Splog Alert

Splog Alert

Splogs--bogus blog websites containing gibberish and advertisements--are sand in the machine of the Internet, warns a science journalist, and could cripple the online world.

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2m 3sec

The source: “Spam + Blogs = Trouble” by Charles C. Mann, in Wired, Sept. ­2006.

With all the hype surrounding the rapidly expanding blogosphere, a world where anybody can write interminably on anything, it may come as a surprise that something far less familiar or friendly is growing even faster: the ­splogo­sphere.

Splogs are sand in the machine of the Internet, and they could cripple the online world, warns Charles C. Mann, a science journalist. A splog (from “spam blog”) is a bogus blog website containing nothing but gibberish and advertisements. The gibberish is full of keywords carefully selected to lure users of search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

Sploggers work on the principle that once Web surfers arrive at their site, a few will click on one of the accom­panying adver­tisements. Each click sends a few cents into the splogger’s bank account. And since any one splogger can run thousands of splogs, the scam can apparently be rather lucrative. One splog partnership claimed $71,136.89 in earnings from August to October ­2005.

To be sure, Google and its search engine peers are rushing to fight off the splogs, teaching their search engines to distin­guish between legitimate blogs and spam. It’s a tricky business; computers just aren’t as good as people are at recognizing junk. For every tweak Google makes in its search algorithms, the sploggers tweak back, with a protracted “Google dance” the result.

More ominous possibilities are raised by other techniques sploggers employ to snare Web surfers, such as using ­robo-­software to implant links to their sites in the comment sections of legitimate blogs. “Great point,” the fake lead might read. “For more on this issue, click here.” Some heavily trafficked blogs, such as Insta­pundit and Talking Points Memo, don’t allow readers to post their own responses to their sites’ ­articles, in part to evade the sploggers.

That represents a grave wound, since interactivity and ­user-­generated content are key attractions of the blogosphere. But it’s not just the interminable talkers who may be affected, Mann notes. The whole promise of the emerging vision of what’s called Web 2.0 is that people in their professional and personal lives will be able to interact, share, and learn from others using new technologies on the Internet. A plague of splogs could strangle this possibility. At the moment, however, splogs are not much more than an annoy­ance, and one that savvy Web ­surfers can surely ­dodge.

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