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Don't Eat the Yellow Links

Roblimo posted more than 12 years ago | from the suddenly-popping-up-all-over-the-place dept.

The Internet 358

If you have a popular file-sharing program called KaZaA on your computer and suddenly start seeing yellow links to obvious ads on some of your favorite Web sites, this is because a cunning piece of software called TopText was automatically installed on your computer along with KaZaA. Many Web site owners are upset with this alteration of their content. But there is an opt-out procedure (albeit a somewhat cumbersome one) you can use to keep TopText links from being added to your site, according to the company that markets TopText.

We learned about TopText (which was called HOTText until the end of last week) because a number of Slashdot readers submitted a San Francisco Chronicle story about it.

Cyklopz wrote, "...this is quite insidious. I found a link from BankOne's site to Wells Fargo! It crops up all over search engine results as well. Sheesh!"

Microsoft has removed (at least temporarily) a similar, but less blatantly commercial feature called Smart Tags from their upcoming release of MSIE 6.0 because it upset so many people.

KaZaA has an opt-out dialog for TopText when it is installed, but Benny Evangelista, who wrote the Chronicle story, says that neither he nor other people he spoke to who had downloaded KaZaA spotted it until they knew it was there and went looking for it.

KaZaA claims over 5.4 million Web users have downloaded their software so far, and boasts on their Web site that "...KaZaA is one of the most active media communities on the net, usually there are over 600 000 users online simultaneously. 90% of users are recommending KaZaA, which is the 4th most downloaded program on C|Net Download.com."

I both emailed and called TopText's vendor, San Francisco-based eZula, to ask if there was any way we could keep their TopText links from showing up on OSDN Web sites, including Slashdot. Since we often use links as integral parts of our stories, we would just as soon select our own, right? Plus there is a little matter of keeping ads apart from editorial material, which is one of those silly ethics things only journalists who care about their personal integrity may notice, but that upset us to the point of irrationality when we spot them.

Assaf Henkin of eZula told me the only way to keep TopText links from marring our sites was to email all domain names we wanted blocked to:

support@ezula.com

Henkin said it would take "a couple of days" for removal requests to be honored. But at least now you know what to do.

For more information about about how TopText works, go to eZula's contact page and (you must have Flash installed for this to work) click on the "Media Kit" link. Or, for an unanimated but more complete description of eZula's services, check this .pdf file. Note that, although KaZaA is the only eZula "partner" we know about at this time, their media kit boasts of "partnerships with tier one ISPs" and claims their software "...currently delivers your Keyword message to nearly 4 million Internet users, wherever they are on the Web, and this number is growing rapidly as eZula expands its partner base."

Will Web users notice the proliferation of these little yellow advertising links? Will they be able to tell them from the "real" links story authors or Web site owners put in? Will anyone care? Should anyone care? Or have we all gotten so used to ads sneaking into everything from movies (via product placement) to upcoming show "announcements" during the happy talk segments of local TV news that such things don't matter any more?

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358 comments

Re:Top Text links for IE Only!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2178190)

If that would have been possible with L&H stocks :)

Re:Buyer Beware (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2178191)

Under Win2K:

HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/Run

HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/RunOnce

Under Win98:

HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/Run

HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/RunOnce

HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/RunServices

"googler" does a similar thing... (1)

mikecheng (3359) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178203)

I wrote a little proggy [dingoblue.net.au] which does something similar to kazaa... except it's not dynamic. You can statically change *all* text in a html page to links to google [dingoblue.net.au]/ bablefish [dingoblue.net.au]/ everything2 [dingoblue.net.au] etc. It's as useless as hell, but i'll think of a use for it someday... later mike (and yes, i realise it could probably be done in one line of perl)

Re:God this pisses me off (1)

vluther (5638) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178205)

It's not a matter of how you view their content,
You can view slashdot by getting the daily email,
browser, print it out etc.. thats how you view things.

what toptext is doing is changing slashdot, and giving you the impression that slashdot has a link for you.. which is wrong. When people here complain about fair use, they're complaining about where and what you use to view/listen to your legally purchased copyrighted material.

Slashdot is not charging you for talking to your dad about a story you read on slashdot. Nor are they preventing you from copying their story and printing just the facts, without any banners etc.
They don't prevent you from visiting a story more than once etc.. you can visit as much as you want to. You can turn the ads off by using some sort of ad stopper, and they won't come and throw you in jail.

So your attempt at showing OSDN's hypocrisy is feeble.

Re:Heck No. (2)

acroyear (5882) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178207)

There's a difference. The copyright statutes refering to "first sale" apply to the physical artifact (e.g., the book). You can do what you want with that book, including destroy it or sell it...though that is viewed as "damage", and you're not gonna get much for it if you do try to sell it.

With MY web page, if you have software that changes its contents, the user may or may not have any idea what it SHOULD look like. They only see your over-linked version that will lead them to things they aren't looking for. If I have a link to some local DC band's official home page, and I'm explicitly saying "This link will go to the that band's home page", then having that link go ANYWHERE else is making me out to be a liar, regardless of whether or not the user approved the software that changed that link. That software puts my reputation as a reliable source of information at SEVERE risk, and I should have the right to defend my reputation from such slander.
--
You know, you gotta get up real early if you want to get outta bed... (Groucho Marx)

Re:Heck No. (2)

acroyear (5882) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178208)

Actually, I see from the article they do have a way to make sure my site isn't affected. Now the question is begged, will they support my request...

Also, some of my site is in a different (and shared) domain for technical reasons (lack of php support on the main site) -- can they respect my request for not tampering with my subpage ("/~acroyear/") on the shared domain, or will they only respect the domain owners (a major ISP with better things to do than argue with software like this)?
--
You know, you gotta get up real early if you want to get outta bed... (Groucho Marx)

Re:This begs the question (3)

acroyear (5882) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178210)

Again, its a matter of interpretation. My entire HTML page for my web site is my content, in its HTML form. This to me includes the links. If I have a link, that's content. Albiet cheap content compared to paragraphs and stuff, but its something. In my case, my page is a descriptive index to other relevant pages (specifically celtic music events in the DC area), and having a link go somewhere else may cost that surfer the chance to learn about a group or event they might want to know about...

I don't want someone else looking at my page to see anything other than what I put in there. There's reasons I pay for my web hosting instead of just using a geocities-like service.
--
You know, you gotta get up real early if you want to get outta bed... (Groucho Marx)

Welcome to the semantic web (1)

ignatz (10191) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178215)

Tools like thus are just another route to the semantic web that Tim Berners-Lee and the W3C are driving towards. Half an implementation perhaps, but take a look at the W3C specifications for Annotea and have a think...

http://www.w3.org/2001/Annotea/ [w3.org]

Oh, and then pick up a copy of Dream Machines and think about what a full implementation of Xanadu would have been like...

Tools like this and Smart Tags are part of the past and the future of the web. The one way design driven web will be seen as just a stop gap on the road to a fully interactive two way communications system.

Perhaps MS pulled Smart Tags in favour of a W3C compliant Annotea implementation ;-)

S.

Re:Top Text links for IE Only!! (1)

RAruler (11862) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178219)

Your misunderstanding, its easy for the user to get rid of the program. But, what about the people who use the program, and goto Slashdot, it'll show up with a bunch of creepy yellow links, they didn't ask for this to happen, there was no Opt-In choice for them, it did it automatically.

---

Re:This begs the question (2)

gorgon (12965) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178221)

This does not "beg the question", it "leads to the question."

"Begs the question [wsu.edu]" means avoiding answering a point in an argument by simply stating that your point is correct instead of supporting the point.

--
I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations ...

Flash installed? (3)

ethereal (13958) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178222)

So let me get this straight: in order to see web pages without random crap attached, I have to install and use one of the most often abused random crap plugins around? Oh, the irony!

Re:This begs the question (5)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178226)

Ok, waitaminute. Who is altering the content and redistributing it? Is it the company that made the software, or is it the computer itself, acting as an agent for the user that views it?

If I install JunkBuster or some other ad filter on my machine, it also alters the stuff I look at. Is Junkbuster (the company) guilty of copyright infringement, or am I exercising my fair use rights?


---

Problem? What problem? (2)

Mike Schiraldi (18296) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178228)

Assaf Henkin of eZula told me the only way to keep TopText links from marring our sites was to email all domain names we wanted blocked to support@ezula.com

Oh, okay. *clickity-clack*

#! /usr/bin/perl

$name = 'a';

while (1) {
system "echo Remove $name.com | mail support@ezula.com";
system "echo Remove $name.net | mail support@ezula.com";
system "echo Remove $name.org | mail support@ezula.com";
$name++;
}

There. That should take care of most of the Internet. People who use 0-9 or - in their domain names will have to take care of themselves, i guess.

sheesh (4)

Mike Schiraldi (18296) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178229)

TopText (which was called HOTText until the end of last week)

Actually, it looks like it's called Internet Text [ezula.com] now.

Oops, while i was writing that, they changed its name to ContextPro [ezula.com].

I've heard of Internet Time, but this is ridiculous...

Re:This begs the question (3)

Surak (18578) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178235)

Of course you are excercising your fair use rights. Just as you may amalgomate several movies on a videotape or create a videotape with your collection of favorite clips or whatever, so long as you aren't distributing that, you can add links to web pages, albeit automatically. Remember, they aren't modifying the content on the web and redistributing it here. The content is being modified on your computer, more or less by you, although the program is doing it for you. However, IANAL, so don't blame me if you get used. :)

How about a class action suit? (1)

adrien (26080) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178241)

I suggest a class action suit on the part of all webmasters.

Accuse them of defacing our web sites.

Call them Evil Hackers and the FBI will surely arrest them.

Is there really a difference if the web site is defaced on the client side or the server side? To be more precise, the changes could be described as taking place between the two.

Although, yes, I admit, there are parallels, The point about client side ad filters does not apply here. If I choose to filter ads, I download the software and install it by choice, thus it is me who who has made the decision. In this case, it seems, the client side is not 100% informed about the decision, and it is a 3rd party who is making the changes. It is a question of informed decision and choice.

Alternatively, classify it as a virus, have the antivirus packages delete it, and arrest the authors for writing such code.

The should have at least used an opt-in rather than opt-out system. Oh, but yeah, nobody would have opted in.... Maybe that means it's a bad idea to begin with???


Point and Grunt

screenshot, please? (1)

adrien (26080) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178242)

Could somebody kindly put up a screenshot of a "modified" page? I am curious what these changes look like.

Point and Grunt

Dear Sirs (2)

adrien (26080) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178243)

Hello,

I was recently alerted to the fact that your company has been changing the content of my web site without my permission.

I hereby ask you to discontinue the modification of the content coming from my web site immediately.

I understand that these changes are taking place on the client side, but I see no legal or moral difference between this and if you had illegally gained access to my servers - the end result is the same, and should be considered so by the authorities.

I am currently in contact with my lawyers to discuss the possibility of taking legal action against you for defacing my web site and/or copyright infringement, or other crimes yet to be specified.

The domains in question are:

[my domains...]

I expect you to remove my domains from your list within 24 hours.

thank you,

Adrien Cater
address, etc.
bla bla bla...

Point and Grunt

It is really pertty noticable during the install (4)

asland (26316) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178245)

When you are installing kazaa, it defaults to a custom install with about 5 wierd programs beign selected. I managed to deselect them last night when I was stoned as fuck, but they aren't really described very well in the installation.

The way to avoid things like toptext is to always do custom installs, and always check through what you are installing.

Buyer Beware (3)

TFloore (27278) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178246)

Unfortunately, this is becoming a hazard of running free-as-in-beer commercial software in Windows.

After you install software like this, check to see what it added to your system. Look in the Startup group, look in the win.ini file, look in the appropriate place in the registry (sorry, I don't remember the exact key right now, someone will supply it in a reply maybe), and just check after your next reboot if there are any processes running that you don't remember from the last time you checked. (ctrl-alt-del in win9x, or task manager in nt/2k)

This is unfortunately simply becoming something you expect with windows freeware. It isn't free, you just pay for it in something other than direct cash payments.

Re:This begs the question (2)

prizog (42097) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178255)

See Nintendo v. Galoob for details. The Game Genie is hardware that alters Nintendo's copyrighted content. Tough.

Somebody Who's Cool (3)

Monthenor (42511) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178257)

Not the Odds song. Would somebody who's cool and bandwidth-laden like to take a few extensive Google searches and submit them to the opt-out link?
------------------------

Similar to BearShare (1)

bari (50009) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178267)

BearShare, one of the more popular Gnutella clients (for Windows anyway), also wants to install a bunch of advertising/promotional programs in its default install. I'm not really sure what they do, because I always do the custom install, but they're there.

The main problem is that these things are installed by default when people just click through the install program quickly, but it's really not hard to avoid them, and they are probably even listed in the Add/Remove Programs control panel.

One way of looking at it is that this is the cost of this new generation of freeware.

Average users don't notice (1)

kahuna720 (56586) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178275)

While /. tends to attract those who consider themselves the enlightened 31337, the fact is that most of the Great Unwashed who use the internet tend either not to notice such tactics, or even welcome them.



I know people who primarily use email, for example, to send "e-greetings" cards, animated cute baby gifs, etc., from places like Spamford Wallace's PassThisOn and their ilk, which generates tons of spam for the sender AND the recipient. They LIKE getting stuff in their email, even if consists entirely of bad advertising.



In that light, and in the current state of human culture we live in where advertising is ubiquitous, I don't see this as causing too much of an outrage among normal users, especially since this smartlink stuff is not as noticeable upon first glance as, say, X10 pop-under ads.

Whoa! (2)

babbage (61057) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178282)

Roblimo:
Plus there is a little matter of keeping ads apart from editorial material, which is one of those silly ethics things only journalists who care about their personal integrity may notice, but that upset us to the point of irrationality when we spot them.

Okay, who's the wise guy that told Rob about "ethics" and "integrity", eh? When did he learn about this? Has he put his new found knowledge of these fancy terms to actual use on, Slashdot, or does he just get in a huff when he sees other people violating them?

So much has changed here -- serves me right for skimming recently... :)

I love it -- the editor of a site with the profesisonalism of a high school 'zine writer complaining [even if validly] about some a company's lack of professionalism.

Pot, meet kettle. You two will get on grandly... :)

A better opt-out strategy (3)

yellowstone (62484) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178285)

  1. Start|Settings|Control Panel
  2. Add/Remove Programs
  3. Select "KaZaA".
  4. Remove
Alternatively,
format C:
if you're in a "take off and nuke them from orbit" kind of a mood.

--
I have no fin
no wing no stinger
no claw no camouflage
I have no more to say...

If they paid for it... (5)

medcalf (68293) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178287)

The problem from my point of view is that they are not paying me as a content owner to insert their advertising on my sites, nor are they providing me as a user with a benefit for having their software (such as free access to otherwise-paid sites). As such, they are simply taking from me either way - there is no quid pro quo. This is not theft in the classic sense, because I am not left without something I had before, but it is intrusive, abusive and rude.

-jeff

a quote (4)

TMB (70166) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178289)

From the SFC article:

"These companies are preying on us people who are into using computers, but not so tech savvy that we know what we're doing," Hoppe said.

It preys on people who are into using computers but don't know what they're doing. As much as I think these things and MicroSoftSmartOverUseOfCapitaliZationTags are evil, it does sound like a group of people waiting to be taken advantage of. I have trouble working up a lot of sympathy for an argument that analogizes well to "Those cops who give you fines for going through red lights are preying on us people who are into using cars, but not so automotively savvy that we know what we're doing."

As for its legality... as underhanded as it may be, it's probably legal. A piece of software you chose to install (though perhaps not realizing at the time that that was what you were doing) on your computer is adding a new function (though not one you necessarily want) to the way you browse the web. Functionally, it's pretty similar to JunkBuster.

[TMB]

I love KazaA... (1)

pcx (72024) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178293)

I love KazaA... It's the best of the gnutella offspring providing reliable results and more important I can actually download stuff without being putt on infinite hold (and if I am, the client starts looking for alternative connects).

However during the install there was ONE step that asked me to install a bunch of browser plugins and seeing has how the "install KazaA" software was perma checked and there were a bunch of plugins that looked pretty useless I simply unchecked them. The result is that my experience with KazaA has been remarkably pleasant.

I think it's unfortunate that Kazaa choses to squander their good will by installing stuff liket his on the unsuspeting, but in these days of declining internet revenue apparently even good companies with good products can't escape the sleeze of the worst of the Internet Advertizers.

There's a banner add in the client and when it flashes something I'm interested in I click on it. I don't begrudge them the ad, it's a good and worthwhile product. But I do agree installing browser plugins which are nothing more than ways to inflict ads on you even when you're on someone elses content is way beyond the bounds of good taste.

So I guess the moral is, download KaZaA, enjoy it, but pay extra special attention when you're installint the product. :-)

I can't get enough of the piggybacking install. (1)

dave-fu (86011) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178302)

Love it. It's the greatest!
Like how I inexplicably got a copy of AOL IM installed with Netscape 4.74 even after doing a custom, what I thought was bare minimum, install? It's lovely! Like how WMP and IE attach themselves like a cancer to Windows installations? (i like IE just fine, but loathe WMP and the security holes, useless functionality and bloat it brings with it)
If AOL wants to package its IM with Netscape or KaZaAaAZAAaaaAA010als0@aol.com wants to package its own ReLinkIFiEr 1.o with its software, that's fine. Just be up front about it and let me opt out of dumping 10 tons of crap on my computer to get to the tasty nougat center, mmmkay?
Easy does it!

Re:This begs the question (1)

iso (87585) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178306)

Well this program 'only' puts a yellow underline under certain keywords in the text. That's not really "altering" the content as the content is exactly the same (albeit with little yellow underlines). I think you'd have a tough time arguing against this on copyright grounds.

- j

Re:sheesh (1)

windex (92715) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178310)

Ah, look at that. A microsoft banner, a Akamai banner, *AND* an Abovenet banner, all on one page.

This comapny is the spawn of satan. Thanks. I figured it out in 10 seconds.

Adelphia customers, don't worry! (3)

Zaphod B (94313) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178313)

You won't have to worry about it if you're an Adelphia [adelphia.com] customer... if they find you using KaZaa, they'll cut you off [cnet.com] anyway and you won't have to worry about pop-up ads.


Zaphod B

Re:I feel better about this than if it had been MS (1)

peterarm (95041) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178315)

No, it will be harder. MS actually cares about their PR image somewhat (to the masses, not the /. crowd) and if mainstream media (NYT, WSJ) get pissed about something and rant in their op-ed pages, MS listens. Some two-bit con artists might not care. No matter what you say about MS, they're NOT two-bit...

this is becoming common (1)

jon_c (100593) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178331)

BearShare is also a add whore, it defaults to installing some addware apps, and when you deselect them is says "are you sure? this is how we make money you selfesh fuck!", i think the text might be a little different.

Download Accelorator also does this (i think).

-Jon

Re:I send you this link.. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178339)

Twitter is talking about junking up your computer with MS, Flash and yellow adverts. BARF.

Better you install a real OS, Apatche and FTP.

strange... (1)

esoteric0 (105786) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178340)

does anyone else find it strange that you have to opt out of this type of thing? wouldn't it make more sense to opt in, instead of every single person having to change thier web page just to avoid this kind of crap?

Trojan Horse? (2)

cybermage (112274) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178345)

Clearly, people who are downloading and installing the Kazan software are not expecting 'TopTen' to be installed as well. Sure, you don't have to install it, but you will by default.

I wonder how this is really any different from a kind of Trojan Horse style of crack. If they're not doing more to disclose this at install than a non-descript checkbox (e.g., including it in the license) then they should be charged, criminally, with cracking the computers of their users.

Downloading and installing free software should not give the software producer the right to do what they will to your computer. Sneaking it into the install process should be criminal if it isn't already.

Extra Heinous Bit (5)

cybermage (112274) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178349)

From the article:

If the highlighted Web site word was also a hyperlink, the TOPtext gives a choice of going to the original destination or the advertiser's site.

Holy hijacked surfers, Batman. It's bad enough that it changes your site in the eyes of the visitors, but screwing with your own navigation is over the top. It's one thing to turn normal text into links, but changing the links on a site is something else entirely.

These people need to be sued.

It's gonna happen (1)

WMNelis (112548) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178351)

Between these guys and MS, it sure looks like these things are destined to happen.

Re:Top Text links for IE Only!! (1)

ayden (126539) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178362)

I wish so too! All my options are worthless.

<Top Text Link>
"All your options are belong to us"
</Top Text Link>

Bruce Davis
UNIX Systems Administrator
Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products

Top Text links for IE Only!! (5)

ayden (126539) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178363)

You can opt out of this DURING THE INSTALL, which most people should have done anyhow. The easiest thing to do is to reinstall the product and OPT OUT then.

I don't use IE as my default browser any how.

Bruce Davis
UNIX Systems Administrator
Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products

Re:Morpheus (1)

thufir (129668) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178365)

FastTrack is a company that makes the FastTrack library. They also make a consumer product called Kazaa which uses the FastTrack lib. The lib is licenced to other consumer based products, like Grokster and Morpheus.

Bearshare (2)

Agthorr (135998) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178366)

Bearshare [bearshare.com], a Gnutella client, includes a similar piece of software called SaveNow. SaveNow doesn't alter the page in question, but it does pop-up context-sensitive advertisements in seperate browser windows.

This is a disturbing trend among free-to-download software.

-- Agthorr

more than this (5)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178369)

This is more than just altering the content. It is altering the content and making it appear as part of the original content.

This creates a false sense of attribution. This is what Ford claimed in it's case [2600.com] against 2600.

This also relates to the framing cases.

Re:Top Text links for IE Only!! (1)

Captain Kirk (148843) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178377)

Um - no. Do no bother. Start->control Panel->Add/Remove Programs: Toptexr->Remove.

Takes all of 10 seconds.

Re:Morpheus (1)

headonfire (160408) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178384)

I'll note that the missus installed Morpheus the other day. When trying to share only a part of her files, Morpheus instead chose to share EVERYTHING on her computer. What's more, it neglected to mention on installation that it would always automatically start up when the computer does, and does not put an icon into the system tray or make it in any way obvious that you are sharing your files...

So it managed to refuse to let her choose what she wanted to share, and didn't care to tell her that she was, in fact, sharing everything from the moment her computer was turned on, regardless of her feelings on the matter.

I distrust file sharing programs that do that...

Re:Morpheus (1)

headonfire (160408) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178385)

My, are we quick to harsh words. Perhaps you should set yourself up with a 5-10 minute editorial timer for each post.

Thinking about that, perhaps most of slashdot should do the same.

Morpheus (1)

Mr_Person (162211) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178386)

Morpheus [musiccity.com] is a program that appears to be compatible with Kazaa (on searches some usernames show up as user@kazaa and others as user@musiccity) and contains no spyware or text-altering annoyances. It has the ability to download from multiple users at once, resume downloads, search by category, etc. I've been using it for the past month or so and it's worked pretty well.
--

Re:Morpheus (3)

Mr_Person (162211) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178387)

Further searching on Google [google.com] show's that yep they're the same. Here's an article [mp3sneak.com] about the history of Music City and Morpheus. Also, a very informative OpenP2P article [openp2p.com] which details the server structure used by Kazaa and morpheus. Also interesting to note that both use FastTrack [fasttrack.nu] software to build their networks. According to the FastTrack website, their software is also used in another client, Grokster [grokster.com] (annoying pop-up warning).
--

Screenshot anyone? (2)

wishus (174405) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178394)

Can someone post a screenshot of a web page being presented with these links?

I would be especially interested in seeing www.goose24.org [goose24.org] (a site I'm involved with).

But Yahoo! or any other would be fine. I just want to see what these things look like.

wish
---

God this pisses me off (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178395)

No, not TopText (although that irritates me). It's this: "I both emailed and called TopText's vendor, San Francisco-based eZula, to ask if there was any way we could keep their TopText links from showing up on OSDN Web sites, including Slashdot."

DAMN IT OSDN. Keep your goddamn hands out of my browser!!! If I want to use TopText, it's my goddamn business, not yours. If I want to use their service on your web page, IT'S MY RIGHT. It's my computer. I can view your page any way I want. It's called "fair use".

Or has Slashdot suddenly decided that they will decide how I view their content?

Sorry for the strength of the wording of this post. But this is a great example of the evil of do-gooders who want to "only help us" to make the "right decisions".

Hell/Paved/Intentions.


--

Content transformation (2)

JamesOfTheDesert (188356) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178413)

My entire HTML page for my web site is my content, in its HTML form

Exactly. But folks surfing the Web don't actually *see* HTML, they see an interpretation, a rendering.

A web browser takes the HTML and uses it to perform some actions. There may be some general consensus on what the results should be, but there is no guarantee. In fact, it is well known that what a viewer sees can greatly vary from one browser (say, IE) to the next (lynx).

When lynx fails to render a page's background color or fancy font, does anyone complain that the content has been altered?

Unless there is some contractual agreement about how someone's HTML is to be rendered, I'd say the rendering tool (e.g. a browser) has carte blanche to do whatever. Hell, it's doing all the work.

Once you serve up HTML, you've lost control.

WinMx (1)

Yanna (188771) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178414)

I tried Kazaa, Morpheus, Limewire, and a good number of other programmes which names I can't remember. I couldn't stand any of them. I can't stand spyware and I can't stand programmes that forcefully sit on my startup menu without giving me the chance to disable such feature.

However, around a month ago I found WinMX. [winmx.com] It's by far the best one of its kind (at least for me). No popups, no compulsory startup, no spyware.


Why I deleted this software from my computer. (1)

atheos (192468) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178419)

I almost posted a story on this myself. I'm a developer for a Candle Company, and have spent the last few months finishing up the companies online shopping cart. Shortly after installing this software on my work machine, to my horror I saw links on my candle site directing me to another online business selling candles! It didn't take long to figure out what was going on with my pc, but if this trojan (yes, it's a trojan virus in my opinion) was installed on my wifes computer, she would be hopelessly stuck with it, not knowing what to do. I removed this software, and e-mailed the person who recommended it to me with my opinions. what a bunch of crap.

Re:Heck No. (1)

atheos (192468) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178420)

I really don't get why there's such a community uproar over link-insertion--either this, or IE's Smart Tags. The whole friggin' interweb was founded on the idea of the hyperlink--that you click on a term, and it takes you to other like terms
Yea, make this arguement for the sake of Knowledge and information, Not for commercial exploitation. I don't think the founders of the internet were interested in hyper socks and cd's, in the interest of Commerce.

Slashdotting (2)

scott1853 (194884) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178421)

Ok, I really hate it when I site I want to look at gets /.ed, but what the hell, lets flood their mail server and send every domain name we can to that support address listed above.

Heck No. (2)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178430)

If I go out and buy a book, and then slap stickers all over the cover art, or tear out every third page, I can still sell it. Once I buy the books for me to sell, assuming no contracutal obligation to the contrary, I can do whatever I want with them ("first sale" doctrine) and then go out and sell them again. (Assuming I'm not making "derivitive works", but, well, that's a whole different ball of wax.)

I really don't get why there's such a community uproar over link-insertion--either this, or IE's Smart Tags. The whole friggin' interweb was founded on the idea of the hyperlink--that you click on a term, and it takes you to other like terms.

Yes, central control over this by one corporation (like MS) is bad. Certainly, add-driven scumbal LCD advertisers using this like the article states is bad.

But the idea itself is good. As long as users can turn it off (or rather, have to turn it on) or redirect who controls the darn thing, the dot.com mentality web designers can just grow up and learn to deal with it.

In any case, IANAL, and even if I was one you should never take legal advice from stangers on the internet, like me

Complain to the advertisers (2)

cith (216335) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178439)

Has anyone tried complaining to the advertisers using the service? I'm sure that if BMG, Frost, etc were made aware that their ads through this service were damaging their reputation with existing customers, they might reconsider sponsoring toptext. No sponsors, no toptext.

News for windows users? (3)

BlowCat (216402) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178441)

If you have a popular file-sharing program called KaZaA
I think it's time to add one more /. section - news for Windows users. I would like to exclude such stories from my homepage. Why? Because I don't run Windows. I already know that installing closed-source software is like trusting your root password to Mr. CEO of MegaCorp, Inc. That's why I don't.

Those assholes (1)

Cirvam (216911) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178444)

Damn I was wondering how ads kept popping up on my friends computer. Hmm, wonder if its a seprete installer or if the EULA allows them to install 3rd party software with their software. Anyone know?

Domain lockout (1)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178451)

Okay people, no worries, i ensured that the internet is now free from those nasty TopText links you all are fitting about:

dear eZula

After reading some information about emailing the domains i want you blok, i ask you to remove all TopText links from the following domains:

.com .net .org .gov .edu

and of course the list goes on and on and on.
hey, they didn't say anything about toplevel domains, did they? :)

Okay, its a troll, but i'm interrested in the reply ;)

Re:Top Text links for IE Only!! (1)

spliff (225977) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178455)

Yeah, the boy's got it right. Considering the fuss about TOS and such, if you just blaze through on the "Next" button you're an idiot who deserves what you get. The option is fairly obvious

kazaa blocking slashdot traffic (1)

macsox (236590) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178460)

apparently, in a typical display of corporate bravery, kazaa is blocking traffic from the slashdot link above.

you can get there by typing the url in your browser, however.

I feel better about this than if it had been MS (1)

Bonker (243350) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178462)

It will be a lot easier to stop these guys than it will Bill G.

Re:Buyer Beware (1)

Daemon_az (244548) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178463)

I don't care if "free" program installs bunch of crap, what pisses me off is when program I PAID for installs it (kids game on windows throw bunch of pronfighter software on desktop). I like my desktop clean - keep your dirty hands off it!!!

Re:This begs the question (1)

MasterOfDisaster (248401) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178464)

Still, even if it is "only" a yellow underline it's still CHANGING your content, and still calling it your own. coppyright grounds would be hard to fight this on, but i think there are things you could fight it on. since your users would expect anything on your page to come from you (can any lawyers comment on this?)

Does this affect Morpheus too? (2)

MasterOfDisaster (248401) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178465)

I'm wondering, does MuiscCity Morpheus (afik, KaZaA with MusicCity's logos all over it) also install TopText? and if they place their ads on my site, is there any legal action i can take, or is there any way to collect royalties from them? (Hey, if you want ad space on my site, you pay me.)

Re:This begs the question (2)

tanpiover2 (249666) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178466)

Similarly if you try to amalgamate several movies onto a DVD, or maybe make a DVD of your favorite movie scenes. Or suppose you want to make your own eBook with some of your favorite passages?

Oh, wait...

Re:more than this (2)

baptiste (256004) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178470)

Exactly - for example - a user, dumb enough to install somethign like this, is viewing the corporate HR web page or other offical page and sees links to outside content. This user could assume that the corporation was somehow recommending or approved of the sites the links went to. Talk about an opening for litigation!

This begs the question (3)

baptiste (256004) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178471)

Regarding junk like this - are there legal ramifications? If a website's content is copyrighted and this software ALTERS the content before it is presented to the user - are they liable in any way for mucking up the web site content? Doesn't copyright law prevent alteration of copyrighted material?

Re:This begs the question (1)

barfy (256323) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178472)

Lawyers love the slippery slope. If a user has software that alters the appearance of the page (like a browser) is the software or user guilty of a copyright violoation... No.

If I hijack your content to make it look as part of my publication is that a copyright violation... Yes.

If I place content in your content as a price of service... (free email, both in the email stream and in presentation) is that a copyright violation.. No...

If a user runs a product that ADD'S information to the copyrighted information is that a copyright violation. Probably not.

If my audience for my material is taken away or is monetized without my permission or compensation, is that a copyright violation. No. But it probably IS a civil violation, and therein lies the real complaint.

Latest version (1)

To0n (256520) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178473)

I've been using KaZaA since it got popular (after napster) and I just recently upgraded to the latest version last night. Due to license agreements, you can opt not to install top text, as well as the other "enhancement" spyware that kazaa tries to install as well.

If your so inclined not to have spy software installed from P2P programs such as KaZaA and Audiogalaxy, I'd suggest using Ad Aware [davecentral.com] to find and remove the offending programs/cookies/etc

Marketers, is there nothing beneath them? (2)

mikethegeek (257172) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178474)

Looks like marketers are determined to replace lawyers as the most despised profession in American... It's apparent that there is NO lowball, invasive, offensive tactic beneath them.

Marketers have no qualms about calling you during dinner, calling you on your cell phone, stuffing your e-mail inbox with SPAM, wasting your fax machine paper with ads, etc, etc. This is one reason why I dumped my land-line phone, 90% of the calls I got were marketers. And most marketers will NOT allow you to be polite and get rid of them, they FORCE you to be rude.

On the positive side, my eye-hand coordination has improved drastically since I've been forced to learn how to rapidly close pop-up windows that spawn more pop ups when closed, etc.

I know some will say that such adware is the price you pay for those services (like Kazaa), but I do not think this is an ethical way to support a product. Quit giving away the service and start charging a reasonable fee instead.

The more invasive and offensive marketing becomes, the more rapid the resistance to it will increase...

Re:This begs the question (1)

Mister Transistor (259842) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178476)

Disclaimer: IANAL Subject: Ad redirectors Gist: Isn't it a federal crime to screw with the data on someone's computer without the owner's permission? This seems tantamount to a virus or trojan altering web content recieved locally, without the owner's knowledge or permission. This might be nullified by the tiny 6-point shyster type in their "license" agreement verbiage, however, if you "agree" to let them screw with your stuff. If not, we may have an solution. Solution: Have the authors/producers arrested and drawn and quartered, per the new anti-hacker laws.

Re:This begs the question (1)

geomcbay (263540) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178479)

As another poster pointed out above, an even more obvious parallel exists between this and JunkBuster. There's really no technical difference between the changes to the final presentation of a webpage made by JunkBuster or by this software.

I think that 'sneakware' (all types of software that is bundled with other software that does things users probably wouldn't want being done if they really realized what had been installed) is unethical and bad business for plenty of reasons, but attacking it based on this 'copyright' issue is opening a whole can of worms that would outrage the typical Slashdot user if the shoe were on the other foot.

Re:Does this affect Morpheus too? (1)

TheOnlyCoolTim (264997) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178480)

I use Morpheus and I have never seen any yellow ad links. It does however spawn popup ads at random times...

Tim

Registry key (1)

BillX (307153) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178487)

There are several Registry keys in various locations (system-wide, per-user, etc.) that can run programs. Probably the easiest way to get them is search for all keys named "Run" and "RunServices", deleting unwanted entries as you go. (For anyone who's interested, I have a semi-complete Windows Trash App Removal [cexx.org] tutorial online.)

--

Damnit, ALL my site's links are yellow! (1)

BillX (307153) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178488)

Now what? Complain to $name_of_company_that_keeps_changing_its_name and wait to be removed at their mercy... or change back to red links, and get several complaints a day (apparently, color FF0000 is not very readable on black background, especially under some forms of color-blindness...)

--

Good question.... legal info? (1)

BillX (307153) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178489)

IANAL, but I recall that typically, a Transform Engine (Proxomitron, Swedish Chef Filter, Game Genie, regexp filter, Babelfish...) that algorithmically transforms copyrighted data is legal. But if I'm providing the content free, and they're advertising on it for profit, don't I have some claim? (For one thing, where's my cut?)

But seriously, the legal argument brings up an interesting point. They claim what they're doing is perfectly legal, but if I released something
(even a legitimate stand-alone app that isn't quietly installed with other software)
that removes or overwrites the ads on their software, they'd haul me into court so fast my eyeballs would stretch. Anyone remember "AIMazing"?

--

(AIMazing - I should clarify) (1)

BillX (307153) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178490)

Before getting whallopped by moderator-types...should clarify that the AIMazing authors weren't hauled into court as such, just bought out by AOL and forced to un-exist the program.

--

maybe I'm dump.. (1)

nick-less (307628) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178492)

KaZaA claims over 5.4 million Web users have downloaded their software so far
but I never heard of this fine software

Quit your whining. (1)

slcdb (317433) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178498)

To all the whiners out there...

Pay more attention to what you're installing on your computer!

It's always so easy to blame the other guy for our own shortcomings.

Re:Top Text links for IE Only!! (For Now...) (1)

darrylballantyne (447044) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178512)

It's only IE now, but it's also only a matter of time before it's ported to Netscape/Mozilla etc. - you're safe now, but give it time.
----------
Darryl Ballantyne

Slashdot Them By Phone (2)

darrylballantyne (447044) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178514)

Another effective way of having your site removed (and a more immediate one) would be to call them. Their number, as listed on their web site, is 415-558-7777.

Maybe that would drive them nuts enough to rethink their strategy.


----------
Darryl Ballantyne

yes, but... (1)

Johnny5000 (451029) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178520)

What happens if it starts linking to content people find offensive?
What if it inserts links to adult sites when a kid is using the computer, for example?

When I make a website, if I want to show ads on it, I'll show ads. I'll chose who can get links and whatnot.

Maybe I want to make a website about how bad Nike is with the sweatshops, and next thing I know I've got yellow links all over my new website pointing to Nike sites saying that 8 year olds making shoes is a good thing.

I'd be pretty pissed if my content started getting dilluted like that.

-J5K

Biting the hand... (1)

Ratbert42 (452340) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178524)

We learned about TopText (which was called HOTText until the end of last week) because a number of Slashdot readers submitted a San Francisco Chronicle story about it.

No. You learned about TopText last week, but the SlashDot regular was treated to movie Katzviews, 8 rounds about Dmitry, a couple repeat articles, and two dozen stories we'd read 6 hours earlier on Yahoo!.

Re:strange... (1)

Derkec (463377) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178531)

That's excactly the point. Every single person won't change their site. Since that is the case, lots of sites will participate de facto. More ads are sold this way. They are being jerks, but they know how to make money at it. Let's see what can be done to end them.

Such a grey area. (1)

telbij (465356) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178535)

This is insidious technology which we obviously don't want on our systems, but even if law makers decide to do something about this type of aggressive advertising, what kind of legislation would adequately (and morally) address the issue.

It seems pretty obvious that inserting your own advertising links into other peoples web pages is wrong, but manipulating data is what computers are all about. Should a browser-maker have charges brought against them because they render certain pages incorrectly, thus defaming the page author?

Like I said, blatant ad links is obviously BAD, but where can the line practically be drawn?

Re:Heck No. (2)

telbij (465356) | more than 12 years ago | (#2178536)

I really don't get why there's such a community uproar over link-insertion--either this, or IE's Smart Tags. The whole friggin' interweb was founded on the idea of the hyperlink--that you click on a term, and it takes you to other like terms.

The problem is that you stick an ad in a trusted content provider's web page, and the non-geeks think the link is part of that page, and hence has something to do with what they're looking at.

With the vast amounts of crap on the Internet, good sites that provide good links are even more valuable. Supporting this kind content modification by random companies means that you can no longer control what you publish. You can't design a well thought out navigation system that helps the user find what they need, because it's fouled up by algorithm driven links that waste the users time, and ultimately may lead them to believe that the site in question is just trying to make money off adds when they actually may be providing quality, free information.

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