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Restricting Site Access to Firefox - While Displaying AdSense Referral Button

Is that Within AdSense Terms?

     
6:55 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Just read a news item about a group of indeterminate size calling themselves "Explorer Destroyer". They're pushing Firefox by encouraging webmasters to redirect Explorer users to a page telling them they must switch to Firefox in order to view the content (and of course have an AdSense Firefox referral button on the page).

Please let's not get into the question of which browser is better. There's a separate forum where the Browser War can take place. I'm wondering about AdSense and whether...

1. Is forcing users to install Firefox in order to access your site within the AdSense TOS?

2. Could the adoption rate be high enough to make up for the large number of people who will just hit the Back button because they can't or won't switch? My gut feeling is that in the long run this would result in a net loss for the publisher.

7:09 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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If I was forced to change my browser just to view a site , I would say-' What Cheek! ' and hit the back button..

I am sure visitors to a site would hate to be pressured into doing something they donot want to do ... unless the site is extraordinary and promises really big!....

7:14 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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i really don't think any reputable site or company would resort to tactics like that

forcing prospective customers or visitors to change their website software would surely spell doom for them anyway

7:24 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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i really don't think any reputable site or company would resort to tactics like that

Well then you would be wrong as many banks only support Explorer and punt all the others.

Turnabout is fair play IMO.

7:42 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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That's more of a technical issue. Plain HTML and a CGI script don't cut it when it comes to security (at least I wouldn't trust it). For that reason, they must resort to other means, like Java or ActiveX. Java on IE can be quite different as Java on FF, and the platform it runs can also cause troubles. For that reason, a lot of banks just say "we only support IE on Windows", because the majority of users uses that.
7:55 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Why not Cakkie?

In fact I would say the opposite. If you run anything security critical on the client (using Java of ActiveX) you are almost inviting tampering.

On the other hand if you use HTML forms, SSL or TLS and rely on server side security you would be much safer.

Also it is probably a good idea to turn off ActiveX for security, encouraging people to turn it on so they can do their banking raises security risks.

Similarly, using IE for security reasons? With its track record?

I agree with incrediBILL: sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

8:03 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Is forcing users to install Firefox in order to access your site within the AdSense TOS?

Sounds more like they're forcing their users to leave.

Anyway, I'd have to know more about it, but ti doesn't seem like it's against TOS, unless the redirect page says, "hey, click this Google/FF ad before you download FF."

8:13 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Would it still be in the TOS the choice was either to install Firefox or buy a subscription to the site?
8:36 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I had a quick look at the TOS and the only thing that this might fall foul of is the ban on displaying referral buttons on an error page: clause 5. (v). I doubt Google would consider the sort of pages explorer destroyer are suggesting to be violations of this as it appears to be aimed at web server HTTP error pages.

This could be a pretty good idea for some sites.

What Explorer Destroyer suggests is that you do any one of:

  1. Have a fairly obtrusive "download Firefox message" across the top of the screen.
  2. Have a splash screen that promotes Firefox if the visitor is using IE
  3. Serve IE users only with a page that promotes Firefox.

In each the download link is a Google Firefox referral button.

I would be very nervous about using the last option but I am seriously considering the other two.

Yes it would annoy some visitors but the same applies to ads, subscriber only content and any other way of monetising traffic. If the conversions are high enough its worth it.

If your site is one that visitors really want, even approach 3 might be worth it.

I am really impressed by the the ingeniousness of the ideas and the range of tools: they have a configurable Drupal module, a Squid configuration, and javascripts.

11:58 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I think it's within the TOS, only #3 is shaky (as others have stated).

There's a semi-popular site (it's popular, but it's no cnn.com) that blocked everyone who used a popular ad-blocker in mozilla. It's a site with a pretty unique niche that's not filled well by other sites, so I succumbed (by installing a different version of said ad-blocker). I often have to open up IE just to view a site, then again us Mozilla users are used to that. IE-only users are not, so they may not react as well.

If you want to make money from this, probably not a good idea unless you just refuse to show any regular ads, in which case it's this or nothing. If you feel passionate enough about this, then go for it. It's your site after all, you can decide who can and cannot view it. Kinda goes against everything I personally believe in (I want to make my site MORE accessible, not less), but eh. I'd have no problem displaying something that stated "this site is optimized for Mozilla, click here to download." We all know what optimized for IE usually means (it probably works fine in Mozilla, but they don't care enough to make sure), might as well "optimize" for Mozilla instead.

1:45 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I do believe that such page is in violation with the TOS. The TOS states that each web page that contains a referral button must also contain other content related to the site.

I don't see how a message stating you must install FF in order to get on the site, can be related to the content of the site itself. My guess is that it's just an aggressive attempt to get users into going through the conversion process.

2:25 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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It's the updated version of "This website is best viewed with XYZ"?...
4:36 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Could the adoption rate be high enough to make up for the large number of people who will just hit the Back button because they can't or won't switch? My gut feeling is that in the long run this would result in a net loss for the publisher.

No kidding. How many sites are so essential that users will install a new browser just to view them? This reminds me of MSN 10 years ago, when it was just moving from a proprietary Win95-based platform to the Web (except that MSN's content could at least be viewed in a non-MSN browser, albeit without the custom menus).

4:51 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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jomax for your first question I would say no it isn't.

I think your word of force is malused. The user doesn't have to access your site, it is your site and you can do what you want. I would say as long as you don't have the ads on the page that requests you get FF then no big deal.

It is the same as having a site all in flash, if I don't have flash I can't see the site, are they forcing me to have flash? No. But if I want to see the site I have to use the technology specified by them. Same with if all the menus were javascript drop downs and I have my javascript turned off, again they aren't forcing it on me, just I can't view the site without it.

Your gut is right in #2 rather then install a new browers many users will look for a site that will aloow them access without jumping through hoops.

Also 'unsavy' users are wary of anything they don't know and many will be unwilling to switch. I like the idea but it won't be any of my sites that jump on board.

On my tech savy site from today here is the split

11668 41.62% Microsoft Internet Explorer
9855 35.15% Netscape

Almost up to 50/50 but I have seen IE come in second for some days in the past, just not today.

If they are going to force a browser on people, I would say only accepting FF is not good, they should just force a standards complient browser on them.

IE... IMHO is the only one that doesn't fit this requirement. But Seamonkey, Opera and others would be ok as well.

[edited by: Demaestro at 4:58 pm (utc) on April 26, 2006]

4:57 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Thinking about it further, I think the main type of site it would work for is one of those funny-picture websites with some extremely sought-after (but not adult) content.

I don't see how a conventional website could hope to use this strategy profitably, though. Plus even if it's within Google's TOS, it occurs to me that it might generate a lot of complaints to the Google search engine people re "cloaking".

5:00 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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if I don't have flash I can't see the site, are they forcing me to have flash? No.

We're developing a certain type of interactive functionality for the site that we think a lot of visitors will want, and we're giving it away free (an initiative following Markus' million-dollar thread). Although we have a developer writing most of it in php, we are deliberately using javascript as part of the system. This means that if they want our free functionality, they'll have to turn javascript on (and therefore see the ads).

This is obviously different to the situation described by the OP. We're not preventing them from reading our site if they don't have javascript, but we are tying the additional functionality to displaying adsense.

5:00 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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It can't be called cloaking though if you come to a site and all you get is a page telling you that you need to change browers to continue, if that page has no ads on it then I can't see the problem. It wouldn't be until you gained access to the site that you would see the ads.

Again I see no difference between requiring javascript or flash and requiring FF.

5:05 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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blue, I meant that if some 'poor' webmaster did his entire site in flash, even content, then yes I would have to have flash to see the site.

So it isn't different then what the OP is talking about because this would prevent me from reading the site. Same with javascript... Sure you as a good webmaster have work arounds on your site to account for me having javascript turned off, but not everyone does this, nor do they have to.

Forcing a technology on someone to view a site is nothing new. Javascript, flash, browser, they are all peices of software used to retreve content from the internet some are required some aren't, but again that is up to the webmaster.

I don't think it is a good idea. But I really don't think it violates the TOS.

5:31 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Re cloaking: There's a bit of a grey area, but if the user sees something substantially different from what the SE spider is shown and displays as a snippet, then that's cloaking. If you show Googlebot the real content in order to get good SE rankings, then that will generate complaints and Google may decide to take action.

I don't necessarily disagree with what you're saying about Flash and JS, although one obvious difference is that those technologies are supported by a substantial majority of human surfers, whereas Firefox is used by a small minority.

6:45 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I agree that Firefox is used by a small minority and that is why I would take it a step further and go for any good browser in other words not IE.

Again though I am not about abondoning users based on their brower preference and if your site is a source income then I would say doing it would be plain silly.

Your cloaking point is execellent and the more I digest it, the more I agree. It is too bad you can't define to Google the site requirements. For example a meta tag that says things like:

name="requirements" value="Javascript x.x"
name="requirements" value="Flash x.x"

This way Google and other SE could give info to the user that they will need flash or what have you to get the full experience of the site.

7:17 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Yesterday it was the 20th year the .nl country top level domain existed. It was the first country domain in existence. At that time when the first domains appeared and we were all dialing in with our terminal software, the "www" sites told us we have to install a "browser". At that time I thought installing a piece of software to view your content, NO WAY. There's not been much of a change in those last 20 years I guess.
8:04 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Hmm. I'm not quite sure what happened twenty years ago in April 1986, but the Web was not invented until years after that and it's hard to imagine almost anybody using a browser before circa 1994.
5:56 am on Apr 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I remember using the internet around 94-95. Maybe sooner, but details are getting fuzzy the older I get. That was when gopher, Archie, Veronica, and Jughead were popular. As far as the "web", we just used lynx. To me it was inferior to the nice gopher interface. Around 96-97 I started to use Netscape.

While we're walking down memory lane, I can remember when it could take a day or two for an email to reach its destination. I could only get about two emails in to some of my cyber friends in a school week. Send on Monday, they'd get it Wednesday, I get the response on Friday, and repeat. Yup, email was about as fast as Priority Mail, maybe Express Mail if you were lucky. Now I get upset when it takes more than a few seconds to get a confirmation email.

What were we talking about again?

8:07 am on Apr 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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From July 16 through July 22, 1994, pieces of an object designated as Comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter

Someone at my institute pulled me away to see this in Mosaic. :)

9:46 pm on Apr 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Depedning on how much news this makes in the coming days, the possibility exists that even if it were 100% complaint with the AdSense TOS now, it may not be for long.

There are only a handful of articles spidered to Google news about this, but the very first one in my search wrongly creditted Google with creation of this new script/campaign.

Most articles have the story correct, but the avg reader could still come out thinking that this script/drive/etc is actually endorsed by Google.
At least one author did just that, and then spread that mis-information in her article... she actually says the "Explorer Destroyer" campaign was launched by Google themselves.

Even though Google may have their eyes on MS, considering the tone these guys take towards MS, I can't imagine Google letting it continue as-is if it gets more attention.

6:36 am on Apr 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Why should Google not want this to happen?

They want people to switch to Firefox + Google Toolbar, this makes it happen, why should they have a problem with it.

9:57 am on Apr 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

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They absolutely want it to happen, and there is obviously no love lost between MS & Google.

There was some unclear reporting about who is created this script/campaign, with at least one source wrongly crediting Google for it. A visit to the sites presents the campaign as borderline hateful/malicious, and definitely unprofessional.

Even if it's exactly what Google wants, which it is.... it's not the best P.R. move to endorse publicly, or let people wrongfully credit your for something so polarizing.

I did preface my comment with it all depending on how much news coverage this received. Given the fact that it's already been around for nearly 6 months with little coverage, it's probably something that will go back to the world of the realtively unknown and Google will secretly applaud. However, if it continues to gain coverage and that coverage continues to wrongfully credit Google as it's creator... it's something that a lot of people will think negatively about considering the way the campaign is presented. I probably overreatced in stating that Google may ban such activity, but they would surely do what they could to limit what bad P.R. would come their way.... which could be as simple as issuing a press release clearing up any confusion about who it's creator is.