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February 27, 2006

Smiley business

You've seen these horrible creatures everywhere. Every site has this ad for 10,000 free smilies. But who is behind this business and why is that a business?

Smiley Central is a part of Fun Web Projects (, that also includes: Cursor Mania, Fun Buddy Icons, History Swatter, My Mail Notifier, My Mail Signature, My Mail Stamp, My Mail Stationery, PopSwatter, Popular Screensavers. Fun Web Projects is a brand of IAC Search & Media (NASDAQ: IACI), that also has

Your Smiley Central download also includes a free search box for your Web browser. My Web Search gives you instant search results from the Internet's best search engines and relevant search results from address bar queries. Oh, really?

The download is 3022 KB, it's a toolbar for Internet Explorer (My Web Search toolbar) that looks like this:

My Web Search lets you search using Google, Yahoo, Ask and LookSmart (by default, Google), which seems pretty fair. But what about the smileys?

Who cares about the smileys? The idea is to search for [credit car debt], [life insurance], [mortgage], and other high-revenue keywords. The smileys are just small images available online and that can be inserted in your IM messages or in your mails to make you look cool. The integration between the smiley third-party and the instant messengers is almost non-existant. You can also get cursors, fun cards, themed screensavers.

"Why do some people mistake the My Web Search toolbar for spyware?

We feel compelled to respond to the fact that our product is sometimes erroneously referred to as spyware. Such statements are completely false and in many cases subject to legal challenge as a form of libel. However, the reality is that there is a substantial amount of confusion and misinformation on the Web about how programs work and what "spyware" means.
This problem has been compounded by the evolution of so-called "spyware" detection programs that are being operated in many cases without attention to the facts or details. In many cases, these programs may label programs as "adware," "spyware," "malware," "dataminer" or another classification simply because the program is a plug-in.
We have engaged in a productive dialog with many providers of spyware detection software that have acknowledged that our product is not spyware and removed it or properly classified the software. " (from

"MyWebSearch Toolbar is NOT a Trojan, virus or spyware. MyWebSearch is a toolbar that is distributed from a variety of IAC Search & Media properties, including:,,, and and others.

During testing conducted 11/22/2005, MyWebSearch came bundled from Users land on this page by clicking on 'smileys' from a variety of websites like or kids sites like On, for example, the banner ads are both on the top and side of the page. The banner ads make no mention of MyWebSeach toobar bundled with the smileys. Once the user decides they want smileys and clicks the banner ad, they are taken to a smiley landing page.

This page is dominated by dancing, singing, and other animated smileys with a very big download button flashing 'Click here!...Get FREE Smileys!'. Also, there is passing reference to the toolbar, listed number 3 in a series of 4 bullet points, indicating 'comes with FREE MyWebSearch accessible...' In short, most users will install smileys without understanding they are getting a toolbar and browser setting changes." (from eTrust Spyware Encyclopedia)

Anyway, even if this product is not spyware, it's just a tricky marketing bundle that makes you think it's all about cute smileys, when it's all about cash, driving traffic to search engines and getting money from advertising. Who are the target? Kids, teenagers, computer-illiterates, and other people that think it's cool to have original smileys.

Great reading: Sunbelt analysis about Ask Jeeves' toolbars

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