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The Scumware Invasion 28 August 2001 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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Warning -- your website has been hacked.

Yes, that carefully crafted combination of prose, graphics and HTML no longer looks exactly the way you designed it to. What's worse, there are ads for your competitors sitting there right in the middle of your sales pitch -- and most of the items in your online catalogue are now linked to a competitors shopping trolley!

What's that? You can't see anything wrong?

Clearly your browser isn't infected with "scumware" -- but millions of others are.

You've never heard of scumware?

Well it's something that has many in the industry up in arms -- and you can expect legal shots to be fired very soon.

Scumware is a new type of software which effectively does exactly what Microsoft's SmartTags was going to do -- before the software giant reacted to public outrage by pulling this feature from its upcoming XP launch.

In effect, scumware is a browser component which is often installed covertly as part of some other software you've downloaded. When you load a webpage, the scumware will scan that page, looking for keywords for which it has advertisers willing to pay.

Let's assume are in the software business and have created a website designed to sell a cashbook program. When a user (whose PC has scumware installed) visits your site, the scumware program might well spy the words "cash book" and create a hypertext link from your pages to those of a competitor who has paid for such a link. In effect, your competitors are able to advertise right there on YOUR webpage.

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
From Yesterday...
  • Noteworthy Points... - Brett
  • Have Your Say

    Unfair -- you bet!

    Illegal? We don't know for sure -- nobody's brought the first precedent-setting case yet.

    So, how could this scumware find its way onto your computer?

    Easy, there are a growing number of software vendors who are being lured into adding a scumware component to their software by the offer of big dollars.

    Everyone loves free software -- but in reality, as we all know, there's no such thing as a free lunch.

    What some software writers are preferring to do these days is to sell-out to scumware vendors such as TopText rather than mess around with shareware agreements.

    So how widespread is scumware, and what are the chances that one of your competitors is advertising on your website right now?

    Well, one of the leading scumware vectors is a program called Kazaa Media Desktop. This piece of freeware has already been downloaded some 8,461,150 times!

    So -- what are your thoughts on this?

    Is this just a really smart online marketing technique that you wish you'd thought of -- or is it the work of the devil?

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