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Ad hijacking extension – the sequel

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Thursday January 29, 2009 )

In my last post I expressed some concerns about a questionable Firefox extension that incorporates some functionality from the popular ad blocker, AdBlock Plus, but this one has an additional unsettling twist for many publishers who derive revenue from advertising.

The kicker with the extension in question, provided by, is that it not only blocks the ads on publisher’s sites; it will replace them with its own as their ad network grows. The original post on the topic is here.

As you can imagine, many publishers would find this somewhat disturbing to have revenue ripped away from them in such a manner and to me, it’s a blatant unauthorized manipulation of content space legally belonging to a publisher by a third party.

I heard back from the creators of the extension via email and they had also posted a similar response to the comments I made on TreeHugger’s article about the application.

I won’t bother posting the “they said and then I said” stuff.. you can check out the TreeHugger thread here.

While it’s encouraging the company appears to be considering feedback, they still don’t get it. Or if they do get it, I find that even more disturbing.

They speak of an affiliate program now (which wasn’t mentioned before) to share revenue with publishers, and that’s fine, but saying “we will also make it possible for publishers to opt-out” of their system entirely is approaching it *entirely* from the wrong angle.

The *creators* should gain permission before they start replacing ads on sites with the ones generated by their ad network – not this publisher “opt out” rubbish – it should be opt in! Anything else is simply an unauthorized manipulation of publisher content. I’ll keep using that term in the hope that it finally sinks in with this company what they are doing.

Many publishers aren’t even going to know their ad units may be hijacked by the extension unless they read posts like this.

It should not be up to the publisher to go to them and say “please don’t let your ads be shown in my ad slots by users of your extension”. I mean, how arrogant is that approach!?!

Inferknow needs to think very carefully about their business model. They not only need to consider backlash from publishers around the web, but from the heavy hitter ad networks run by companies like Google as they start becoming aware of what is going on. I’m sure Google aren’t going to be too pleased if they see Adwords blocks being overwritten by the ads coming via Inferknow. Like I said, ad blocking, I can *grudgingly* stomach – having them blocked and overlaid with someone else’s ads without my permission.. no way. And I’m certainly not going to say “pretty please don’t do that”.

Even if I were to join their affiliate program, the full details of which are yet to be announced, I’d be very concerned that I may be assisting the company in siphoning revenue from unsuspecting sites by promoting the extension; and perhaps even financially benefiting from it myself based on their current model

This isn’t cutting edge technology or a spiffy new business model set to dazzle the world, the base concept has been around for a long time. In its current form it has similarities to stealware, which is despised by ethical affiliates and good affiliate networks everywhere.

On testing the application this evening, Inferknow’s ads are not yet showing up, but the Adwords blocks on sites I checked were not displaying – so already, publishers are losing money to this Firefox extension; including those that run sites on environmental issues, the same topic that the creators say they are helping through the use of the extension. Ironically, some of those affected sites have their own environmental programs in place that cost them money – the plugin is depriving them of funding for those projects.


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