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  1. #1
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    Following is a copy of what I posted last night in a thread at Webmaster World. The thread started out with someone's comments about affiliate programs, and along the way there was a reference to parasiteware. Someone asked what parasiteware was, so I told him ... I had a request to reprint my post here at ABW so people could read it without registering. Here it is.
    -- Elisabeth Archambault

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Parasiteware is a generic name for an assortment of programs such as Gator, Morpheus, WhenU and several others that spawn popup windows or create some sort of modification on OTHER people's sites. They're also called spyware, scumware, thiefware, and assorted other uncomplimentary names ...

    Once installed on a computer, these programs watch where the user goes, and wait for him/her to visit sites that link to certain merchants, contain certain words or phrases, or some such trigger. They then present their own message to the user who is visiting your site. One trick is covering your ads so your visitors can't see them, which robs advertisers of impressions they paid for, which reduces the performance of ads on your site, which will reduce the amount advertisers are willing to pay you for placement, etc etc.. Another trick is spawning a popup window which somehow induces the visitor to click their link instead of yours. Your affiliate link and/or cookie gets overwritten and the commission that would have been credited to you if the customer bought something gets hijacked by a last-minute interloper. In some cases your affiliate ID is directly overwritten even if the user clicks your link. Even when a user goes directly to the merchant's site, for example by finding it in a search engine or typing it in, the parasite contrives "to interject their link into the click stream", and the merchant ends up paying commissions on sales that their own promotions earned.

    Some merchants allow this without blinking, while others drop the parasites as soon as they understand what's going on. Merchants aren't always aware how some of these programs operate unless other affiliates complain.

    Parasitic link placement is a form of theft, but the networks such as CJ, LinkShare, Performics and others have been astonishingly slow to condemn it. They still collect their fees even if commissions are being paid to the wrong affiliate, I suppose.

    BeFree actually lists Gator as a merchant. Gator pays a pittance per download to sites which promote it, then turns around and inteferes with countless other sites.

    In many cases the software which delivers the parasitic ads is installed without the understanding of the computer user, for instance by being bundled with things like file-sharing programs. They might check the "yes" box but the terms are so convoluted it can hardly be called informed consent! In some cases the software simply installs itself without permission in a "driveby download". These programs are often ferociously difficult to uninstall, even for experienced computer users. Some will reinstall themselves if you try to remove them and miss any pieces.

    Ugly, ugly stuff ... but they wouldn't be proliferating quite so badly if the affiliate networks would set and enforce some standards about what constitutes acceptable business practices on the internet.

    In the last few days there have been hot and heavy discussions on a number of affiliate message boards about the recent activities of Morpheus, which claims to be have been downloaded into millions of machines. Morpheus was caught overwriting other affiliate links a few months ago, but claimed it was an oversight in their programming or something, and promised to stop doing it. They did, for a while, but have been caught again, overwriting other affiliate links. Some of the affiliates who hang around abestweb.com have been on a letterwriting campaign to their merchants, to make sure they understand the issues. Some merchants have done test purchases from machines that have Morpheus installed, and verified from their end that Morpheus intercepted the transactions and showed up as the referring affiliate even though it was not their link that got clicked. After hearing howls of protest from other affiliates, a number of merchants have dumped Morpheus as an affiliate, including Amazon earlier today.

    It's a quiet little war ... kinda reminds me of the Superman comic books I read as a kid, the stories with the evil geniuses who want to take over the world. Bleah.

  2. #2
    15 years and counting
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    Great post Elisabeth! Nothing to add

    It's not the big that eat the small... it's the fast that eat the slow. Jennings & Haughton

  3. #3
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  4. #4
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    Adam, someone else mentioned this to me as well. I communicated with Brett and he told me he has few worries about people reposting their *own* writings elsewhere. It's when someone copies a WMW post of someone else's that he gets antsy about copyright -- and rightfully so!

  5. #5
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    I'd be quite dissapointed if someone couldn't post their own original work on two different forums, no matter how anal Tabke is. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]

  6. #6
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    Great article! I'm going to have to link to that one for certain. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]

  7. #7
    ABW Veteran jc101's Avatar
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    Great post...

    Jason

    Santa Cruz, CA 95060

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