[UPDATE: There are several updates to this post, which has made it a bit confusing to read. I don’t like deleting posts, so it’s mostly persevered here as it played out. But please read the updates at the bottom of this post to see how this all got resolved.]

A few days ago I posted about a great e-mail to snail mail idea called Postful.

The only misgiving I had was that it was a US-based service, so posting within Europe was a bit pricey (if you already live in Europe of course).

So I was initially thrilled when I got an e-mail from a service called ImailU until I realised it was a complete very near rip-off of Postful. Here’s the mail:

[UPDATE 2: I’m not in the habit of editing posts after I’ve written them, but after a long exchange with Michiel, the owner of ImailU I’ve agreed to remove his mail. I’ve left in but struck through various parts of this post to keep some authenticity to the post as well as show the shifts in the circumstances.]

I’m not going to link to their site, but I feel I should at least write about it so people know not to use it.

I have no problem with someone seeing a good idea and seeing ways to improve on it. But the ImailU site also rips off the exact design of the Postful site and the content. The Terms of Service even have references to Postful in it.

Needless to say, I wouldn’t trust the Privacy Policy nor the fact that my money is going to result in a letter sent anywhere at all.

It’s sad to see the rip-off (without even acknowledgement) (images here on Flickr) as well as it being a classic example of how not to get your idea out there in the blogosphere.

[UPDATE: After posting this I entered into a bit of an e-mail discussion with Michiel, who is understandably angry, and points to L-Mail who already offer a similar service but with more postal outlets. Even though I appreciate his reaction to my post and it seems like a case of a (dis)honest mistake and a misunderstanding of what constitutes borrowing versus ripping-off it still is not the most brilliant idea to steal a competitors idea and the design of their site]

[UPDATE 2 Continued: I still stick by all the points in the original post, but Michiel has made the best of a bad situation and written to Postful to apologise for what is arguably a naive mistake and plans to remedy everything - i.e. re-design his site, etc. - as soon as possible. I think that’s a smart move and it takes some real courage to own up to and deal with those kinds of mistakes, for which I applaud him. So, I hope for everyone’s sake this turns out well and that his business thrives having got off on the wrong foot.]

[UPDATE 3: Since this whole episode, Michiel from IMailU has done the right thing and re-worked the design and the content on his site. So, again, although I’m not deleting the post, I think it’s probably safe to say that IMailU is a legitimate service and will hopefully help add to the market for e-mail to snail-mail services. Decent competition is good for everybody.]

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