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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 (http://www.funwebproducts.com/), 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 Ask.com.

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.com)

"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: www.SmileyCentral.com, mymailstationary.com, popularscreensavers.com, www.mymailsignatures.com and www.cursormania.com and others.


During testing conducted 11/22/2005, MyWebSearch came bundled from FunWebProduct.com. Users land on this page by clicking on 'smileys' from a variety of websites like www.dictionary.com or kids sites like AIMFace.com. On dictionary.com, 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

8 comments:

  1. Great comments - but there's a big element missing: Google is knowingly funding all of this activity. Presumably you left this out because you are a paid shill by Google.

    Google AdWords is the sole/principal source of revenue for Smiley Central toolbars and Google and Ask Jeeves have been working together for years.

    It's incredibly hypocritical for a paid Google moderator to write this kind of "analysis" without any disclosure of the very tight relationship that exists.

    More to the point, Smiley Central revenues are immaterial to IACI's core business, so are little more than gossip. If you want Google finance to succeed, maybe you could work on meaningful commentary rather than gossip.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good point that Ask uses Google ads. But unfortunately I'm not paid by Google. Or I'm paid by Google the same way Ask is paid by Google. Through Google AdSense.

    This blog is not affiliated with Google Inc.

    ReplyDelete
  3. In the next-to-last full paragraph, you spelled "users" incorrectly. The word "users" does not have an apostrophe.

    Please help stop the sinister worldwide epidemic of apostrophe abuse! Never use an apostrophe to make anything plural! Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Ike:
    If you pay attention, you'll notice it's a quote. I edited the grammar mistakes, but they aren't mine.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This post is confusing because it morphs from telling us ABOUT the smiley business to a defense of it where you apparently insert a quote from the hawkers without explanation or format change. This took me aback on first read: "We feel compelled to respond to the fact that our product is sometimes erroneously referred to as spyware."

    However, the Sunbelt review reveals all: Smiley Central is one of several "free" products whose real purpose is to get you to install a co-branded "Ask Jeeves" search toolbar and switch your default search engine to theirs, allowing them to serve targeted ads based on your searches. They are not at all forthcoming about this and some versions of the installer still install the search bar and switch your search engine even if you cancel them.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well I'm a advertiser for smileys and emoticons my biggest revenue comes from promoting Facebook Smileys people do surf for them and come to my site and it converts.

    As an advertiser that gets paid I don't have an issue with it I hope it continues :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is a virus. It hijacked my browser. I deleated it. My computer runs a little slower, but not as bad when I had your product. This is a spyware/adware scam. DON'T FALL FOR IT. I search and find bad programs to warn people.

    ReplyDelete
  8. once i realized it switched my browser setting, and added a toolbar O_o i deleted it from my laptop but it will not come off my brand new desktop (X_X) WILL NOT COME OFF!! i'm going to have to restore my system from backup. D=

    ReplyDelete