I reported a little over a week ago that I had, after over a month of trying, finally received a positive word back from Xanga. A few days ago, I confirmed that all infringing links I had discovered up to that point had been shut down and the matter was resolved.
Interested in improving relations between copyright holders and hosts, I initiated a conversation with my newfound Xanga contact. In a lengthy email, I told him both my full story and addressed several concerns that I had with him on copyright matters.
Though he was very nice and grateful for the information, his response was not what I had hoped. It appears that Xanga’s issues with abuse problems are not related anything unique to my case, but rather, a much broader problem that affects the entire company and all of its members.
A Math Problem
Xanga’s difficulties are related to a very simple math problem. The company, by most recent estimation, has over 45 million accounts. That makes it easily the second most-popular social networking/blogging site on the planet. It also, according to Alexa, is the 42nd most popular site on the Web.
The problem is that, despite these incredible numbers, Xanga only has “about a dozen” employees according to my contact. Even if we are gracious and grant them twenty employees, the number mentioned in a recent ABC report, and that all of their employees work actively on abuse-related matters, there are over 2,250,000 accounts per employee.
If we continue with the math and calculate that some 90% of the accounts are unused, which is fairly typical of Web services, that leaves 225,000 active user accounts per employee. Then, if only one percent of those sites needs attention from a member of the abuse team, that still leaves a whopping 2250 cases of abuse for each member of the staff to handle at any one time.
Please note that these numbers do not reflect several critical variables including the continued growth of Xanga, other types of user interaction including customer support and that few Xanga employees are actually going to be dealing with abuse matters.
Myspace, by comparison, has an estimated 250 employees and 65 million accounts. They have, theoretically, less than 12% the accounts per person (roughly 260) that Xanga does and has been significantly more responsive to copyright infringement and other abuse matters as a result.
It becomes easy to see, when you look at the pure numbers, why Xanga has been so impotent on abuse related issues and has had so much bad press surrounding it regarding it’s policies for dealing with users that infringe.
No Signs of Improvement
What’s disturbing about the matter is that Xanga has done very little to actually correct the matter. Though the ABC report on Xanga, dated November 10, 2005 brought many of these issues to light, as of my conversation with Xanga last week, these matters have not been addressed. In fact, my contact with Xanga actually reported lower manpower numbers than ABC did.
As disturbing as Xanga’s handling of abuse matters is, its unwillingness or inability to do anything regarding them is nothing short of mind boggling. It has had ample time to bring in new help and tackle these matters, six months to be exact, but, for whatever reason, has failed to do so.
Instead, all that we’re offered is the same promises to recruit new staff and improve the situation someday. For right now, and for the foreseeable Xanga remains one of the worst Internet neighbors on abuse matters.
When, or even if, these matters will be resolved remains a mystery.
How to Handle Xanga
For the time being, getting Xanga’s help with abuse matters, especially copyright matters, is going to be extremely difficult. Abuse emails are largely ignored and calls to Xanga’s headquarters are fruitless (save for one very determined commenter to the original story). Until things change, if they change, I’m sticking to my original advice of asking people to mail in their complaints to the address listed in Xanga’s whois information.
Though it’s far less convenient, less efficient and more costly than sending in a regular email, it seems to be the only way to get in touch with Xanga reliably and be reasonably assured of a reply.
While this is sad and worrisome considering some of the kinds of abuse that have been reported on Xanga’s servers, it seems to be the lay of the land right now and the way that things will remain until Xanga either increases manpower or, as unfortunate as it would be, goes out of business.
In the end, we can not count on Xanga as an ally against plagiarism or, sadly, other kinds of abuse. This could mean bad things for the future of Xanga, especially as splogging branches out to new services, and certainly means nothing good for the rest of the Web.
Until Xanga addresses their fundamental problems, we will all pay the price.
[tags]Plagiarism, Content Theft, Copyright Infringement, Xanga, Myspace, Abuse[/tags]