Screwing up your brand, why Keypic doesn't get it

Honesty matters when you're in a competitive market

I wrote a post a couple of days ago about an alternative to CAPTCHA called Keypic that looked promising. Then, the day after my piece was posted I got a tweet from long time reader, Scott C. Lemon (@humancell),  pointing out something I hadn't noticed: The count of sites using Keypic displayed on their home page got reset to 5,845 every time the page was reloaded.

When I investigated I found something that appalled me: The counters for both the number of sites using Keypic and the number of spam messages that were caught were both completely fictitious! A chunk of JavaScript was dynamically inserting the values in the page at a preset rate.

I raised this with Keypic's PR firm and they were horrified. They tracked down the company representatives and scheduled a telephone call so late on Thursday afternoon I spoke to Julia Fominova, Keypic's co-founder & CEO, and the company's CTO, Emanuele Rogledi. 

I'd spoken to Fominova and Rogledi when I'd written the original post and we had explored, as far as possible, the technical details of how Keypic works. I write "as far as possible" because Rogledi is, as you might guess, Italian and he has very poor English and I have zero knowledge of Italian.

In our follow-up call they admitted that the counts were fictitious but argued that the values approximated the rate of increase of both attributes but saw nothing wrong with what amounts to lying. Driven by a rationale I can't fathom, Rogledi later "fixed" this by changing the JavaScript to update at a much slower rate of increase.  

I'm also suspicious of Keypic's "testimonials" as there are only two of them of which one is essentially anonymous ("Nikos S. , Real estate agency") while the other is from the Web site "Fishing Tails" which, if it did use Keypic now no longer uses it. 

Some of you may be wondering why these deceptions matter; they might seem to be trivial to you. The answer is that deception, no matter how minor, doesn't foster confidence any more than Keypic's sloppy site with bad grammar, misspellings, and links that 404 does. 

It's all about brand integrity. If someone is willing to make trivial shortcuts to present an argument for their technology or product what bigger, better hidden, and dangerous shortcuts might be also used? When you're pitting your solution as better than CAPTCHA, a de facto market standard which is supported by industry giants, you've got to have not only a good technical story but a sound and believable brand story as well if you want to be taken seriously.

Comment below or to gearhead@gibbs.com then follow me on TwitterApp.net, and Facebook.

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