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Yahoo Sued for Spyware, Typosquatting-Based Ads 88

Posted by Zonk
from the double-whammy dept.
An anonymous reader writes to mention a Yahoo! suit involving allegations of spyware and typosquatting-based ads. From the article: "The suit claims that Yahoo displayed these advertisers' online ads via spyware and adware products and on so-called 'typosquatter' Web sites that capitalize on misspellings of popular trademarks or company names. Potentially more explosive is the plaintiff's claim that Yahoo regularly uses its relationship with adware and typosquatting sites to gin up extra revenue around earnings time, alleging that the company is conspiring to boost revenue by partnering with some of the Internet's seamier characters."
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Yahoo Sued for Spyware, Typosquatting-Based Ads

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  • Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WCMI92 (592436) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @08:33AM (#15252893) Homepage
    Of course, I quit using Yahoo when I started using only Google. Yahoo's website went from being the cleanest and least laden with trickery and pervasive ads to one of the worst.

    Google ads at least are text and off to the side. Whether or not they are promoting typosquatting or not they are easy to ignore.
  • Full description (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @08:35AM (#15252905)

    Ben Edelman has a breakdown on how Yahoo fund spyware [benedelman.org]

    this is just the tip of the iceberg, Google, Ask Jeeves, MySpace, MyWay,iWon, the list of million dollar companies built from and profiting from these seedy practices goes on, its about time somebody gets the smackdown either in court or via other methods

    • My small company lost over $25,000 to google over this... Google was providing "high quality" clicks that were producing one sale in over 1200 clicks. I could walk down the street and slap people across the face and tell them to buy my product and I'd get more sales than one per 1200 people. They're all dirty. Until advertisers figure out and only advertise on selected websites vs the shotgun approach, OR the major search engines take the time to have sale-based payment instead of Pay-Per-Click, the screw
      • It's still better than T.V. advertising, or national newspaper advertising.

        You are only paying for people who followed the link
        not for people who have just seen it.

        Newspaper advertising cost is based on circulation
        T.V. on expected audience figures.

        roughly.
      • Just out of curiosity, how did you measure "sales per click"? I'm assuming that you measure the number of sales you got received from people who clicked the ad and then bought your product during that session, but how do you know there weren't others who clicked your ad, saw your product, then decided to come back later directly through your URL to buy the product? Seems kind of difficult to sort out I would imagine. Of course a lot of the clicks may be fradulent, but meausring the success of your ad by
      • My small company lost over $25,000 to google over this... Google was providing "high quality" clicks that were producing one sale in over 1200 clicks. I could walk down the street and slap people across the face and tell them to buy my product and I'd get more sales than one per 1200 people. They're all dirty. Until advertisers figure out and only advertise on selected websites vs the shotgun approach, OR the major search engines take the time to have sale-based payment instead of Pay-Per-Click, the screwin

        • Not only this but his ad description may have been misleading, the best way to earn is to put an honest descriptive ad, if people are interested they will click. If you advertise "HOT XXX CHICKS" and your site doesn't deliver on that, the people are just going to leave.
        • Your post would be insightful were it not for:

          1. Spyware which automagically clicks ads to earn revenue for the spyware affiliate (yes, Google does try to weed these bastards out but they're not 100% successful)
          2. Competitors paying people to surf and click on other companies' ads
          3. Sites which display ads and run the "get paid to surf the web" scams, where they pay you for every ad you click on their sites

          Not all click-through advertisements are legitimate, and I can imagine
        • Google sales arn't that bad, they sold you didn't they. That is googles real market (just the same as yahoo or MSN etc.), sellin to the sellers not the buyers because the sellers pay for adds whether or not they actually generate any sales from them.

          When it comes to webvertising and it's low entry cost it all just becomes spamwords and spamsence, it is so flooded with bad companies and bad products that the customers just start ignoring it all.

      • It's not Google that's dirty, it's your company that's stupid. Google delivers exactly what they promise: impressions and click-throughs, and they give you near real-time reports. They also let you set spending limits. If it's not working for you, you can figure that out long before you spend $25k.
    • It's not the government's responsibility to protect you from yourself. If you install spyware or click on the wrong ads, it's your own damned fault, and if you keep paying Yahoo! or anybody else for ads that aren't working, that's your own stupidity, too.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @08:36AM (#15252921)
    This apparently isn't about consumers: the plaintiffs are a bunch of pissed off advertisers, who would prefer to interfere with your search results rather than with some parked and forgotten domain. The plaintiffs also refuse to name themselves and use terms like "improper advertising displays" (like advertising speech could somehow be "improper".)

    • by kfg (145172)
      like advertising speech could somehow be "improper".

      Jesus, I'd like to just see some proper advertising speech again before I die.

      Old school proper advertising speech:

      "Our car has more hp than either Ford or Chevy. It's better. Buy it."

      Modern school improper advertising speech:

      "Look at my dog's ass. Ugly, ain't it?"

      Old school proper advertising speech:

      "I'm hot. Buy this car and I'm yours, big boy."

      Modern school improper advertising speech:

      "I hate that car."

      What's with that "silly little fairy" ad? 'Cause an
    • Actually, I imagine the advertisers are more pissed off that they're paying twice for the same click.

      A comment above contained a link to How Yahoo Funds Spyware [benedelman.org]. A relevant quote:

      Search for "computer repair" at any major search engine, and Claria adds a popunder giving Yahoo Overture ads for that same term. Sponsored link popunders also target specific web sites. Visiting Dell often yields a Claria popunder of Yahoo Overture ads for "computer." Claria's provision of Yahoo Overture sponsored links rais

    • >The plaintiffs also refuse to name themselves

      _Crafts by Veronica_ is the lead plaintiff in the complaint [washingtonpost.com]. It's normal for a class action suit to say "All others similarly situated": that's what makes it a class action suit.

      >who would prefer to interfere with your search results rather than with some parked and forgotten domain

      Which is what they paid for. Clicks from search result pages are more valuable than clicks from spyware. Yahoo is accused of charging for one and intentionally delivering the ot
  • They have a point! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @08:37AM (#15252927)
    They do have a point. Do you want me to tell you why?

    Lots and lots of typosquatters use Overture's Keyword Selector tool to find the juiciest domains. Try it yourself, try searching for "fool.com" without the quotes, and you'll be able to see the number of people who searched for that domain using one of Yahoo's search bars. This gives you a hint that there are many people who would be typing that domain in the address bar, so if nobody registered it, then the typosquatter goes ahead and registers the domain to make lots and lots of money from ADs.

    Now, please remind me, why on earth would Yahoo leave the opportunity to search for keywords that have .com or .whatever in their name? Why not filter these searches out?
    • That ties in with one of the most commom errors by people new to the web typing the web address they want into the search box on their default yahoo/MSN/whatever home page, rather than the address bar. I've seen tons of grannies, housewives, jocks, and other stereotypical net newbies do this, even after corrected they still find it "easier" since it's where the cursor starts out when they fire up the browser. Of course, it usually brings up the site they wanted as the first result, but it still pipes in a
      • Hell, even I do that half the time, and I've been using the net since before Tim Berners-Lee first put together the letters W-W-W. It's just habit; I use the search bar more often than the address bar, so that's where I gravitate to. Since Google pulls up the right page more often than not it's not a habit that's worth correcting.

        Typosquatting is a problem, but not enough of one to insist that search engines somehow try to filter out terms that look like URLs or domain names and break a very useful (if

    • Now, please remind me, why on earth would Yahoo leave the opportunity to search for keywords that have .com or .whatever in their name? Why not filter these searches out?

      For the simple reason that they are a business, they need to make money to satisfy shareholders, and it's easy to do. And best of all, it's not strictly illegal, only the practice of double-dipping the customer is illegal.

    • I think this a philosophical issue. Is it better to have a mal formed or unregisted domain return a 404 or a list of alternative sites? Some would feel that running everything typed into the URL line should pass through a search engine so if the user made a mistake alternatives could be presented. Others would say that browser should simple do the best with a URL and try to find a domain. In practical expereince this means that one browser would take th input amazon, run it through a search engine, and
  • Remove the Toolbar! (Score:4, Informative)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @08:56AM (#15253048) Journal
    Follow these directions [microsoft.com] should you be afflicted with the Yahoo! Toolbar.

    That toolbar is probably the portal for this Spyware and crap. You know, it comes with applications and installs itself (seemingly) sometimes. I've had to remove it countless times, the battle rages on.

    Or you can just switch to Firefox. A new version is out, now's as good a time as ever!
    • We had massive problems with the Yahoo toolbar out at the university I used to work at. Not only did it portal in all the spyware we could ever choke on, it was often installed by way of some sites that our lab computer users were fond of visiting.

      Is it just me or are 90% of these helpful little utilities nothing more that spyware in the end, toolbars and accelerators just bog down the machine and sprout security leaks like a zarking seive.
    • Yes, but then again Google has it's toolbar which seems to be in everything. Sure it's easy to get rid of, and easy to avoid, but it seems that everyone has a toolbar nowdays - some are just shadier about it.
    • I had Yahoo toolbar slip in with an install of adobe acrobat reader. What does the yahoo toolbar have to do with the adobe reader? I know I should have been more careful, but Adobe reader used to be one of the least invasive programs. Now I have to worry about it installing things that shouldn't even be there in the first place.
      • Adobe reader is a piece of crap in itself. Can anyone explain why it has become so huge >16 meg - and hasn't added anything discernible to me? From 1.4mb for version 2, to 16 mb for version 7 - what the hell does it do different?
        • While I agree the Adobe reader is a piece of crap, I can't agree that it doesn't do anything different in the new versions. With every new version, the PDF format is expanded. Like recently, they added the option to embed flash. If you want to see an exact list of addition just compare plugins between different versions.
        • I believe that the GP already answered that. What it does different is installs the Yahoo Toolbar. Joking aside, it does seem that newer versions are less likely to hijack my entire browser until a pdf loads, as well as what appears to be a shorter loading time.
    • It isn't spyware. It is installed ONLY by User interaction. It is installed when Yahoo Messenger is installed "IF" the user leaves the "Check Box" clicked. I use this toolbar and am NEVER a victim of any spam or spyware as a result.
    • I think I tried warning people a year or so ago about this when I noted that installing Yahoo Messenger automatically dropped my set security levels (mine were always set to maximum security) and re-activated ActiveX in my IE settings. (And I don't use IE, I just max out it's security and disable everything possible in it to reduce the risk of potential exploits.) No surprise that Yahoo doing that after it's installed would leave one open to spyware and other useless crap.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    For instance, if I type "Asia" doesn't google return with :

    Did you mean "Send me ur outsourced job plz"

    Isn't that indirect squatting?
  • by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @08:59AM (#15253074)
    Raise AdBlock, Mr. Worf. Continual fire, all bannings.
  • Everyone who is ready to flame Yahoo's "evil" practices should realize that Google does profits from typosquatting too, with their DomainPark [google.com] service. How many legitimate websites are there that get more than 750,000 page views a month and are just "parked"? Yahoo may be doing something evil, but "do no evil" Google isn't innocent either.
    • Again, do you think "he's bad too" can make everything ok ? Guessed so. You could probably fairly quickly assemble a list of other not-innocent-either companies. That will not make Yahoo (or the others) any less "bad".

  • around earnings time


    Isn't all the time earnings time for a big public corporate entity? Wow- if they make all that money while only earning for a portion of the year, just think of what they could get if they did it year-round!

    -M
    • So, the answer to your question is no. This behavior is based on the quarterly earnings startments that publically traded companies need to report on. When your company is publically traded, it is just as important to do business as it is to sell stock.

      When sales to invoice (order to cash) processes are days/hours long vs. weeks or months, publically traded companies will do whatever they can to gain more business during the end of a quarter.

      Is it bad business? Not really. Is it good business? Definite
  • Honestly, this article is like the light that's been shining in our eyes for so long we didn't care anymore. I stopped using Yahoo when it installed a toolbar in my IE(I know, I'm all Firefox now)and began not just pumping, but flooding my PC like N.O. with spyware. Yahoo's a long standing company, and in being long standing, they start getting the shady people inside their ranks, and eventually one of them gets high enough to implement an idea like this. Sadly, this is Capitolism. The Company that can profit the most does the best. If Yahoo is in with typosquatters, so be it! That's their business practice and I didn't find much about it being illegal, just not nice. So while Yahoo didn't break any rules, it only re-enforced the belief of this non-net-savvy person that I should use Google from now on. And didn't Yahoo start this when they had the Full Page Flash Overlay ads?
  • by a_greer2005 (863926) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @10:06AM (#15253560)
    ...for force-bundling the yahoo spy/spam/crudware with Adobe reader, and even the FULL RETAIL version of Acrobat PRO 7? when I (or the company I work for) pay $300+ for an app, I/we dont want the bulls**t!

    de-selecting the yahoo tools option in the install has no effect!

    (FYI DLing the 56k version of the reader seems to cut out most of the bloat)

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  • This was why I stopped using yahoo like 4 or 5 years ago. =/
  • I never understood the purpose of these toolbars. I prefer to see content in my windows, not bars and tabs. I just bookmark the advanced search page for Yahoo and Google. (They return just about identical results).
  • Microsoft wants to merge with Yahoo or at least work closely with Yahoo.

    Coincedence?

    I think NOT!

    Remember the Claria - Windows antispyware debacle?

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