ReveNews Blog Posts Archive – 2007

Cyber Monday Not So Special After All

Filed under: Internet Strategy – January 11, 2007

Cyber Monday is supposed to be the equivalent of retails “Black Friday” which is the busiest day of the year for most consumer retailers. But is it? MediaPost just reported on the top 12 days for e-retail for 2006 and guess what? Cyber Monday was #12. It is still impressive that it beat out 16 other days between then and Christmas, but one would have thought with all they hype that it would have been a bigger day than Wednesday, December 13th which beat it out by almost $60 million. That is about 10%.


This data comes from ComScore which has a much more detailed report that I wish showed the numbers from Black Friday until December 24th, or maybe even until the end of the year. The 12 days profiles account for $7.58 billion of the $24.6 billion spent from November 1 until December 31, an average of just over $400 million per day.

The main part of the report is that sales were up 24% for the year and 26% for the November-December holiday season. I do like the one finding in the middle of the report that calls this “the year of the procrastinator” because you can see a definite shift in the peak sales time to later dates. Is this because of more confidence in on-time delivery or just true procrastination?

Damn Minesweeper!

First CAN-SPAM Conviction

Filed under: Adware, Spyware & Greynets – January 17, 2007

A Los Angeles area man got the dubious honor of becoming the first person convicted under the 2003 CAN-SPAM act last week for sending thousands of e-mails to America Online users pretending to be from the company’s billing department in order to get personal and credit card information.

The maximum sentence could be 101 years in prison for the phishing charges, as well wire fraud, misuse of the AOL trademark, attempted witness harassment, and failure to appear in court.

Lawyers Baffled by Online Trademark Infringement

Filed under: Internet Strategy – January 19, 2007

Zachary Rodgers writes a great piece (anyone who can use Sisyphean well gets props in my book) over at ClickZ on an Association of National Advertiser’s Law and Business Affairs conference. Lawyers were overwhelmed by the amount of infringement going on, so they must pick their battles or else risk burning through their budgets too quickly. They also look at some infringement as Good, evidenced by my favorite quote of the article:

Besides, said Matorin, “If this makes my marketing people happy and is in effect free advertising, why would I waste a moment’s worry?”

Well, maybe because your marketing people don’t know squat about trademark infringement, and they just may not know as much as they should about how the mark is being used.

Another good one is from James Perry, VP and associate general counsel for Elizabeth Arden.

The first step is to make sure it’s not your people doing it, which I found out the hard way is sometimes the case.


DoubleClick Googled for $3.1B

Filed under: Online Advertising – April 13, 2007

Did you just hear the wail from Redmond?

Google just rocked lots of people’s worlds, and pissed of Microsoft with a $3.1 Billion purchase of DoubleClick (which includes Performics). Rumors of Microsoft buying DoubleClick started a short time ago, and Google’s interest followed quickly. I’m sure some of this purchase is defensive in preventing Microsoft from getting access to DoubleClick’s DART platform, customers, and more while at the same time adding to Google’s already large presence in the online ad area.

Google just started adding pay per action results to their services and many of us in the Affiliate arena were not all that excited about the new addition as it really did not change a paradigm or add something all that new. But with Performics on board, this give Google quite a different ingress with relationships to major brands and top affiliates.

ValueClick better keep a phone line open for a long distance call from Washington State….

Is DoubleClick Really Worth $3.1 Billion?

Filed under: Online Advertising – April 16, 2007

As in all sales, it depends. The final arbiter of value is what someone is willing to pay, so from that standpoint you have to say that yes, it is worth $3.1 billion. Evidently even Microsoft is now said to have matched the offer. Sometimes you need to look deeper and not just at revenue multiples to see what a business might be able to add to the plan and the existing mix of capabilities.

There were some comments on my last post about DoubleClick comparing them to ValueClick that wanted at address. A comment said that ValueClick had annual revenues of $545 Million compared to DoubleClick’s $300 million. It is a valid comparison, as the two businesses are not just ad servers, they also have affiliate marketing and other ancillary businesses. But when you look at the business lines and what they contribute to a purchaser, you can see that the value might be in more than top line numbers.

ValueClick has a low end advertising network that displays 25 Billion monthly impressions across 13,500 Web sites. DoubleClick’s DART ad server is the top technology accounting for 290 Billion monthly impressions over 1,000 of the top sites, with clients such as AOL, MySpace, Time Warner, and eBay. Look at the quality of the publishers you get with each. ValueClick gives you lots of publishes averaging under 2 million monthly impressions, and DoubleClick gives you access to publishers averaging almost 300 million impressions per month. That’s a factor of 150 difference. With likely defections from DART due to concerns of conflict of interest and increased competition from the other top ad servers, DoubleClick could lose the entire volume of ValueClick and barely notice. If they lost 10% of their publishers they might lose 29 billion impressions – 4 billion more than ValueClick controls!

Google already has hundreds of thousands of publishers who are just like the ValueClick publishers (both advertising and Affiliate), but they don’t control the ad space for many of the top sites that use DART.

Another way to look at this is to look at some other data. Google is currently expected to earn 32% of the total online ad market. Now they want to control the ad serving (and get even more data from this) for a large chunk of the top sites. ValueClick pales in comparison when it comes to potential data mining and reach in the direction that Google wants to move.

All that said, ValueClick is in a great position. You should also keep an eye on Casale Media (the second largest independent ad network) and the rest of the top three ad servers, Aquantive and 24/7 Real Media.

Tragedy (of) Marketing

Filed under: Internet Strategy – April 18, 2007

When will they learn? Why do marketers think that any newsworthy event makes for a great marketing opportunity? I can see it now. 32 dead in Virginia? Let’s put out a press release linking our product to the recent events at Virginia Tech! Way to go team, you really capitalized on all these dead people!

Wayne, I know what happened to Marty and Joe. They found their way over to the PR area and they are teaching classes on how to use press releases to drum up business. I’m sure these companies are all graduates:

Who in the heck would think that the word “massacre” would ever be a good thing to associate with your business? I guess we know now. US Netcom = massacre.

Unilever Knows Skin – Can You Guess the Body Part

Filed under: Media – May 14, 2007

I admit it. I’m a voyeur. I look at ads. It is a great way to observe how the ad industry sees things and to learn from them for our own advertising. I have learned a lot, mostly because I never had any formal training in advertising – the MIT Physics program really does not spend much time on it. One ad in particular caught my eye this weekend. While going through the Sunday paper, this really got my attention.

Give me your quick response, what body part is represented in this ad? Don’t think too hard on this, I want your first impression. There are no prizes for the right answer, so go ahead and tell me what jumped into your mind when you first saw this. After spending all the time looking, scanning, and writing about this, I have it figured out.

24/7 Real Media Acquired by WPP for $650 Million

Filed under: Online Advertising – May 17, 2007

London-based WPP Group announced today that they had agreed to acquire 24/7 Real Media for $11.75 a share. Last month after the Google/Doubleclick deal there was speculation that Microsoft would then go after 24/7. Did Microsoft lose again, or did they fall asleep at the wheel and not go after the largest available ad serving business that also has a great search marketing arm?

Microsoft Pulls the Trigger – Takes Out Aquantive for $6 Billion

Filed under: Online Advertising – May 18, 2007

Not to be left at the altar again, Microsoft took the plunge and announced they will buy online agency/technology provider Aquantive. Aquantive is best known as the producer of the Atlas Media Console and Drive PM tools for advertisers and publishers, and also owner of interactive ad agency Avenue A/Razorfish. Microsoft is paying an impressive 85% premium of $66.50 per share for Aquantive, which closed Thursday at $35.87 per share.


Filed under: Contextual Advertising – May 18, 2007

Yes, I’m having fun with acronyms and abbreviations. I have to do something to counter the anger at the poor reporting from AP on the Fair Isaac report on click fraud. Gasp! They just found out that 15% of clicks are fraudulent! The problem I have is where the author states (in the opening paragraph) that click fraud is “probably occurring far more frequently than the network operators acknowledge.”

I saw this as I was reading the newspaper this morning (yes, I do read the paper) and was shocked at the poor reporting. Either the reporter has no idea how CPC advertising works, or they wanted to stir something up by leaving out facts and pushing useful responses to the bottom of the article. It is not until seven paragraphs later that he even mentions Google.

What really got to me was the statement that “advertisers have paid billions of dollars for bogus sales referrals during the past few years” because this ignores the fact that most click fraud is identified and not charged for. The author implies that Google and Yahoo! don’t believe fraud happens because it would hurt their business. I have yet to see a report that details the amount of click fraud that is actually charged to the customer.

The article and report are also self serving for Fair Isaac because they are looking into developing a potential solution for the click fraud “problem” to increase their own business. But would you want to do business with a company that really does not understand things? Check out this quote from Joseph Milana, Fair Isaac’s chief scientist of research and development

Click fraud doesn’t appear to be a major problem when the ads appear on Google’s and Yahoo’s respective Web sites. The trouble starts cropping up once Google and Yahoo deliver the ads to other Web sites that are part of their vast marketing networks.The problem arises because Google and Yahoo have no way of knowing what happens behind the advertisers’ firewalls.

OK, I have been in this business for 13 years and have been a customer of most major ad network, including Google and YPN, and I run an advertising service, and I have no idea what he is saying. Why would an ad network advertise behind a firewall? Or is he saying that Google does not know what happens behind the firewall of the advertiser after a browser has clicked on an ad and visited the advertiser’s site and taken action? Why would they care? I’m assuming he meant publisher, not advertiser and that he has no idea how ads are served or how pages are scanned to determine relevancy.

The problem arises when old school companies think they can move into the forefront of an industry where they have no way of knowing what happens behind the walls of the technology providers campus.

2006 Online Ad Spend: $17 Billion

Filed under: – May 23, 2007

The IAB just released updated numbers for 2006 that shows that online ad spending was slightly higher than estimated and reached $16.9 Billion. Performance deals were the biggest winner with an increase to 47% of market share, up from 41% the year before. Impression based ads were up slightly, and the biggest loser was hybrid deals, dropping from 14% to 5% of the market.

Some good news for “the rest of us” was that the ad spend was slightly less concentrated on the top few sites. Search, display, classifieds, and lead generation all saw decent growth, and interestingly, sponsorships and slotting fees saw dramatic drops in actual money spent as well as market share. In fact, slotting fees went to zero.

Frankly My Ze, I Don’t Give a Dance

Filed under: Affiliate Marketing – July 09, 2007

Ze Frank gave a very entertaining keynote address, taking the first half hour to get us into the mood before going into how he got into the Internet.

Based on his experience flying and observing the oddities of imparting information through safety cards. With examples of humorous graphics and what might make you feel better, he went into the example of the narrative and how this can relate to what we are doing today.

His claim to fame being a party invitation with him doping bad dances that became an instant global hit when sent around by friends, he started creating more oddball projects. Many were driven by audience requests. He soon learned that getting the audience to do the work for you. He got lots of penises.

He even used the example of Classifieds as an example of user generated content (web 2.0), which he calls Crapucopia where “there’s so much more CRAP being made.” Of course, if you change perspective this can turn into “there’s so much crap being MADE.”

We now have a culture where everyone is an author and they understand how things are made, which puts them into the marketing conversation. So what do you do? Ignore them (Kryptonite locks)? Control the conversation (Chevy Apprentice site)? Shut them down (Friendster problems)? Then again, you could cultivate the conversation.

So, what does everyone else think?

AffiliateSummit Day 1 Summary – Make That Day 2

Filed under: Affiliate Marketing – July 10, 2007

Here it is day two – strike that, day three – of AffiliateSummit and I’m still having trouble remembering what day it is. I arrived at the hotel this morning and was thinking about what I would be doing here for the second day when I realized that is was really the third day. Day one was the Meet Market, and day two was when the keynote and sessions started, along with the show floor. I think it is because the keynote is traditionally the kickoff of a show, and all the sessions are the meat of the show.

Even though I say that it feels like the show started on day two, I have to say that the meet market was a great part of the show. It was well attended and had great booths and tchockes. I you were strong enough you could even go home with a ShareASale gravestone. The meet market was a mini show floor with dozens of exhibitors and ample opportunity to chat or talk in depth with both exhibitors and attendees. If anyone is not sure about a full booth, the meet market would be a great test of the waters and could be a great deal.

I already reported on the keynote, and I actually had time to make a few sessions on the first day. The sessions were pretty good – some better than others – but overall as good as any ad:tech that I have covered. In fact, the level of expertise here at AffiliateSummit is far above what you will see at ad:tech. Here they have a session on Managing Internal Channel Rivalry, and at ad:tech they have an advanced discussion where they advise people that they might need to watch out for crediting sales to more than one channel as if it were a new discovery. While not a lot of news to those of us who have been around a while, the “What Super Affiliates Want” talk was informative and the panelists did not hold back. I can’t wait until the videos are posted because I have to pass up Shmuly’s session to hear Sam Harrelson talk about the democratizing influences of “Web 2.0” and social media. I head good things about both sessions.

After a late dinner I came back to the hotel and Brian was doing his patented piano virtuoso impression with a large crowd singing tunes along with him. I didn’t really feel like taking a cab ride to a party in South Beach, so I hung out in the lobby with the rest of the crowd who had either never made it out or already returned from the events. Off to bed at 1 something in the morning and the day was done.

Catholic High School Girls in Trouble

Filed under: Affiliate Marketing – July 10, 2007

There have already been enough debates on the idea of sex and marketing and the idea of booth babes to attract traffic to your trade show booth. Affiliate Summit has had it’s share, but I’d only accuse one exhibitor of using this tactic. I understand the idea and reasons, and I’m no prude. I enjoy the female form, but I also think that this can go wrong – really wrong.

At least I am really confused by the message of this booth for education related services:


I mean, what is the message they are trying to get across?

EDIT: The link was removed due to controversial content. The reason I linked to the clip of “Catholic High School Girls in Trouble” from the classic comedy (and R rated film) “Kentucky Fried Movie” was that it was the phrase that went through my head when I first saw the mini skirt clad women at the booth. The movie launched the careers of John Landis as well as writers Abrams and the Zucker brothers. If you are really curious about the clip, you can still find it through Google

Please comment below with your own thoughts.

Tag, I’m It! Now Shave Your Head

July 22, 2007 by Brad Waller

I’ve been tagged at least four times (by Rosalind GardnerJim KurkralHeather Paulson, and Evalyn Grazini) as far as I know by Anik’s “1 Thing” chain letter. I don’t normally participate in a tag game like this, and I even have one or two more posts in process that I am trying to get out before it is too out of date. But, the whole tag thing did spark an interesting thought about what I did learn this year. So, what one thing did I learn this year? I learned that you should shave your head to get noticed.

OK, maybe that is not the best idea for most of you, but if you can come up with something that helps you create your own personal brand, you will not only be remembered, but others will know who you are and look for you. I have been wearing “jungle” themed shirts for a few years now when I go to shows because I’m trying to build awareness of AdJungle. I have maybe a dozen or so shirts that all have tropical or leafy themes and I figured I’d start wearing them to make the connection. A year ago people started asking me if I only wore these shirts to the trade shows. This is when I knew that people were noticing, even though I never said a word about my branding experiment to anyone. For those of you who are wondering, I do wear these shirts (as well as other non-themed shirts) to the office and out to dinner.

While the shirt did help the AdJungle brand, it is harder to tell if they did much for the Brad Waller brand. What I can say made a huge impact for the brand of Brad was shaving my head. That brought me a ton of attention (and a few head rubs) from both the people who have known me for years and lots of new people. You can see pictures of me here and here. Not only did I get a lot of direct attention, but I also seemed to get more comments in blogs, twitters, and pictures of the event. I can conclude that I have made gains in both my personal and business brands through my efforts.

Nothing is perfect, as some people thought I was Shoemoney, but I have to say that doing something different is important. You could wear loud suits with question marks like Matthew Lesko, Hand out over sized business cards and make every conference like Michael Stark, build an empire like Joel Comm (Dr. AdSense), or something else. Check out those people who you seem to notice all the time and see what it is they do and how they act. If you like what you notice, take note. Even if you don’t like it, think about the reaction it gets and why these people might be doing it. The old saying that there is no such thing as bad press relates. If they notice you and talk about you, it may be better than if they can’t remember you or your business.

If you don’t track your company and own name, you should. I use Google Alerts to track all our trademarks, site names, and of course my own. This lets me know on a daily basis what is being said and where about the terms and names I care about. In fact, it was the alert that let me know I was tagged three times in one day (Ros was the first one to tag me).

Action items for the readers:

  • Figure out your brand strategy
  • Set up tracking alerts so you can quantify your results
  • Implement your ideas
  • Revisit your strategy and analyze your results
  • Modify as necessary

Who’s Got Cat Sick? eBay Does!

August 1, 2007 by Brad Waller

After watching some great videos of Newscasters screwing up this morning, I decided to go and read some “Odd News” stories. I’m not sure which was more strange, the stories or the ads around them. The first article on today’s list was pretty obvious (Why People Have Sex: It Feels Good) and I expected some real fun with the ads, but oddly enough they were pretty sedate. Nothing to talk about really.

The real fun started with the second one, Call Police if Offered Women’s Undies. Go there yourself and I’m sure you will see the ads for “Trashy Lingerie,” “Honeymoon Lingerie,” or “Trendy Women’s Intimates.” If you’re really lucky you might see an ad for “lingerie in Leather” as I saw. 

Now it gets good. The next story, Dead Cats Found After High-Speed Chase talks about a man who used the excuse that he was rushing his sick cat to the vet, and of course they later found lots of sick and dead cats in his home in the typical animal hoarding type of case. I never really got to the article because I was distracted by the ads from at the top of the page. I can see the ad for “Owning a Healthy Cat” here, but why is eBay asking if I am looking for cat sick? 

Microsoft Machinima Makes My Mind Melt

August 7, 2007 by Brad Waller

I always keep my eye out for clever and interesting ads. There have been a few that I have not commented on that maybe I’ll try to find, but I caught one today that really got to me when reading a story at eWeek. Microsoft of all companies has used machinima (looks like Red vs. Blue) for their ASP.NET AJAX Toolkit. They have the usual warriors, but they are coders trying to get a project out. Below is one that I was able to figure out how to embed into the page, but I saw another that I will also try to get here if I can find it and figure out how to embed it.

UPDATE: If you click through the ad it takes you to where you can navigate to see all the ads. Enter the site and one of the buttons (enter, close the window that comes up, then hover over the button at 11 O’clock to the MS infinity logo, and click on “Machinima Videos”) will get you to see the whole series.

Anyone Can Win $10,737,418.24

August 9th, 2007 by Brad Waller

I got a questionable email from someone I had never heard of inviting me to “join an exclusive beta test for a new web entertainment project that is preparing to launch across North America.” I checked it out and yes, they are touting that you can really win over ten million dollars. Of course, that is assuming you don’t understand math all that well and truly trust them

The email continued:

Imagine getting your own shot in the hot seat of a super-jackpot game show, and being able to play anytime, for free, to try to win the kind of money you’ve only seen others win on television. That is Moola: Seriously rewarding, very exciting, and completely free to play (this project is supported entirely by advertisers).

Don’t miss out on your opportunity to win millions in the web’s first AdverTournament!

PLEASE NOTE: The only way to join Moola is by invitation from an existing member. All invitations expire in 7 days from the time they are initially received. Sign-up instructions are at the bottom of this email.

The idea is that they give you a penny to start with and you go head to head against another person with a penny in a simple skill based game. The winner takes all and the loser loses everything. After only 30 rounds, you could win $10,737,418.24. The money all comes from advertisers, and we all know that they just love to spend money to get eyeballs. Sounds great doesn’t it? It also sounds like a MLM scheme gone bad.

Let’s look at the numbers. Let’s say you want to get up to 64 cents. All you need to do is win 6 games. Six straight games. The odds of that are about 1.5% and it only takes 64 people to play. In other words, you start with 64 people, each with a penny. They pair off and play in a single elimination tournament until there is one winner who walks away with 64 cents.

Now you want to buy lunch, so you want to get to $10.24. That only takes 10 wins. You have a 0.01% chance of being the big winner here after you top 1,024 other contestants. It may not be you, but at least it makes sense that someone will be able to get to this level. Want to press your luck and go for real money? Maybe enough to buy a motorcycle? Try to be the one who wins $10,485.76. Now you are down to a 0.0001% chance of winning, assuming they get the requisite 1,048,576 other players! Without a million players, you can’t get there.

Now we see where this turns into a scheme. To have a big winner who walks away with over 10 million dollars, you need to have over one billion (1,073,741,824 to be exact) players! To be the lucky winner you better run a lot of rabbit’s feet. Odds of you being the one to beat the population of India are a billion to one (0.0000000931%), give or take.

At least they did not offer $85 million, that would mean we’d have to look off world for contestants.

Yahoo! Snaps up Blue Lithium for $300 Million

September 5th, 2007 by Brad Waller

Many comment about how frothy the M&A market is right now, but let us know forget that it is a lot less frothy than it was in the late 90s. Plus, there is more_real revenue_attached to these acquisition targets than there was in the BUBBLE days.

up, another one gone. Yahoo! just bought one of the largest independent ad networks for a cool $300 million cash. Blue Lithium advertises itself as the 5th largest ad network in the US, but that is likely marketing double-speak. I’d put them an honest 12th, with over 6 billion monthly impressions, according to the stats I get from OMMA magazine who gets them from the ad networks themselves.

Yahoo! seems to like the targeting that Blue Lithium offers, and they added that Blue Lithium will be an active participant in the previously bought Right Media’s exchange. If they were really smart, they would do it the other way around: take the ad targeting from Blue Lithium and merge the exchange into that instead. I’d think you would be better off targeting first, and then using the exchange for the best paying ad, not just calling up Blue Lithium from the exchange as one of the participants.

Get Fat Eating Mexican Food, Then Lose the Weight

Sep 10, 2007 by Brad Waller


The latest in a series of contextual advertising fun. Here is a story on a competitive eater entering a burrito eating contest. The picture is pretty disgusting, but so are the competitions. I recommend you watch one if you are thinking about losing weight. The sight will put you off food for a few days.

Check out the advertising surrounding this article. You have lots of ways to get fat with free Mexican food, and if you are looking to lose weight you can check out NutriSystem or click to find out how to lose 9 pounds in 11 days. If you want to take a shortcut and have your stomach stapled or banded or whatever, check out the pre/post surgery diets as well!

Google Ads Help Make Russian Babies

September 11, 2007 by Brad Waller

I can’t leave this topic alone. I saw this great example today in an article about a Russian “Make a Baby” contest where the contextual advertising entices you to get a Visa to Russia fast (so you can get there and help make babies?); find a Polish girl (and move to Russia so you can win the car?); or find a Russian to marry or just date (three ads).

Yes, read funny stories and get help finding that elusive bride from eastern Europe. I guess that must be their target market.

FiOS Ads Surround Negative Verizon Article

September 28th, 2007 by Brad Waller


Verizon is really pushing FiOS big time, at least in my area and I see their ads on many Web sites. They are wasting their money on me, as I signed up for FiOS Internet (and I love it) last year, and upgraded to TV and phone last week. That said, there are others who differ in their opinion of Verizon and think that FiOS is a rip-off. You have to check out this screen shot in case you are not in the right geographic area (I think Verizon is geo targeting the ads) of the article on Gizmodo calling Verizon a Rip-Off surrounded by ads for Verizon FiOS.

I don’t see it as I saved money and got better and faster service by switching from cable. The article is also comparing Hong Kong data rates and prices to USA, which is not really fair.

Not the Right Kind of Body Armour

October 1st, 2007 by Brad Waller


Another day, another bad placement of ads next to news. This could just be a coincidence, or not. Here we have a story about a football player who was shot and killed, and right next to it is an ad for UnderArmour.

If there was any intention here, I’m sure they are targeting articles about sports or maybe football. Then again with what has been going on with football players over the last few years I think that is the last sport they should target. You have a fifty fifty chance of being next to an article about the sport, with the rest about players who abuse their wives, kill dogs for sport, use drugs, crash their cars while drunk, or breaking into hotel rooms to “recover” collectibles.

Contextual or not, another unfortunate ad placement.

iClass Action Lawsuit Lunacy

October 3rd, 2007 by Brad Waller

iPhone class action lawsuit lunacy

End of the Line for CPAOffers

October 9th, 2007 by Brad Waller

Anyone remember CPAOffers? I just got a letter from the US Bankruptcy Court informing me that my last day to file a claim against them ends December 28, 2007. Their original filing was back in July of 2006, so this is not big news, but it is interesting to get these in the mail. I think it has been a few years since I last saw one of these forms, which I guess is good news for the community in general.

It seems to me that closures and bankruptcies have declined. With all the consolidation going on it seems companies are going away in a good way – being bought up and making people lots of money. Much better than going away leaving a ton of people out a lot of money.

As for me, I have no idea (and no record) how much CPAOffers owed me, so I guess I’m out of luck.

Microsoft Outfaces Google

October 24th, 2007 by Brad Waller

Reports are in the Microsoft has invested $240 million in Facebook, taking a 1.6 percent stake in the company. This is a big win for both Microsoft and Mark Zuckerberg. Microsoft finally got a win from Google and gets a…

Who Needs Net Neutrality? Not Verizon, AT&T, or Comcast

October 27th, 2007 by Brad Waller

Been reading the news last week? Once you got past all the news on the California wildfires, maybe you saw a few pieces on various ISPs doing exactly what they said they would never do: be the arbiter of what content they were passing to consumers.

First was actually further back, in late September. Did you read about the “isolated incident” where Verizon Wireless denied a request by Naral Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, to use its mobile network for a sign-up text messaging program.

Next came news that AT&T reportedly changed a service agreement that previously included language permitting the company to cancel accounts of Internet users who disparage the company. Nice.

Then this week I read how Comcast Corp. was interfering with file sharing by some of its Internet subscribers. After denying it, Mitch Bowling, senior vice president of Comcast Online Services, admitted: “During periods of heavy peer-to-peer congestion, which can degrade the experience for all customers, we use several network management technologies that, when necessary, enable us to delay – not block – some peer-to-peer traffic. However, the peer-to-peer transaction will eventually be completed as requested.” The AP found instances in some areas of the country where traffic was blocked or delayed significantly.

Is this the end of it? Not my a long shot. Have you heard of Sandvine? They claim to have “eight of the top 20 broadband service providers in the US” as customers. What pray tell do they do for their customers? They help big ISP’s profitably manage their Internet traffic. How does an ISP improve the profit? Maybe by reducing bandwidth expenses? Turns out that the software can also forge TCP RST packets that cause Internet connections to drop – a technique regularly used in mainland China. Just what we need. Our ISPs breaking connections when they see us connect to a site they don’t approve of or when we use too much bandwidth.

Privacy Gone Overboard

October 31st, 2007 by Brad Waller

I like the Do Not Call list, and I’m all for disclosure and privacy, but today I read that a coalition of groups led by the Center for Democracy and Technology is calling for a “Do Not Track” list that would prohibit advertisers from tracking the online activity of registered people. This is not just an issue for the Goliaths of advertising who might be tracking the ads and behavior of users across multiple sites, but it goes right to the core of the way that most every Web site works – cookies and session tracking.

Any article I read said nothing about the small sites or the Affiliate marketing industry. After all, if a user has opted out of “tracking” on some master database, then this means that every site in the world will have to not only know who these users are, but also have ways to not track them. Let’s hope they don’t outlaw cookies because I don’t think you can know not to track someone without tagging them with a cookie. But that fails when you have more than one person using a computer and one does not mind the tracking and the other has opted out. Or when someone goes to a different computer or uses one at work, or just borrows someone else’s computer for a few minutes.

I know, maybe we should assign an ID number to every person in the world, and require them to log into each computer they use every time they use it before they can access the internet. Without showing their ID, they would have to be tracked because only outlaws and terrorists would not register with the government so that they would not be tracked by the evil advertisers and affiliate marketers. That way when anyone uses the Internet the government can check their papers and identity – and of course they would then be able to track everything everyone did as well – just for our protection of course! I feel safer already.

Come on people! This is not like the do not call list where you can give them a phone number and keep someone from interrupting dinner to sell you siding. This is the equivalent of someone sending you an IM to your computer, not the same as serving an ad or tracking your path through a site (or across sites) as you surf the Web.

How does this coalition think that this could work? Go to some Web site and register your IP address? Nope, that won’t work. EMail? Not unless you have to log in first, and that would require the browsers (or OS) to be set up to query the master database every time you logged in. How about the MAC address of your computer? Nope, that still fails if more than one person uses the computer or you sell the computer, and it can’t handle what happens if you use someone else’s computer.

Maybe they expect this to be an opt in service. That way every ad server, affiliate program, and other Web site that might want to make your browsing experience better can just simplify everything and stop tracking anybody unless they register for the site and prove that they read and understood (a comprehension test, maybe?) the privacy policy before they can search, shop, or browse.

Boy, that sounds like a great improvement.

Don’t like ads? Block them. Don’t like tracking? Block every cookie. But I hope you also don’t like to shop, bank, or use just about any service online as they will all break without knowing who you are and what you want.

Groups File Official Action with FCC to Stop Comcast’s Meddling

November 1st, 2007 by Brad Waller

Coalitions are popular. A different coalition from the one I wrote about yesterday has filed an Official Action with the FCC accusing Comcast of “engaging in substantial network neutrality violations” by secretly degrading and interfering with subscribers’ use of peer-to-peer services. As part of this, they ask for fines amounting to $195,000 per affected subscriber.

Comcast better watch out. I’m not sure how they can figure out how many subscribers were affected, but the numbers could grow dramatically as news of this gets out. Just in case the FCC does decide to fine them, every Comcast subscriber might immediately download Gnutella and BitTorrent and start sharing legal content such as pictures they took or public domain literature to maximize the fine. You could even use it to download Open Office or Ubuntu, or maybe to get an update to World of Warcraft, as they use BitTorrent technology as well.

Comcast even admits to “delaying” content. A senior vice president of Comcast Online Services said, “we use several network management technologies that, when necessary, enable us to delay – not block – some peer-to-peer traffic.” Yet the tactic used by Comcast is to actually spoof both sides of the communication and send reset signals to both sides which drops the connection. Sure, many programs retry and reconnect eventually, but this does not fit my definition of delay. If Comcast intercepted the requests and added a time based delay and then passed them on without spoofing or interfering, then I’s accept this as a delay. I’d still be pissed because they are in violation of Net Neutrality by treating data differently, but at least they would not be lying.

But what are they violating? In 2005 the FCC rejected “Net Neutrality” style rules and instead adopted an Internet Policy Statement setting out users’ rights to access all lawful Internet content and applications. This same policy also says that they will not hesitate to take action to address evidence that providers of telecommunications for Internet access or IP-enabled services are violating these principles. Now we will see if the FCC was placating big business or actually has the interests of consumers as their priority.

The foes of Net Neutrality claim that it is a solution in search of a problem. Really?

Leopard Has Lost Its Spots

November 9th, 2007 by Brad Waller

While no Apple fanboy I have been a pretty strong supporter of them for the past 20+ years. Up until today I have had great hardware and support. Problems have been handled quite well and I have been happy enough to continue to buy their products and recommend them to friends, family, and beyond. No more.

Three weeks ago I bought a new Mac mini to replace the 2 year old mini I’d been using at home. Leopard had been announced and I could wait a bit for a machine with Leopard already installed, or I could buy and pay $10 for the upgrade DVD. Since I liked the idea of having the DVD available, I chose the more expensive option that got the computer to me earlier. Big mistake.

After upgrading the OS, my admin password no longer worked. After two hours on the phone with Apple Tech Support I had a brick. An hour more with higher level support and still no fix, no taking responsibility, no help. Their final response: call Amazon since you bought it there. My response: stop buying and recommending Apple products.

I said maybe I should just buy a PC and install a free Open Source OS. At least then I can’t complain about paying for something that screws my computer. Apple’s response was to tell me that their OS is based on open source code!

Amazon was pretty reasonable. They said they would give me back any restocking fee that would be charged because I am a long time customer. Unfortunately they have a 4 to 6 week delay to ship out a replacement, and I’d be unable to transfer my files to the replacement Mini because they will only ship once my old one shows up. They also extended my return window.

Seems like they are turning into Microsoft and rushing the OS to market. Let the users find the bugs and we’ll release service packs later. Sorry Steve, the Kool-Aid has gone sour. The hardware is cool, but the software can’t keep up. Time to give my money to someone else.

At least now I have zero desire for an iPhone.


December 10th, 2007 by Brad Waller

No, you did not read this wrong. In reality this has been around for a while, if you count the screens in the urinals, but this new one covers everyone. MizPee is a new advertising supported service to help you find a restroom nearby. Their idea is that local advertisers will be able to reaach highly targeted (and quite distracted) customers. I did not happen to find any ads on the pages I searched, but the process was described in a Clickz story:

A search for public toilets near the intersection of Geary and Market streets in San Francisco, for instance, identifies the closest 45 toilets sorted by the approximate number of feet from a user’s location. A text ad below the first page of results states “Free coffee, 870 feet away.” A click through to the ad tells the location, and instructs users to show the screen and “tell them that MizPee sent you!” to redeem the coupon.

If you really have to go that bad, are you thinking that you want more coffee? And who wants coffee bad enough to go up to the counter and tell them that MizPee sent them for a free coffee?

They have grandiose plans for dayparting and active advertising by restaurants trying to fill a few empty tables as needed. If this really took off and became as popular as Facebook, it might work, but this needs a massive reach and salesforce (as noted by the CEO in the story).

Florida AG on the Warpath

December 11th, 2007 by Brad Waller

Fresh off their victory getting Azoogle to “donate” $1 million, the Florida Attorney General’s office is getting ready to target Web publishers who have sold banner ads promoting deceptive mobile content services. They office assumes that publishers are complicit in the fraud because they “are aware that these advertisements are on these sites and know these advertisements are either false or misleading,” according to Clickz.

Not content to just go after the people at the top, they are looking at the whole food chain, including ad networks, publishers, and affiliates. The burden is on the attorney general to prove that the other party knew that the advertisements were false or misleading. But that just means that a case brought up would be harder to prove, not that they will not take the path of the RIAA and file suits against high profile targets to make publicity and scare people into settling.

On one hand this is a bit disturbing. I don’t like the idea that as a publisher I’m responsible (or even the target of a lawsuit) for what some network might show on my site. But I also would love to see the crap cleaned out of the industry.