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Link Theft by Carol Hawkey
This article was published on Saturday 19 January, 2002.

If you have installed Microsoft's SmartTags, or KaZaA's Ezulu's TopText, or GATOR, or Surf+, or MeltingPoint, BEWARE and BE AWARE!! These are viral-link-programs, and while the intention was to be of benefit to consumers, they have been found to have some very evil side-effects.

These services sell keywords to most anyone, but it is usually folks with BIG MONEY. The words they buy are common words, like 'shop' and 'cart' and 'credit'. Once the viral-link-program is installed on your system, it will scan your incoming webpages for any of the purchased words. If found, the viral-link-program will replace the plain word with a hyper-link of the same word. These hyperlinks will go to the place where the purchaser of the word desires. They are not paying me to place their links on KidsLearnToSew pages, nor did I ask them to, nor do I approve of common words like 'r-a-t-e-s' being sent to a pornographic site behind my back. Notice I misspelled it just in case you have one of these beasties lurking on your computer.

For instance, A-Huge-Bank might buy the word 'credit' from Ezulu. If you have KaZaA's TopText installed, every webpage you view will have the word 'credit' underlined in gold, will highlight itself with yellow when you put your mouse over it, and if you click on the word, will (likely) go to A-Huge-Bank's credit card application page. Now I am just using A-Huge-Bank as an example, I do not know if they have purchased any words from any of the above mentioned systems, or what they might or might not link to.

Because, as a matter of fact, the very words 'credit card application' have been bought by Juniper Bank!!!! {as of 25Aug2001} And if you have KaZaA installed with TopText (I do; gotta keep up with what it really does to my sites, I just ignore the links it creates) you will see that 'credit card application' is underlined in gold, will highlight in yellow, and the alt tag (hold the curser still for a moment over the words) clearly designates Juniper Bank as the recipient of the link click. Fortunately, TopText does not OVERLAY links like Surf+, as you can see by the blue 'credit card' which I have coded to go to our catalog page as a test example. Since TopText did not find 'credit card application' unlinked in that last situation, it did not turn in into a gold link. [update jun2004: the page mentioned is no longer available on our site.]

I have noticed if you click the 'refresh' button in your browser one time, the links will go away.

Now if I have words 'shipping r-a-t-e-s' on one of our KidsLearnToSew shopping cart pages, and you click on that word, you would expect to be taken to a page that would describe our shipping policies, methods, and costs. And indeed, without a viral-link-program installed, the link does exactly that. Now, if you DO have one of the viral-link-programs installed, the normal blue-underline indicating a valid link will now be gold, and you could be taken somewhere ENTIRELY different! Even BAD!

Read more about BAD here.

and even more here.

You can also view the target of a link in the status bar of your browser if you have 'view status' turned on in your browser options. It will show the name of the place that the link goes to as confirmation you are going where you intend. The fake links do not register with the browser status bar, the real ones do. Unless of course you understand where that gold/purple/yellow/whatever link is REALLY going and you really want to go there. I have no control over whether or not you install any of the above viral-link-programs on your computer, indeed, some people like them. I have no control over who buys what word for which purpose. I can only stop so much link theft from happening on our pages, as each new viral-link-program has new technology behind it, and that means more coding for every webpage, and that means longer loading times for you. And that would be stopping the special links from showing for people who really do want them. I personally think that these 'scumware' products are the most insidious pernicious kinnids ever created. But it's a free world, and if you want them, that's your business. I just don't want you getting mad at me for choices you've made. Are they BAD? Are they GOOD? Who can say for sure? All I can say is, BEWARE and BE AWARE.

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