quickly removed the requirement for registration because of complaints they received about this.

  4. Dave says:

    > [side note: I wonder what they do for non-US people, that don’t have a state or ZIP?].

    Beverly Hills, 90210.

    Its the only US Zip Code that I know that matches the correct place — which some websites insist on trying to check…

  5. Ulric says:

    Email addresses for web download?

    that’s what hotmail is for :D

  6. Joe Butler says:

    for your info:

    try mailinator.com (I have no connection with it).

    When asked to give an email address to a dubious source – simply make one up on the spot e.g. witheredhand@mailinator.com – as soon as a mail is sent to this address, the mailbox is created.  A password is not required to access the mailbox, which is deleted after a few hours.

    also bugmenot.com is worth checking out.

  7. Bob King says:

    I am in no way affiliated with this site, but it has helped avoid these annoying mandatory registration sites:


  8. Scott says:

    A personal domain is great for this kind of stuff.

    People I personally know get my real e-mail address.

    If I need to sign-up for something to get the latest hardware drivers or join a forum, they get a junk@[my domain] address.

    An unknown company that looks like they might be legit, they get an e-mail with their company name in it like [your company]@[my domain] so I can tell if they actually distribute that address.

  9. Wesha says:

    Of course, according to the personal information I give away, I’m a 99 year old female living in 666 Noneofyour Business St., Fockers, HY, 66666. (and the email address I give is, of course, a tagged honeypot).

  10. Mr Cranky says:

    I think the point is that when you want to sell something, it doesn’t make sense to throw up barriers to potential customers.  

    Do a lot of people have brains that can follow a single track, but can’t deal with branching or decisions?  My guess is that the site manager thought, "I know, I’ll make everyone give me their name and contact info".  Never occurred to him that 75% of the visitors would just mutter "bite me", and skip it.

  11. Nick says:

    [Beverly Hills, 90210]

    That’s a good one, but I prefer Young America, MN, 55555.

  12. Dean says:

    A well known company (let’s call it company X) which "makes" operating systems recently screwed up a patch so badly it hurts!

    Basically there is this (huge bloated and generally rubbish) framework of libraries that they force you to install if you want to use any of their other software. They REALLY don’t like modular design for some reason (I think this is due to business reasons rather than technical ones). Naturally, company X are so completely inept that they left gaping buffer overflows in there!!

    LMAO at their incompetence!

    But then, to compound the shame, the patch completely screwed up too! Their QA was seemingly non-existent, probably because at company X they have a ratio of more than 1 to 1 of "managers" (at least in partial title) versus "developers"!!!! What’s more, everyone there seems to spend all day blogging instead of actually doing work! Too many cooks? I think so!!

    This caused things like the mouse suddenly failing to work or long periods of hard drive thrashing. In some cases it even required a REBOOT! On a modern operating system, can you believe it? ROTFL at the dumbasses they hire!!1!

    It probably caused great anguish to millions of customers, but do they care? Not a bit of it!! Their CEO is a complete retard who makes a fool of himself with great frequency. He also throws outrageous tantrums whenever better companies do things he wishes he did (which is regularly).

    I can’t believe anyone in their right mind would want to work there. Can you??!

    PS company X has a particularly awful privacy record. It demands email addresses for almost all of its (awfully designed, insecure and frankly, plagiarized) web software before you can use it. Its policies have probably also resulted in jail sentences or worse for people in certain countries with unethical freedom of speech laws.

    I wish I could name company X – after all, they deserve the shame. However, in deference to your new commenting policy I won’t.

  13. BryanK says:

    There is a company that makes thermal label printers (and which will remain unnamed) that does something similar.  You want to download their newest driver (to see if the memory leak that it creates when you do WMI event queries has been fixed)?  Oh, well, you have to log in first, using your email address and password.  (Slightly dumb, but OK.)  And then you have to change your password, since it’s been 6 months since you last logged in.  (Well, whatever.)

    And then you need to fill out your name, address, state, and ZIP [side note: I wonder what they do for non-US people, that don’t have a state or ZIP?].  (Sigh.)

    And *then*, you have to go back and choose your printer model again, because their web pages aren’t smart enough to remember that through the last three different HTML forms!

    (And then after all that, the newer driver still leaks memory when a WMI __InstanceModificationEvent query is pending.  Sigh.  I should just give up and keep using the generic/text-only driver forever, since I’m handing the printer its native language data anyway, and AFAIK that bypasses the driver.)

  14. Peter says:

    I just ran into the same thing today.  I called the manufacturer to see if I could get a replacement part for my (very old) dishwasher.

    The first thing they ask for, before I even tell them what model I have or what part I need, is my name, phone number and address.  I had to convince the rep to see if the part was even available before we went through all that.

    It just makes it so obvious that all they care about is collecting and using your information.

  15. anon says:

    Even if they told you why they want your email address – why would you give your REAL info and email address?  There are enough free web-based email services out there that allow you to create a throw-away email address.

  16. andy says:

    Schenectady, NY 12345

    is another good one…

  17. geoff says:

    They are just fishing for sales leads.

  18. Jivlain says:

    I live in Abbeville, Alabama, 36310.

    I chose Alabama because it’s first on the dropdown of US states that every site that manages to forget that there are countries other than the USA. Abbeville 36310 because it was the first entry on a list of counties I found :)

  19. James says:

    I’ve tended to give up on sites which do this as well: unless it’s brand new *and* obscure, the information will be out there somewhere without registration. That, or use bugmenot – handy for the usual newspapers etc. One time I filled a form accurately – a few hours later, the company phoned me up in the hope of selling the product!  Fine … except they were in a time zone 8 hours different from mine, thus calling me around midnight.

    Forgetting there are countries other than the USA is bad, but I had a slightly different problem with a big computer company: having registered to download some software – while living in TX – returning my faulty laptop battery in the UK confused their customer service person somewhat: the system had been updated with the *applicable* fields from my UK address – leaving me in Perth, Scotland, TX 77062, UK. Whoops. (Of course, when I selected ‘UK’ in their form, the state and ZIP options *disappeared*, leaving them untouched in the database…)

    I like the idea of spam-trapped addresses, although that went wrong when I registered a domain (many years ago now) with a company – call it oldnewthing, for pseudonymy’s sake – which, of course, they put as my Whois contact details. Result: lots of spam to oldnewthing@sutherland.ath.cx, which wasn’t anything to do with the company itself.

  20. Me says:

    Quit whining; you’ve been coddled way to long.  Companies don’t have to tell you jack about what they are doing with your email.  If you don’t like it, shut up and leave.  

  21. AndyC says:

    Yeah, this is a really annoying practice that has sent me surfing elsewhere just because I wasn’t actually that interested in the first place (regardless of whether I *could* create temporary accounts or whatever).

    Although where they just want an email address to spam I have been known to put in abuse@<their own domain> which I think is fair enough!

  22. Spike says:

    This reminds me of the days when I didn’t live on a street.  My house was 3 miles from the nearest village and the postal people there knew where my house was.  I genuinely did *not* live on a street.  Just a farm track with no name.

    So my address was House Name, near Village Name, County, UK, Post Code.

    I tried to sign up for an online service one time, who really had no right to know my address. But I entered it anyway when requested.  But it failed their validation since I didn’t enter a street name.

    I entered my postal code in their look-up facility and it correctly completed my address in the (now read only) fields, correctly omitting the street name.

    It still failed validation.  The address *they* had looked up in *their* database failed *their* validation.  even though it was correct.

    I mailed their tech support people and explained the whole sorry story.  I got a timely response, which was encouraging.  But it just asked "What browser are you using?"

    bye bye. I’ll go and use one of your competitors instead.

  23. Aaron says:

    > If you don’t like it, shut up and leave.

    Yeah… that’s exactly what he did, smart guy.  Didn’t even make it to the second paragraph of his post, did ya?

    And companies are, actually, required by law to tell you what they do with your contact information.  That’s not to say we should be suing everyone who doesn’t have a privacy policy, but it does mean that if you run a business and collect people’s e-mail addresses as part of a registration process, you *can* get sued if someone finds out that you sold his address to a spammer, *if* you didn’t explicitly tell them this during the registration.

    That’s all incidental anyway though.  The point here is that these companies presumably want your business, and yet seemingly do everything in their power to turn you away as a potential customer.  Even the most clueless marketroids have generally figured out by now that if you enjoy profits (or commissions), you want to make it as simple as humanly possible for people to do business with you.

  24. j says:

    What do you have against http://www.companyx.com? :)

  25. Me says:

    Yeah… that’s exactly what he did, smart guy.  Didn’t even make it to the second paragraph of his post, did ya?

    Aaron, I did make it all the way through the post.  Ray left the site, but he sure didn’t shut up about it.  His blog post is proof, doofus.  

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