posted by Thom Holwerda on Sat 28th Jul 2007 11:07 UTC
IconA lot of people have been emailing us about an issue we are having with one of our ads taking over OSNews. Thank you all for emailing us, the information provided is of good use to us. We are currently working on the problem, and will let you know once it has been fixed. We would like to apologise for the inconvenience. Update by DA: I think that I've tracked down the offender. Read more for details Update 2: This time I think we really fixed it.

The lowlifes that are perpetrating this abomination, it seems, are somehow embedding the browser hijacking code into ads that are served up through Google's banner ad program. Most of the Google ads you'll see on OSNews are text ads, but they also have programs for graphical banner ads and, apparently something called a video ad, which I've never looked at.

Since Google's AdSense ad program isn't really very customer-service-oriented, I haven't been able to talk to an actual person about it. Everything is highly automated, which is probably the reason that someone has been able to abuse the system like this. But I was able to ban the ads, URL by URL. But every time I banned one, it seemed that another would appear. The following were reported: Drivecleaner, Driverclean, Errorsafe, Systemdoctor and Winantivirus. After a while, I realized that there was a way that should put an end to the cat and mouse game, and I disabled the Google banner ads altogether. I won't re-enable it until Google solves the problem. If anyone sees any recurrence of browser hijacking, please let us know.

Update
It seems I may have slandered Google. It seems that it may not have been the Google system that the offending parties had hoodwinked into running these spyware ads. It was another of my ad partners. They spent the weekend running an audit of all of their advertisers, and they think they've narrowed it down to one suspect, and the problem ads should now, finally, be gone for good. I'll reiterate my earlier entreaty to let us know if you see any further instances of pop-ups, takeovers, or attempted spyware installs.

A Note About Advertising

While I'm on the subject, I thought I'd take a moment to address the issue of ads. I read all the comments on this topic with great interest, and appreciated the many kind comments that demonstrate patience with problems like this and appreciation for what we do here.

I also read the comments by people extolling the virtues of Adblocking mechanisms. As I am constantly reminding our advertising partners (who do all the legwork of selling and billing, etc, in exchange for a hefty portion off the top), OSNews readers are sophisticated technologists, and so our ability to serve advertising is dependent on their good graces. If the ads become too intrusive, OSNews readers are capable of fighting back. I consider my role as the main guy in charge of advertising to be the guardian of that trust.

It can actually be a tough balancing act. The reason that you see so many distracting and intrusive forms of advertising online is because the advertisers and their agencies, the ones spending the money, foolishly think that the best way to get their point across is to shove it down your throats. They're constantly pushing for larger and more intrusive advertising. Consequently, our advertising partners, feeling the pressure, push on me to include these more intrusive ads. And I have to push back.

Long time OSNews readers would be able to recall times when we've momentarily succumbed to these pressures, but overall we have learned that the good-will that we lose from our readers is worth more to us than any incremental revenue we might bring in. We don't accept pop-up, pop-under, page takeovers, text-underlined context link ads, ads that make noises, or things that fly across the screen, and definitely not browser hijacking, spyware installing ads. If you ever see ads like that on OSNews, let us know, and we'll do something about it.

Since we do outsource the day-to-day handling of the ads, we do have to react to slip-ups when they occur, rather than heading them off beforehand. For that, we're always sorry when it annoys the readers.

Revenues from our advertising efforts go to our rather substantial monthly dedicated server rental, bandwidth, and system maintenance costs, as well as providing a budget for covering OSNews' staff expenses, including the occasional new laptop, various important gadgets and other office supplies, and travel to the occasional tradeshow or event, and every once in a while, travel costs of meeting with each other in person. OSNews staff is scattered across the globe. Interesting fact: I've been working with Thom Holwerda for a couple years now, and I've never met him in person. Hopefully soon, the OSNews advertising money will go toward flying him from The Netherlands to the US for a long-delayed job interview. There are no salaries. If we had to pay a market rate for all the OSNews editors and contributors, there would be no OSNews. We'd each have to make way below minimum wage (and keep using our old computers, because the hardware budget would go bye bye).

So thanks to everyone who doesn't give us a hard time about the ads. They're essential to our site's continued existence. But I take that sacred trust seriously, and I think that those many readers who have emailed over the years to complain about a particular ad or blunder like this week's can attest that we take those reports seriously and always try to do something about it. Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any feedback about our ads or other partnerships like our price comparison search.

And hey, if you like OSNews, and want to support us, and to support the types of advertising that you find useful and not-annoying, click on the ads from advertisers that respect you as a consumer, because that click increases OSNews' standing in their eyes. All our ads, except the Google ones, are paid per-view, so clicks don't make us more money, but they do ensure that the advertisers keep renewing, and helps our ad partners see the wisdom in pushing back against intrusive ads.

On the other side, clicking on a Google ad results in per-click revenue for OSNews, so looking for interesting things in the Google ads can certainly keep the servers running at OSNews. Keep in mind, though, that a click on a Google ad also costs that advertiser money, so don't click on them willy-nilly just to support us. That's not fair to them.

And if you're online shopping, using our price comparison search or our Amazon.com link brings us in a little each month too. Bookmark them, and we'll love you!

To those OSNews readers who use ad blocking: we still love you, and we welcome your contributions to the community. But repent! They're not so bad, the ads we run. Honest!

To those OSNews readers who use ad blocking and are inveterate trolls incapable of engaging in civil discourse: stop coming to our website!

Thanks,
David Adams
Publisher

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