This is beginning to get interesting - Alan Gardyne devoted a significant portion of his latest newsletter to this topic:Excerpt below:---------------------------------------------------------------------- You've heard of software, freeware, shareware and perhapsvaporware. Now there's "scumware".As outrage spreads over eZula's TopText and other browser plug-ins which divert traffic from your web site, "scumware" is thename which is being accurately applied.Scumware DEFACES the content of your web site without yourpermission.It OVERLAYS advertisers' links on your site without yourpermission.Depending on how upset you are and how you view the ethics ofthis, it either diverts, hijacks or steals traffic from yoursite.However you describe it, the end result is: * You lose visitors - perhaps to your competitors. * You lose sales. * You lose commissions.If you haven't caught up with this topic yet, prepare to behorrified.When I checked CNet's Download.com this week, eZula's KaZaa hadbeen downloaded 7.4 million times.Many of the 7.4 million people who downloaded KaZaa - a Napster-like file-sharing tool - apparently didn't even realize that theywere also installing TopText.TopText, like Microsoft's widely denounced SmartTags, worksthrough your browser. It modifies your web page, highlighting inyellow all the keywords which eZula has sold. Advertisers pay perclick for the keywords.What it's doing is inserting advertisers' hyperlinks in YOURpages.For example, if you have used the phrase "car loan" on a webpage, TopText could turn that phrase into a hyperlink which yourvisitors click on, robbing you of potential sales or commissions.As Danny Sullivan of http://searchenginewatch.com says: "As a result, potentially Coke could advertise so that any time 'cola' appeared on the Pepsi site, the word would have a hyperlink leading back to the Coke site. Similarly, Ford could advertise so that the word 'car' on any pages across the web - including those at the General Motors web site - would link to Ford."It doesn't matter whether you're the FBI, the White House or achildren's charity, advertisers' links are being added to yourpages.That stinks. It looks remarkably similar to breach of copyrightand unfair competition.A really nasty side of all this is that if you run a children'ssite TopText or Surf+ could overlay links on it to "adult" sites.It could be happening to YOUR site right now.About the kindest conclusion I can come to is that it'sunethical.Jim Wilson, who created http://scumware.com/ , says: "The stealing of traffic from independent web site publishers has become the biggest threat to the survival of the Internet to date."Steve Shubitz of http://www.stopscum.com/ says: "In some cases, they alter the contents of a PG site with adult and or gambling links which the owner of the site would never permit. We find all of these actions morally reprehensible." Paul Myers of Talkbiz News - http://www.talkbiz.com/news - in anarticle titled "Who Owns Your Business?", says: "There is a word for taking a valuable commodity from its creator without their permission and without compensation. Theft."
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