Monday, June 06, 2005

Syndicated Ads Shown Through Ill-Gotten Third-Party Toolbars

Interesting article yet again by Ben Edelman.

In it he questions Google's 'Do no evil" policy - and asks how it can be consistent with Google paying out hundreds of millions of dollars annually to companies which spam the Internet? Google's principles clearly set out high standards, and are designed to discourage both Google, and its partners from doing business, directly or indirectly, with companies that violate them.

Directly, he is attacking Ask Jeeve's 'MySearch' toolbar, which has 'mysteriously' been installed on millions of computers recently - and in many cases surreptitiously - without users consent. My son managed to do it to his computer - he's just turned 6, and on Friday he wanted to show me something new on Lego's site. I noticed the new toolbar, and thought it particularly odd, since he doesn't have administrator privileges, and should not have been able to install it. He also usually uses Firefox, so I'm really not sure at all how it arrived! I removed it immediately, and started hunting down where it came from. I was starting to write something on the weekend, but then this article came out this morning, and since it was far more comprehensive than what I had, I decided to blog it instead.

So why is Jeeves doing this? Well, they're not the most popular search engine out there, and they need to find ways to get in front of users. I actually like the results that Teoma delivers. is an Ask Jeeves subsidiary. They just don't have the distribution that Google, Yahoo and MSN have. So they are running far behind the leaders, in spite of having a product which rivals or surpasses some of the others. But since people don't use the engine, they don't want the toolbar. It's quite a conundrum for Ask Jeeves. They have a high quality product that no one uses. They need to get it better distributed, because if enough people start using it, they will get better traction, earn more from advertising, and be able to eat away at the leaders' market share.

Spamming us all however, is not the wisest way to go. It's much more likely to turn more people away than it is to convert them to happy users.

Anyhow, please read Ben Edelman's blog. It's well written, and focused on spyware, spam, etc... It's a good resource to follow.