The Truth About Evite

A diatribe from Jonathan Abrams, the founder of Socializr and Friendster
May 16, 2007
www.socializr.com

This guy wants to overcharge you
for concert tickets and sue people:
This guy wants to write code
and help people party:

For several years, millions of people have used Evite to send out party invitations. But why hasn't the site improved in such a long time?

History of Evite

Evite was a cool Silicon Valley startup when it was founded way back in 1998. After the dot-com crash, it was acquired by InterActiveCorp (IAC) in 2001 for less than the $38 million in venture capital that Evite had raised.

IAC is a huge Internet conglomerate run by mogul Barry Diller and worth over $10 Billion. IAC owns over 60 businesses, including Ask Jeeves, Citysearch, CollegeHumor, Expedia, Hotels.com, HotWire, HSN, Lending Tree, Match.com, and TicketMaster in addition to Evite. Not surprisingly, after buying Ask Jeeves for $1.85 billion, Evite is not the top focus of IAC management. After acquiring Evite six years ago, IAC moved it down to the LA office of Citysearch and TicketMaster, and the site has languished ever since.

Evite "mimics" Friendster in 2003

In November 2003, around nine months after Friendster launched, Evite announced that it had built "Evite 2.0", to compete with Friendster. "Evite 2.0 ... will mimic social networking sites, such as Friendster, with the introduction of personal profiles, called 'My Info' pages, and bulletin board messages. ... This new version of Evite (Evite 2.0) will then become a close competitor to Friendster, Craigslist, Emode, Meetup, etc." Evite said in a statement. PC World wrote "Social networking site Friendster.com may have a lot of friends, but now it has a new rival. Evite, a site created to allow Internet users to send out electronic invitations for events, launched a beta service Thursday that aims to take on Friendster by adding user information pages and 'get together' tools." In reality, Evite's poorly conceived and integrated 'social networking' features consisted of little more than useless profile pages that few Evite users completed.

In the three years since this failed attempt to graft on social networking features to Evite, the site has rolled out a small number of tangential new 'features' such as drink estimators, party tips and carpool planning while failing to add real social networking, leverage new technologies such as video, IM or mobile phones, or fix the many annoying little flaws that Evite has had for years.

Lawyer crazy?

In 2005, Friendster hired a new CEO and a product manager from Citysearch and Evite. Neither of them stayed at Friendster very long, but paranoid IAC executives had their lawyers send nastygrams to Friendster and these employees demanding information about their former employees' involvement in a non-existent Friendster online invitation project. Evite's lawyers demanded a written statement that Friendster would never develop a product competitive to Evite's invitation service, as well as a copy of Friendster's product roadmap! Ironically, while Friendster had no such plans, it was around this time that I had decided to move on from Friendster and start a new company to develop a new service combining event invitations with social networking. As was documented in Harvard Business School's 2006 case study on Friendster, it was a long but frustrated desire of mine to build events functionality at Friendster.

TicketMaster/Evite threatens to sue Socializr – Why is IAC is afraid of a three-person startup?

On April 3, 2007, Ticketmaster/Evite threatened to sue Socializr for copyright infringement. Once again, as with the letter sent to Friendster in 2005, Evite/IAC seemed to prefer to attempt to block competition with lawyers instead of improving and updating their products. The Socializr team was very flattered that a multi-billion dollar company like IAC was so scared of our little company.

Evite's lawyer letter claimed that:

  1. Two Socializr users had uploaded images allegedly infringing upon Evite's copyrights. (Unlike Evite, Socializr allows users to create and share their own design templates.) One of these images was no longer on the site, and Socializr immediately removed the other after being notified of the infringement, as required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's Safe Harbor provisions, which protect Socializr from liability.
  2. The letter from Ticketmaster's lawyers claimed that an image in one of Socializr's event designs featuring snowflakes is too similar to an Evite design that includes a different piece of artwork that also contains snowflakes.
  3. The letter also claimed that Socializr infringes upon Evite's copyrights due to similarities in website look and feel.

Evite owns the copyright on snowflakes?

One of the most ridiculous claims in Ticketmaster's lawyer letter involved two "Winter" themed designs on each site. Both designs feature artwork involving white snowflakes on a blue background. Does Evite/IAC think it owns the copyright on the snowflake? Do their lawyers not understand the basic principles of copyright law, that copyright covers a distinct "original work of authorship", not similar but different pieces of artwork, and that there is no copyright protection for familiar symbols or designs, lettering or coloring?
To make this claim even more ridiculous, it turns out that Evite does not even own the snowflake image on their site. It is "Photodisc" clip-art, available for purchase from many web sites for $89.99.

Look and Feel is not protected by copyright

Evite's lawyer letter also made five claims involving look and feel. Obviously IAC is not happy to see Socializr compete with Evite and offer an alternative to Evite. Not only did they fail to delineate the purported similarities in "format, layout and features" between the two sites, but once again Evite's lawyers seem to be oblivious to the relevant ideas/expression, merger, scenes of faire or originality doctrines which prevent the protection of common ideas such as generic or indispensable functionality and uncreative layout and formatting involving limited means of expression. The inability to protect generic functionality and basic user interface layout and design was well established over ten years ago in landmark cases involving Apple, Microsoft, and Lotus.

If websites could sue other websites for copying their look and feel, Friendster would surely have done so back in 2003 and 2004 when it was blatantly copied by MySpace, Facebook, and over 100 other sites. In the words of Jason Calacanis, from posts back in 2003, "MySpace.com, a literal photocopy of the Friendster site, is actually a service provided by the NASDAQ-delisted eUniverse.com" and "Perhaps they're embarrassed by the fact that they literally photocopied the Friendster.com site? We're not lawyers, and we certainly don't think that anyone should be able to file silly business process patents, but MySpace.com is a straight up rip off."

But websites get copied all the time:

  • Gee Whiz, The New AOL Beta Looks Familiar
  • Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
  • Exposed: The 7 Most Blatant Web 2.0 Rip Offs

    Socializr is not even a simple rip-off of Evite like some of the examples above. Socializr has a completely different approach and philosophy for sharing with friends, user-generated content, organizations, and integration with other services. Socializr has many modern features that Evite lacks and differs from Evite in many ways. The similarities between Evite and Socializr involve generic or inevitable functionality that is essential to online event invitations. Much of this functionality and standard user-interface elements (such as a guestlist, RSVP box, etc.) have been offered by numerous sites such as Meetup, Upcoming.org, MySpace, and Facebook for years before Socializr even existed.

    Evite the hypocrite

    As Valleywag's May 3, 2007 "Hypocrisy Alert" pointed out, Evite's baseless claims also seem quite hypocritical and ironic when you remember Evite's announcement in 2003 that they were going to "mimic" Friendster.

    Also, in an December 2006 interview with John Battelle, an IAC executive admits that they crawl and copy content from other sites such as Yelp.

    IAC the bully?

    On April 20, 2007, Ticketmaster sued popular online marketplace StubHub for interfering with Ticketmaster's business by selling tickets for the Lynyrd Skynyrd/Hank Williams Jr. "Rowdy Frynds" tour, which Ticketmaster claims exclusive rights to sell. Once again, IAC resorted to lawyers instead of improving their products. Obviously, IAC wishes that new companies such as Friendster, Socializr, and StubHub would just go away. Do they really think they can bully all of Web 2.0 out of existence with lawsuits and lawyer letters?

    IAC property Modern competitor
    Evite Socializr
    Ticketmaster StubHub
    Citysearch Yelp
    Match.com Friendster, MySpace

    Why people hate Evite

    Evite's failure to improve their product or capitalize on the potential of social networking (despite being a sister company to Match.com, Citysearch, and TicketMaster) has been puzzling to many people. Before he even invested in Socializr, my friend and entrepreneur Auren Hoffman wrote a blog post in January 2006 titled "Evite is incredibly mismanaged", pointing out that Evite had great potential but had not improved for six years.

    Later Auren wrote a guest column for VentureBeat in September 2006 called "Why I hate Evite", which ignited an uproar due to Auren's potential bias as an investor in Socializr, even though he disclosed his investment in his column. Auren pointed out that Evite is very slow, that Evite's profiles are not well used, and that Evite has never adopted new technologies such as RSS and SMS. Unfortunately, this column appeared months before Socializr had launched, and readers were unable to judge for themselves.

    And Auren is not the only one who feels this way:

    OK, so with that all said, here are our Top Ten Reasons Why It's Time For You To Switch To Socializr:

    1. Barry Diller doesn't care about Evite
    IAC owns over 60 business and has not really improved Evite in five years. The Socializr team is obsessively focused and committed to creating the best site ever for sharing events with your friends. In one year of development, our small team has duplicated Evite's functionality on a scalable platform and added many new features. We welcome you to share your feedback and suggestions with us in our Forums so that we can continue to improve Socializr month after month.
    2. Pet peeves
    Everyone has their own pet peeves about Evite. Maybe it's the way Evite doesn't tell you anything in their emails and you are forced to click through just to see the event date and location. Maybe it's the way you often cannot tell who sent you an invitation... We've fixed dozens of these annoyances already, and we would love to fix yours too. Tell us all about it in our Forums.
    3. Speed
    Evite is slow!
    According to Alexa:
    Speed: Slow (68% of sites are faster)
    Avg Load Time: 3.2 Seconds
    According to Alexa:
    Speed: Very Fast (87% of sites are slower)
    Avg Load Time: .9 Seconds
    Socializr is committed to keeping page loads under 1 second.
    4. Event customization
    Evite allows you to choose from a set of professionally designed templates for your event invitation, or design your own invitation with the colors and graphics of your choice. Socializr also provides professionally designed templates, but Socializr allows users to share their user-generated designs with their friends or other Socializr users, and Socializr allows you to customize your event with music, videos, custom images, Flash widgets, and deluxe fonts!
    5. Social Networking
    Evite's attempts to add social networking features in 2003 were a complete failure. Evite's profiles are not useful, not well integrated into their site, and not completed by most Evite users. Socializr allows you to easily share your events with your friends in various ways. You also get to see your friends' birthdays on your Socializr calendar. Socializr shows the photos of people on a guest list right on the event page, like a modern social networking site. Each Socializr user has their own profile page with a personalized URL, and our users can automatically add their content from Friendster, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Yelp, Twitter, blogs, etc. to their Socializr profile.
    6. Organizations
    Evite does not cater to the needs of organizations that throw events, and limits the number of people that can be invited to an event. Socializr allows organizations that throw events, such as bands, club promoters, non-profits, etc. to create their own organization page, with their own custom subdomain, events listings, RSS feeds, embeddable Flash widgets, and more.
    7. Mobile
    Evite doesn't offer technologies from this decade. Socializr provides several mobile features including mobile reminders and a text-messaging interface.
    8. Your Information
    Evite does not allow you to export your Address Book. Socializr allows you to import address books from various sources but also export your information, including your Address Book, at any time.
    9. Unwanted email
    Evite allows you to block invitations from a specific person. Socializr allows you to block invitations from a specific person or block ALL emails from Socializr via our global blacklist. We think choosing to add yourself to this blacklist is a stupid move, since you will probably miss out on cool party invitations from your friends, but we want to be good citizens of the net and respect peoples' choices about what kind of emails they wish to receive. We also provide our members with numerous notification preferences. For example, we allow our members to specify what type of event reminders they wish to receive, instead of letting the event creator solely specify the scheduling of the reminders.
    10. Advertising
    Evite is a mess of invasive graphical ads. Socializr is focusing on a small number of targeted text ads which are much less annoying.

    Update (July 11, 2007):

    Time Magazine lists Evite as the #2 "Site to Avoid" in their new list of the 5 Worst Websites.

    Update (October 18, 2007):

    Valleywag reports in What to use instead of Evite (and five other popular but terrible websites): "Oh god, Evite. It starts with an email about a party with no information about that party, and then it gets worse. ... I'm using Socializr for my next party."

    Update (Jan 18, 2008):

    Wired Magazine's February 2008 issue has an article called Why Things Suck: Evite: "Evite is great if you're gonna party like it's 1999 – because that's where the site has been stuck for nearly a decade. ... To announce your next high-stakes Scrabble tourney, try Socializr, brought to you by Friendster founder Jonathan Abrams. It's Evite 2.0, finally."

    Update (April 7, 2008):

    Two new resources: Evite Alternatives and EviteSucks.com

    Update (April 8, 2008):

    Radar Magazine has written a Public Service Announcement – Stop Using Evite!: "You are not alone in thinking Evite, the incredibly outdated invitation service your one pitiable friend still insists on using ... is one of the worst sites on the Internet. ... In short, not only does Evite suck, but it's regulated by a bunch of asshole corporate overlords. Let the non-Evite party revolution begin!"

    Update (April 13, 2008):

    The New York Times Magazine has written yet another critique of Evite: The Guest-Host Industrial Complex: "Barry Diller is wrecking parties. I may never be invited anywhere ever again, but I must speak out against Evite, his company, for stamping a hideous brand on hospitality. ... I have to repeat what tech and business analysts have said for years in their analyses of Evite: it's appalling that to learn the time and place of a private party, an Evitee has to visit a commercial page stacked with ads."

    Update (September 9, 2008):

    Evite buys Google ads to compete with Socializr?

    Update (Dec 10, 2008):

    Oprah Magazine's December issue recommends Socializr over Evite in an article called Party, On! New Gadgets to Help you Plan a 21st-Century Bash : "Though Evite is ubiquitous, don't count out the competition. BlackBerry users will like Socializr.com because its e-mails include all the party details - no link-clicking required. And you can add music or video to the hundreds of invitation palettes on offer."

    Update (Dec 31, 2008):

    VentureBeat reports in Evite fails on the year's biggest party night that "No one cool uses Evite anymore. You know this. I know this. Auren Hoffman, chief executive of search startup RapLeaf and an investor in competitor Socializr, wrote a column for us two years ago about why he hates Evite. But it's still the biggest event website around. Well, we can add another item to Hoffman's litany of complaints - Evite is down on New Year's Eve. That's right, it's down on the biggest party night of the year, meaning the event details stored on the site are now inaccessible to partygoers."

    Update (Jan 22, 2009):

    The Bivings Report writes in Socializr Succeeds Evite, "Dear Evite, We're breaking up. It's not me; it's you. And I've found someone better. Her name is Socializr. ... I'm far from the first person to write about this phenomenon, but I'm here to recommend what I have found to be a far better product: Socializr. ... Evite is slow, outdated, ad-laden, myopic, and generally seems to hate its own users. ... Luckily, I have a housewarming party coming up, and I took the time to research alternatives. I fell head-over-heals in love with Socializr. As much as it may pain the companies to have their names in the same sentence: it is Evite 2.0. ... Please give Socializr a try when you are planning your next social gathering. I promise you that you won't be disappointed."

    Update (Mar 5, 2009):

    EviteSucks.com now integrates a live feed of "What people are saying about Evite right now" courtesy of the Twitter Search API.

    Update (Apr 22, 2009):

    peHUB writes in The Latest Salvo In Jonathan Abrams' War Against Evite that they hope Socializr gains ground on Evite because Socializr's "offering really is far superior" and "it's clear Abrams has developed a sense of humor about the seemingly intractable Goliath he still faces. Among the growing assembly of URLs he owns is evitesucks.com and, now, evitealternatives.com - destinations that respectively list, yes, links to stories and blogs dedicated to why Evite sucks, and alternatives to Evite."

    Update (June 29, 2009):

    CollegeHumor's funny new "Web Site Story" video contains the line "I hate Evite."

    Update (July 22, 2009):

    One year after announcing a new version of Evite that never actually launched, paidContent reports that Evite's owner IAC has laid off 9 Evite employees and fired their General Manager.

    Update (Dec 16, 2009):

    The New York Times writes in Inviting Web Sites for Party Planners, "Mr. Seacrest seems poised to be the Dick Clark of this century, enjoying a long and ageless tenure over Times Square. Evite, however, does not display similar staying power. It was once both innovative and indispensable, but since being bought by IAC/InterActiveCorp in 2001, Evite has more or less been left to languish. ... drawing detractors might be the capacity in which Evite is most competent." and "SOCIALIZR.COM – Started by the Friendster founder Jonathan Abrams, Socializr brings a social-media mentality to the arena. Users' profile information from sites like Facebook, MySpace and Flickr can be aggregated, as can the information in one's address book. Users can see the events their friends are attending, and can promote events virally through friends of guests. ... Custom layouts include a wide variety of fonts and unique images in each template; text can be integrated atop certain images for additional customization. A comprehensive song library offers abundant options for automatic play when the invitation opens."

    Update (March 19, 2010):

    The New York Times writes in They're Not Waiting for an Invitation to Evite's Party, "Evite, which was founded in 1998 and acquired in 2001 by IAC, has been around since Web 1.0 days. That's eons in Internet time. It hasn't tinkered much with its original proposition: to offer a free service that is supported primarily with banner ads. ... A typical Evite page displays a long, horizontal banner ad along the top and a square display ad on the lower right. Compared with pop-up ads, these are not particularly intrusive. But they are viewed mostly by a captive audience: the invitees who must go to Evite's site to send an R.S.V.P. This has provoked the ire of Evite's critics and inspired entrepreneurs to offer advertising-free alternatives, like Socializr and Anyvite, both of which are also offered at no cost to their users. Jonathan Abrams, Socializr's founder, maintains a second Web site, EviteAlternatives that promotes Socializr at the top but then lists 12 other alternatives to Evite in alphabetical order. ... Socializr recently added a feature that gives users the ability to organize and manage invitations that originated elsewhere, such as ones from Facebook, MySpace – or Evite."

    Update (Aug 4, 2010):

    TechCrunch writes in Evite Introduces Redesign, Tries Not To Suck, Fails, "'Evite sucks' is not a revolutionary opinion. The online invitation company has been the subject of substantial vitriol for how much their site design feels like itís from 1998, when they launched. It would be impossible not to respond to this overwhelming criticism, and the newly re-launched Evite attempts to address many of its user experience problems. 'It should feel snappier than it has in the past,' says Evite CEO Hans Wooley. Yes it should, with hipper clones like Pingg, Socializr, and Crush3r fast approaching. But the MySpace of online invitation services refuses to take any lessons from these smaller, scrappier startups, something that even MySpace, to its credit, is now starting to do. Itís still slow (according to Alexa 76% of sites are faster than the old Evite.com) and itís still full of ads. ... The new Evite can add all the social sharing and conversation functionality it wants but unless it pays attention to how people are actually inviting other people to things, itís just another platform with the fatal flaw of refusing to understand that user experience should trump advertising revenue always."