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  1. #1
    ABW Ambassador
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    This is a quote from a widely read newsletter i get every week


    "By S. Denise Hoyle

    Some affiliate industry experts and concerned webmasters have
    recently been voicing their opposition to a number of popular
    free software downloads that divert commissions away from sites
    actually providing affiliate traffic into the pockets of the
    software providers.

    The software, known in affiliate circles as thief-ware, pirate-
    ware, steal-ware and parasite-ware, is made by close to 20
    companies and is used by dozens more. Thief-ware is typically
    installed when a user downloads free music or file swapping
    software, and the consumer is generally not clearly informed that
    by downloading the free software they are allowing their
    computers to be electronically marked.

    Thief-ware allows future purchases via affiliate links to be
    overwritten and makes them appear as if they were made through
    the software provider's links when they are not, and it continues
    to redirect commissions on all subsequent sales - even if the
    software is uninstalled.

    Companies who provide the diversion software include Morpheus,
    LimeWire, Kazaa, TopMoxie and BearShare among others. The
    software has reportedly been downloaded by tens of millions of
    Internet surfers, and the makers contend that they're doing
    nothing wrong since users agree to their terms when they
    download the free software. Amazon.com obviously disagrees with
    the practice since they recently terminated Morpheus for
    violating its policies - great news for their 800,000+
    affiliates. However other large affiliate companies, such as
    Commission Junction (cj.com), are so far refusing to take sides
    in the battle because the diversion practices have not yet been
    found to violate any laws.
    Some of the companies who provide the software, including
    LimeWire and Morpheus, say that they have provided "fixes" for
    the software so affiliate commissions are not inadvertently
    overwritten. The "fixes" supposedly allow users to choose whether
    to support their software provider, or in some cases earn a
    "rebate" or "reward" for themselves by making purchases through
    affiliate links and allowing the links to be overwritten with the
    provider's code.

    Although the debate over the legality of diverting affiliate
    commissions continues, most webmasters who spend a great deal of
    time and effort fine-tuning their sites with content to attract
    users say the practices are unethical at best, and at worst
    outright theft. There is little at this point that webmasters
    can do to halt the practice of hijacking commissions altogether,
    other than voice their opinions to companies they are affiliated
    with and take steps within their own web sites to curb the theft.

    To protect the affiliate links in your web site, and stop
    commission thieves in their tracks, you can disguise all of your
    affiliate links so they appear to be links to other pages
    within your site by creating a "redirection URL" for each of
    them. To do this, simply create a new web page that looks like
    this:

    <HTML>
    <HEAD>
    <META HTTP-EQUIV="Refresh" CONTENT="0; URL=affiliate_url">
    <TITLE></TITLE>
    </HEAD>
    <BODY>
    </BODY>
    </HTML>

    Replace "affiliate_url" with your actual coded affiliate URL,
    and remove the periods at the beginning of each line that are
    used here for demonstration purposes. Now you will advertise
    your disguised affiliate links by directing visitors to your
    new URL:

    http://www.yourdomainname.com/redirection_page.html

    Until there is some kind of consensus and perhaps action taken on
    the issue, the best way to fight back against commission
    hijackers is to protect your site as best you can, and inform
    your affiliate partners of how thief-ware hurts the small
    companies and sites that help make the Internet great - and
    depend on their affiliate income to survive.
    By S. Denise Hoyle "

    Sales are everywhere, sales are mine.

    [This message was edited by TrustNo1™ on December 04, 2002 at 08:57 AM.]

  2. #2
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    From What I understand this does STOP hijacking because the parasites look for the network href in the link and in the case of redirects, there isn't a network href to trigger action. This should work with eBates and other TopMoxie programs.

    <font size="2" face="Verdana">Haiko


    The secret of success is constancy of purpose. ~ Disraeli
    </font></p>

  3. #3
    Affiliate Summit Guy Shawn Collins's Avatar
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    Any idea if an .htaccess redirect is effective, too?

    Shawn Collins
    Director of Affiliate Marketing
    ClubMom, Inc.
    http://clubmomaffiliates.com/
    http://iAfma.us/
    http://affiliatemanager.net/

  4. #4
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    What a nightmare. I must have 5000 affiliate links that will have to be redone.

  5. #5
    ABW Ambassador
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    Just in case you want the newsletter, it's http://www.addme.com It has about 700,000 members.

    Sales are everywhere, sales are mine.

  6. #6
    ABW Ambassador sjangro's Avatar
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    Whoa! Actually, doing this will make you MORE vulnerable.

    The premise of this solution assumes that the hijackers are actively looking for affiliate links and overwriting them with their own after you click on them. That's not the real MO.

    From what I understand, the shopping plugins can see two things: 1. a click event, and 2. the domain in the address bar when the browser loads a page.

    They're using the second to see that you've landed on a merchant site and then do their popping up, etc., regardless of the link that was clicked on.

    They can use the first, to see that an affiliate link was involved. Based on the proposal we put forth a back in September, TopMoxie and Morpheus do look at the click event to see if it was an affiliate link and should not pop up. (I realize that there is some question right now about eBates and that behavior, but let's leave that to the other thread.)

    If you use this redirect method, you will hide the presence of an affiliate link (they look for one of the four affiliate network domains) and therefore the shopping plugins who are trying to play nice will not know to not pop up.

    If, by the way, you do use the redirect method as part of your site tracking, you can put a parameter in your URL: afsrc=1 and they will not pop up on that either. That's also part of the proposal we put out that these guys implemented.

    That's why these guys will pop up on Tim's Fat Wallet links. They look like this:

    http://www.fatwallet.com/redirect/bo...fwcodeid=23305

    If Tim (are you listening, Tim?) put the afsrc=1 parameter in that link, eBates and Morpheus would not pop up:

    http://www.fatwallet.com/redirect/bo...=23305&afsrc=1

    That's how things work. Don't do this redirect thing as a defensive measure.

    --scott

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    Scott Jangro
    sjangro@befree.com

  7. #7
    Eternal Optimist Look4's Avatar
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    Although a lot of work, if this works, then it is my next course of action.

    It would have the added benefit of automatically creating log-file entries that I could count to total clicks by link (especially for the independent programs that do not have click-tracking reporting).

    The bad side is that it would grossly inflate my page counts to the point where they meant nothing. I follow visits anyway, so I guess the net effect would be minimal.

    Anyone have direct experience / proof that this protects links?

    L4

  8. #8
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    It won't stop the scum who show up once the visitor has clicked through to the merchant, and it won't stop the scum whose actions are triggered by keywords (as opposed to being triggered by something in a specific affiliate code). But it's probably worth a try -- every bit helps and even a partial fix is not to be sneezed at. [edited to add: I wrote that before seeing Scott's post, above.]

    A caution: if you move the tracking GIFs onto the redirect page it will make your stats look you're getting 100% clickthrough, which is abnormal. This is not a problem as long as you know what to say if your merchant asks about it (been there, done that).

    A bonus: redirect URLs can be more attractive and more reliable to use in an email. Ever try to send someone a LinkShare link? Ech.

    Shawn, I've used .htaccess redirects quite a bit over the last year, with no *known* problems.

  9. #9
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    Scott, the afsrc=1 thing is a stopgap at best.

    Honorable people don't invade other people's houses, regardless of whether they have the door locked or not. Similarly, honorable software would stay off other people's sites without needing to be told.

    Hey ... I can dream ...

    What happens if if someone wants to make a redirect in the simple form theirsite.com/product to use in an email or offline advertising, and don't want to add a bunch of UGLY extra code to it?

    The scum will pounce, won't they?

  10. #10
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> put the afsrc=1 parameter in that link, eBates and Morpheus would not pop up:
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Can you please elaborate? Can we put this on our affiliate links and it prevents ebates and Morpheus? Or does this work with redirect links or internal links within our sites or just Fatwallet?

    Thank you for the info on the dangers of redirecting (I had only 'fixed' about 10 links before I read that).

  11. #11
    ABW Ambassador sjangro's Avatar
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    Correction.

    Looking for an affiliate link to know when not to pop up is how TopMoxie implemented.

    My understanding is that Morpheus won't pop up on anything that isn't a direct link to the merchant. So while the redirect thing won't hurt here, it's not needed.

    (And it looks like Tim's a little busy right now: http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/mess...hreadid=129657 ) Cool. Go Tim!

    --scott

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    Scott Jangro
    sjangro@befree.com

  12. #12
    ABW Ambassador sjangro's Avatar
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    &gt;&gt;Can you please elaborate? Can we put this on our affiliate links and it prevents ebates and Morpheus? Or does this work with redirect links or internal links within our sites or just Fatwallet?&lt;&lt;

    There's no need to put this in the major network affiliate links. They're already detected. You can put this in other network and private program affiliate links. That and Tim's method is why we added that to the proposal.

    --scott

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    Scott Jangro
    sjangro@befree.com

  13. #13
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    So they detect it but do it anyways? OK.

  14. #14
    ABW Ambassador sjangro's Avatar
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    Elisabeth,

    &gt;&gt;Scott, the afsrc=1 thing is a stopgap at best.

    Honorable people don't invade other people's houses, regardless of whether they have the door locked or not. Similarly, honorable software would stay off other people's sites without needing to be told.

    Hey ... I can dream ...&lt;&lt;

    I'm not saying what's been done so far is the be-all, end-all. That is onle one suggested technical implementation of behavior that we'd like to see. As you say, every little bit helps.

    I'm just here to explain how things work so the people doing the testing and pointing out of transgressions can better understand the behavior they're seeing. And better provide info to demonstrate any problems.

    And more importantly trying to stop Jimbo from updating his thousands of links unnecessarily.

    --
    Scott Jangro
    sjangro@befree.com

  15. #15
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    Thats debatable Scottt about saving Jimbo some wasted work.

    If TopMoxie is the only one using this (per your correction) and they were a minority in the mix of overall diversions and...... the code did stop the many other parasites from eating his lunch, he would be better off changing them!

    I can't speak to the actual portion of overall diversions that are done by the parasites and specifically topmoxie. Perhaps you'd like to help us with that.

  16. #16
    ABW Ambassador sjangro's Avatar
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    &gt;&gt;Thats debatable Scottt about saving Jimbo some wasted work.

    If TopMoxie is the only one using this (per your correction) and they were a minority in the mix of overall diversions and...... the code did stop the many other parasites from eating his lunch, he would be better off changing them!
    &lt;&lt;

    Not really.

    The point is that it is the destination that triggers the plug-ins to act, not the source. Hiding the source URL won't stop anything that I know of (except TopMoxie from excluding you.)

    --scott

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    Scott Jangro
    sjangro@befree.com

  17. #17
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    Grr... lots of us use variations of Tim's method for tracking and other reasons, are you telling me now we're more vulnerable? Also, adding a GET parameter to our URL kind of defeats the purpose when the link looks like -http://www.widgetco.com/redirect/overstock.html or similar.

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    ...only in the affiliates interest...
    The Newer Nicer Joseph [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]

  18. #18
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    Joeseph,

    Looks like you have lots of work to do.


    Scott - you initially said that TopMoxie and Morpheus were looking at the destination url and avoiding diversion on network links. In order for redirect links to be treated the same, they needed to add the affsrc=1 parameter to avoid possibly diverion.

    You didn't say this was applicable to ebates or not and left it in the air. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_confused.gif[/img]

    You mentioned fatwallet but not in the context of avoiding network links but rather an issue of possibly not currwently avoiding redirect links with the affsrc=1 in them.

    Then provided a correction that excluded Morpheus and mentioned on topmoxie.

    I'm sure you can see my point which is if ebates accounts for 80% of the diversion and since you specifically declined to comment on their policy I assume it's not the same that it would be a good idea to add the code and stop ebates (if it does which I'm not sure of).

    However if topmoxie was accounted for 80% of the diversion - it would be benefitial to add this code for people who do use redirects and don't have affsrc=1 in their current links.

    Joeseph - you need this answered before you do a bunch of work - but if this is what the other networks will tag along with and parasites did comply with it, you're faced with alot of work.

    Then again, the logic will be changed to say

    if (a network link that was clicked
    or a redirect link with affsrc=1 in it)
    {
    // *** old code commented out ***
    // Display that popup and redirect

    // *** new code added ***
    flash the carp out of of that sailboat,
    play the boat siren sound
    blink link crazy
    play that sound file - "you must go to our site
    to make a purchase and get your discount"!
    }


    Whew - I feel so much better now - these guys really are going to play fair and not invade my sales process!

    Yipppppeeeeeeee

  19. #19
    ABW Ambassador sjangro's Avatar
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    Happypoon,

    eBates uses TopMoxie's software for their Moe Money Maker.

    --scott

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    Scott Jangro
    sjangro@befree.com

  20. #20
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> Whew - I feel so much better now - these guys really are going to play fair... <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    It could take years for them to work out all the programming glitches. These big companies can't move real fast.

  21. #21
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    I'm gussing you missed the irony of my post by not paying attention to the new code excerpt examples they will be adding.

    Or is it me missing the irony of yours - this might get complicated [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img].

  22. #22
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    Do URL Redirects really work to prevent the parasite ware? I have a name I registered and parked and redirected to my affiliate link with a performics merchant. I then promote the parked name instead of the affiliate link. Can the scumware still infect my affiliate link?

    Thanks

    GrainFarmer

  23. #23
    Web Ho - Design B!tch ~Michelle's Avatar
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    I use a method of linking that was learned through Shawn Collins / Clubmom.

    For each affiliate link I create a seperate html file. That file contains the actual link and is autoredirect to the affiliate site using the link at a 0 second setting.

    The actual links on my pages would be similar to:

    www.mydomainname.com/amazon.html

    You click on that, are taken to amazon.html which contains the affiliate link with a piece of code to auto redirect through the code to amazon.com

    So, is this a fairly safe way to prevent hi-jacking?

    ~Michelle

  24. #24
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    If you promote any products through Clickbank, you want to make sure you don't use redirects. They give the credit to another affiliate if you use redirects.

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