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A Web Where Ignorance Is Bliss

At least for those looking to monetize it.

A story is unfolding about the third largest advertiser on Facebook. I’m not going to mention their name – I don’t want you to go there. Needless to say, they are monetizing the web by praying on the less savvy browser. What they are doing doesn’t seem illegal, but it is wrong.

What is it? It’s a paper-doll-type site that lets you put eyeglasses and mustaches on top of a funny looking baby’s face. At least that appears to be what it is; before you can do anything the site says you have to install "a browser plug-in to present an enhanced experience." If you do so, according to the fine print, your browser’s default search and home page will be switched to Bing. Once you do so, the affiliate company behind the toolbar, called Zugo, will capture a slice of the revenue whenever you click on a search ad…

… Microsoft’s Bing, like many other companies online, offers affiliate marketers a percentage commission for revenues they drive to the company. When Zugo gets users to use Bing, those users will click on some number of search ads. Bing will charge advertisers for those clicks, then give Zugo a percentage of that revenue.

At some point, there needs to be an ethical standard for affiliate marketers. And if the industry doesn’t do it, I’m sure the Government will. Marshall is right, prompting people to give access to their browser’s settings under false pretense, and then changing their search provider and home page, is unethical.

Facebook, like any fast growing, young enterprise, in an equally young industry, has it’s work cut out for it in managing dynamics like this. Moves like their late-night retraction of its controversial new feature that allowed 3rd party apps on the site to request the home addresses and phone numbers of users was a good move and gives me confidence that they will sort this as well.

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