31 January 2007

Some web pages have words with double-underlining. And if your mouse strays anywhere near them a balloon opens, obscuring the article and offering to take you to some other webpage where you'll be able to buy something of marginal relevance.

Have you seen it yet? If you use Microsoft Internet Explorer, you're likely to have been looking at it for a long time. If, like me, you're using Safari on OS-X, you may not have seen it at all. I've only really noticed it since December.

This is a money-making scheme being pursued by several companies, notably 'Vibrant Media' which calls the system IntelliTXT. (Others are Kontera, Adbrite, Ontok)

A website editor opts into the scheme as a way of making money without doing anything. The IntelliTXT software then compares the website's text with keywords their client corporations want to link to and presto! the word on the website now points to the advertiser. So, for instance, say company 'WhizBang' has bought the phrase 'memopad software'. When you're read a positive review of great memopad software published by their rival, company 'DingDong,' the phrase 'memopad software' will send you off to buy WhizBang's version, not DingDong. I've personally been to sites reading articles about Apple MacBooks and had link after link on words like 'computer' and 'notebook' helpfully offering to take me to www.dell.com

Vibrant Media appear to be one of the most responsible of these 'let's you and I make money by getting in the readers' way' venders. They at least clearly label each bubble with the word 'Advertisement' and provide a way for readers to turn their stuff off, provided the website owner enables it (compare this version of the page with this one!). If you click on the IntelliTXT logo of one of the ads, it will take you to a page at which you can opt out of seeing the ads for that site (NB such 'click to disable' links work only for that one site).

If you google 'intellitxt' and your browser's name, you can find scripts and hacks to disable the IntelliTXT machine. But the most effective way of dealing with it is probably letting website authors know that you're not coming back. If they're willing to sacrifice communication for money, and they're paid by link and mouseover, how long before they start rewording the articles to maximize link and then choosing what and what not to write about on the basis of how lucrative it is.
This blog is closed now. I've moved to http://gempf.com