Facebook's Third Biggest Advertiser Was a Spammer

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

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An interesting post by Matt Cutts from January 17th pointed out that a company called Make-My-Baby, which was the third biggest source of advertising revenue for Facebook, is in the SPAM business.

According to Cutts, the company produced a large volume of advertisements to lure Facebook users to a site where they were prompted to install a toolbar plugin called Zugo.

The Zugo toolbar was touted as way to “present an enhanced experience”. Once installed, the toolbar set the computer's search engine default to Bing, and Make-My-Baby then took a cut of any revenue generated through user clicks on advertisements.

Cutts writes of the Zugo toolbar:

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
Okay, I'll stop for the night. Except I'll just mention makemeold.com too, which looks like the same people. I guess partnering with Bing is better than their old scheme, which apparently hit up cell phone owners with auto-recurring fees of $10-$20 each month...

Zugo was a Microsoft Bing affiliate. The attention Cutt's article and another by Marshall Kirkpatrick apparently were enough for Facebook and Microsoft to immediately take action against the company.

Cut updated his original post on January 18th with the following:

New info:

 - Microsoft has terminated its relationship with one of these publishers (it's tricky to get visibility into the precise companies involved).

- make-my-baby.com and makemeold.com are no longer returning content.

- Facebook says "make-my-baby is not an advertiser at all on Facebook and any affiliates that try to push people there we would shut down."

It seems unlikely that Facebook and Microsoft would be completely clueless as to the unsavory nature of Make-My-Baby and MakeMeOld's business practices given the level of revenue they generated for the companies.

Maybe the money was good, but the publicity was not. Sometimes it just takes a few good bloggers to keep multi-billion dollar companies on the straight and narrow.

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