When Facebook, Microsoft, and a mysterious website known as Make-My-Baby go to town, everyone wins. Everyone, that is, except for us.
The company uses a fairly simple affiliate marketing technique that is not only spammy but also potentially dangerous. It lures people in via Facebook ads… a lot of them. Only AT&T and Match.com contribute more to the $1.86 billion in yearly ad revenue that Facebook receives. Once visitors arrive at the site, they are prompted to install a toolbar plugin to “present an enhanced experience” for their users.
At this point, you should run away.
Once installed, the Zugo toolbar is embedded like a tick. There are websites and tutorials available specifically to help people get rid of the plugin.
As a Microsoft Bing affiliate, the plugin sets the default search engine to Bing. Ad revenue that is generate by clicks on sponsored links is then shared with the company that runs Make-My-Baby.
Facebook makes money. Bing increases market share and makes money. The mystery company makes money (apparently a lot of it if they can afford to be the #3 advertiser on Facebook).
Google’s Matt Cutts pointed it out last night on Buzz:
The “terms and conditions” link [on Make-my-baby.com] takes you to http://mmb.bingstart.com/terms/ which has phrases like “If Chrome (“CR”) is installed on your PC we may change the default setting of your home page on CR to Bingstart.com.”
I also noticed this phrase in the Zugo toolbar section: “To uninstall the Toolbar, please visit the Toolbar FAQ ( http://www.zugo.com/toolbar/faq/ ).” Sadly, that url is a broken link. It looks like a few people have had trouble uninstalling the Bing/Zugo toolbar, according to pages like http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/questions/746034 or http://mymountain.blogspot.com/2010/03/how-to-remove-bingzugo-toolbar-hijack.html
If make-my-baby.com is Facebook’s 3rd biggest advertiser, I wonder how many people are installing this software without reading the fine print that says “Installing the toolbar includes managing the browser default search settings and setting your homepage to bing.com” ?
With the scam exposed, it is likely only a matter of time before Facebook discontinues allowing the advertiser. It brings up a concern that is present on any self-serve advertising platform – who can we trust. Facebook attempts to monitor spam on links that are transmitted through Facebook, even blocking j.mp links last month because of the prevalence of spam. How, then, did they miss this from their 3rd largest advertiser?
Or did they?