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Dateline: 6 April 2000 Early Edition
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Editorial
Why AllAdvantage Might Want Its Users To Spam
I see that AllAdvantage is planning to develop a more direct presence in New Zealand -- how long before we see all the Net neophytes out there spamming their friends and local newsgroups with unsolicited promotions?

AllAdvantage users have already made quite a nuisance of themselves around the Net and several locals have had their bottoms kicked for trying to drum up business in ways that violate their ISP's terms of service -- but I expect we'll soon see a flood of this kind of thing.

Having been hit several times by spammers promoting the service a couple of months ago I actually emailed AllAdvantage and suggested that if they were serious about being anti-spam then they ought to place their warnings in a great big bold font on a separate page of the sign-up form that required them to type in "I AGREE NOT TO SPAM."

Suffice to say they neither implemented my suggestion or even bothered to respond.

Of course it could be that they feel their existing warnings are adequate -- but, given the level of spam I still see from AllAdvantage users who are trying to boost their own earnings by recruiting others, I'd have to argue that they are wrong about that.

The reality may be that they don't really mind if their users spam -- in fact it's got to be a real boost to their bottom line, for several reasons:

  1. New Users -- of course spamming will always work to some degree. There are always those who are silly enough to respond to it and that means more members for AllAdvantage right?

  2. Confiscation! -- the AllAdvantage anti-spam policy clearly states:
    Our anti-spam policy, acceptance of which is a condition of our General Membership Agreement, is very simple: if you spam, you are out. Your account will be closed, your referrals will be lost, any unpaid monies on account will be confiscated, and you will be ineligible for a new account. Furthermore, all members up-line from you will lose the benefit of your referrals

    So do you see how it works?

    If someone joins AllAdvantage, earns an amount of money by being paid to surf, then spams, they get their account closed and they forfeit their earnings. That's extra money for jam in AllAdvantage's coffers right?

    What's more -- their "upstream" also loses out on their share of the earnings -- that's *more* money in AllAdvantage's pockets.

    And, as we all know, those who will have responded to the offending spam and signed up are going to be more inclined to go out and send spam themselves -- because after all, they were quite happy to receive it.

    It's easy to see that this spammer-recruits-spammer scenario could create a situation where AllAdvantage might be earning large amounts of money from its advertiser -- but never need to pay out a dime to its spamming members because it simply enforces its anti-spam policy sometime before the cheque is written out.

So, based on a simple observation of the benefits that accrue to AllAdvantage from its spam policy, and the propensity of its users to engage in this kind of activity, I think that any promotion of the service here in NZ is going to be bad news for legitimate, Netiquette-abiding users.

And before all the 100 percent non-spamming, highly satisfied AllAdvantage members email me (including a URL with their referrer number), I'll say that I'm sure AllAdvantage are doing a wonderful job and making Net use more affordable for many people. Good on them. It's just a shame about the spam eh?

Become A Career Websurfer
However, once you combine free ISP services with "get paid to surf" systems you create a very interesting situation don't you?

How long before some savvy person writes some software that allows them to automate the process?

Get a dozen phone lines and a dozen PCs (or half a dozen with two modems a piece), get a dozen free ISP accounts under various aliases, join up to AllAdvantage with more pseudonyms and leave those machines running 24/7, busily surfing the Net on your behalf while you eat, sleep, watch TV and wait for the cheques to roll in.

AllAdvantage will only pay you for the fist 25 hours of surfing so your software needs to log-out and login again with a different alias at regular intervals but that's not a problem to a half-decent programmer.

Hell, you can even act as the referrer for some of those aliases and earn additional money as an upstream!

By my calculations it wouldn't be too hard to nett at least a couple of hundred dollars a week using this system and, given that you only need use old, tired second-hand PCs which are a dime a dozen, you'd pay back your original investment in a pretty quick space of time.

Now of course I'm not suggesting that anyone actually does this (it's tantamount to a fraud) -- I'm simply pointing out that if there are people who are smart enough to reverse-engineer DVD software, crack large (supposedly secure) websites and effectively work wizardry with this technology -- such a scheme is well within the grasp of a fair percentage of young, savvy Net users.

i4free Says
A number of readers have written to me and said "you don't have to install any software to use i4free" -- which is true.

Perhaps in yesterday's column I should have said that "the average Net user" will have to use software provided by i4free if they want to be able to configure their computer to use the service.

The profile of the average Net user has changed significantly in recent years and most of them these days don't even know how to spell TCP/IP and simply look blankly at you if you ask them to change the TCP/IP parameters or reconfigure their modem dialer. For them, there is little option but to download the software provided by i4free and run it.

I also wonder if my "if I had a million dollars" scenario struck a nerve since Annette Presley sent me an email bitching that I wasn't being an objective journalist and suggesting that I was being paid by IHUG.

Clearly Annette isn't a long-term Aardvark reader and needs to take note that this column is the editor's opinion -- and that most of the time I don't even carry paid advertising on the site, let alone lust after being on an ISP's payroll.

I've offered Annette a right of reply -- but haven't heard back from her yet.

You will be kept informed.

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