What Is AdWare?
As with most things in life, there are two sides to every story and these adware packages have brewed up quite a bit of controversy. Ask a web publisher and, if they can say it in a nice way without cursing while they do, they’ll tell you that scumware are browser-embedded applications which serves *unwanted* advertising overlaid on their site, thereby defacing the site while worse yet, possibly diverting the user away.
Now, ask an advertiser employing these contextual targeting tools and you’ll get a very different answer. By using contextual targeting tools, an advertiser can run a campaign which places advertisements on, over, or *IN* a relevant or competitor’s site. The ad is served by the browser-based application with offerings ranging from simple pop-ups to in-browser ads to the highlighting of site content indicating links to advertisers with related content. By their very nature, these tools have been successful at driving highly targeted users to a site, in many cases yielding a profitable return on investment for the ad dollars spent.
These ads are also distributed when the user searches on a search engine or enters a search term into their IE Browser Navigational Window (where you type in URLs)
Who Is AdWare?
Before you decide which side of the fence you fall on, it’s important to know who the players are and what controversies have surrounded them. Bear in mind that all these tools must be downloaded somehow by the user.
Claria’s Gator and GAIN Network
Claria/Gator’s initial attraction to Internet users was (and probably still is) the fact that its software fills in online forms in one easy click. In exchange for free use of this eWallet, Gator then introduced ads and the free user must now allow themselves to be subjected to these ads; if the user prefers not to see the ads, they can purchase the no-ad version for $30.
Gator’s advertisements consist of pop-ups, “fly-ins,” “sliders,” and in some cases images that appear over the banner ads purchased on sites. It calls its ad programs Gator Advertising and Information Network (GAIN).
According to Gator, its ad programs receive “response rates of 5% on average, with some campaigns as high as 48%. GAIN users are 100-400% more likely to convert than consumers who are not.” From the sounds of it, Gator delivers results.
eZula TopText highlights words on sites and suggests definitions and information on such terms. Think of it as a browser-embedded dictionary. Not so evil.
On the other hand, what eZula also does is highlight words related to the advertisers working with eZula, creating a kind of misleading link. If an eZula TopText user clicks on one of these links, they are taken from the original site to the eZula advertiser’s site. Since eZula works on a CPC basis, these clicks earn revenue for eZula while stealing traffic and potential revenue from web site owners.
In the webmaster field, this practice is known as web site hijacking — having someone else alter the actual look and functionality of your web site without your permission
WhenU bundles with and installs itself through a variety of partner downloads including other software, MP3 players, screensavers, online games and shopping tools. It describes its contextual targeting solution as software examining “keywords, URLs and search terms currently in use on the consumer’s browser — without collecting or transmitting this data — and then select[ing and displaying] relevant and useful advertisements.”
WhenU works like Gator by suggesting advertising and offers on shopping sites like Amazon or eBay. Publishers have also accused WhenU of revenue stealing because WhenU ads are shown after an affiliate link to Amazon or another site has been clicked, which could potentially divert the user from the affiliate purchase which would in turn divert dollars earned from that purchase.