August 30, 2001

New Free Tool for Web Publishers Fighting "Scumware" Programs that Poach Ad Revenues

SUMMARY: No summary available
In early August, Jim Wilson, Publisher of JimWorld, noticed a new
form of online advertising that enables media brokers to make
money selling against site traffic without ever having to pay a
dime to the site publisher.

Three offending virus-like programs, TopText, Surf+ and
were being inserted into people's computers when they downloaded
popular Napster-style programs. Most people have no idea they've
also downloaded an "extra" program that can insert a form of
online advertising (either a pop-up or a highlighted text item)
onto site pages they visit. The sites themselves receive no
revenue from or control over this additional advertising. Only
the virus-like programs and media brokers profit.

On August 9th, Wilson launched a full throttle informational
campaign against the scumware threat, by emailing a "rant",
entitled "Scumbags Hijack Your Websites" to his VirtualPROMOTE
newsletter's 250,000 subscribers on August 9th. Then he launched
a new, not-for-profit, resource Web site,, and
online discussion group to continue the outreach program.

His campaign had an immediate impact. Heated discussions erupted
amongst publishers and advertisers on various forums, such as the
I-Advertising Discussion Group. Within two weeks, 39 of the 40
advertisers Wilson had identified buying media from the system
had cancelled their buys. As of yesterday, leading pay-per-click
networks including Commission Junction, FindWhat and Kanoodle
reported they had severed their relationships with Surf+.

Yesterday, another independent Web publisher, Gary Rosenzweig of
CleverMedia invented a new tool that sites can use to battle
scumware. This tool detects which site visitors have Surf+ or
TopText installed, and then generates a pop-up message to let
them know they have these programs. The pop-up also surveys
these visitors to ask them if they knew they had the programs on
their machines. Then it redirects them to the site
to learn more.

You'll find a link below to a site where you can download a copy
of this program for your own site's use for free. Just before
going to press we contacted Rosenzweig for his initial results.
He reports in the first 22 hours since he began running the
program on his and sites:

- 3.67% of visitors had either Surf+ or TopText installed
- 90.42% of these didn't know it until the pop-up told them so

Rosenzweig notes, "That's pretty significant."

Debate is still raging over the Gator system which allows anyone
-- even direct competitors -- to buy advertising pop-ups
appearing in front of any Web site without requesting permission
from that site or giving that site any revenue. One online media
buyer who declined to be named for this article told us, "I know
it's unethical, but at the same time if this will get great
clicks for our clients I may have to recommend it to them."

Wilson warns, "Companies who advertise using the Gator page
jacking system will be exposing themselves to a growing outrage
both in the Web publisher industry and in front of the general
public which is now responding in full support of our cause."

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, which has yet to make a
statement concerning TopText or Surf+, did finally announce on
August 28th that they intend to "pursue options on behalf of its
members with the appropriate federal agencies" to dissuade Gator
from what the IAB deems its "unfair business practices."

IAB rival, the Online Publishers Association OPA, has yet to take
any significant whatsoever on the scumware front, beyond telling
reporters it is "concerned" and "studying options."

In the meantime, independent publishers such as Wilson and
Rosenzweig, who are largely excluded from the membership of the
OPA because of its $20,000 minimum dues requirement, are fighting
the battle tooth and nail … and winning it for all of us.

It's worth noting that neither Wilson nor Rosenzweig are
profiting personally from helping their fellow publishers. In
fact, as Wilson says, "I have been so consumed with the speed at
which this running battle has moved that I have yet to write an
issue since then. My sponsors are beginning to ask when I might
publish an issue again."

Wilson's site, including his original "rant", more
research and an active discussion group:

Rosenzweig's program that presents site visitors with a pop-up
telling them if they have TopText or Surf+ installed on their PCs
without their knowledge:

To see Rosenzweig's program in action (and find out if your
computer is infected with TopText or Surf+):

IAB's Battle against Gator

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