AIT Aims To Burst Google’s Bubble

    December 19, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

“This is the second time the bubble bursts.” The austere warning from AIT CEO Clarence Briggs seemed like an alarmist’s rendition of reality. But then he said, “It’s easier to join it than it is to stand up and fight it.” And he was right.

If these affiliate networks that were pulling in dollars hand over fist through readily available automated click-fraud software like he saidif you really could make yourself invisible and scam the industry out of millionswhy bother with a lawsuit?

AIT is suing a company that pulls in monthly 20 times what AIT brings in a year. David, meet Goliath. AIT, meet Google.

Figuring out exactly what Briggs is talking about is not easy. AIT took over the lead for Click Defense in a class-action lawsuit against Google alleging the search advertising company does nothing to combat click-fraud. The suit alleges that a good percentage of Google’s earnings comes from people scamming the industry.

And there are websites that promote this behavior. I-Faker is one of them.

“I-FAKER sends as many unique fake hits a day as your server can handle. Using PHP, it routes HTTP get requests through a massive list of anonymous proxy servers which can be defined by you. Even banners on your site get impressions! This is the most advanced software of its kind. It is not only a fake hit generator, but it can in conjunction with your ad tracker improve your site profits. Our fake traffic script is absolutely one of its kind on the web.”

How does this work exactly? It may look like this page that Briggs mentioned, that appears to use a PHP script to do exactly that type of routing.

“We can’t tell what [linkz] is clicking on,” said Briggs, “but it’s clicking on something.”

The phenomenon may be a fraudulent offshoot of what John Battelle calls the “type-in” traffic market.

“[T]hey own a bunch of URLs, and when internet users type a word into the address bar (expecting it to resolve to something useful) or misspell a legit URL, often times one of Name Development’s URLs comes up as the resolved address. Name Development then sticks a sh*tload of AdSense or Overture links on the resulting page, and voila, free money!

These sites are often confused as clickfraud pages, and in fact, the do look exactly like robot or Indian click farm fodder. I would not be surprised, in fact, if some percentage of same folks who are playing the “type in traffic” game might also be dabbling, perhaps on the side, in some click fraud as well.”

While crafty, setting up one of these affiliate networks isn’t necessarily fraudulent, just an exploitative and opportunistic niche market. But with the availability of click-fraud software as advertised on I-Faker and also ClickingAgent, that affiliate network can become an even bigger cash cow in record time.

Briggs equates the network with an analogy involving a turnstile and a brick-and-mortar shop. Some stores have turnstiles to count the number of visitors that come in. The storeowner estimates that he pulls in an average of $100 for every visitor. Someone on the street says he can pull in more customers for $10 per referral. The same guy pays his friends $2 to enter the store over and over. But they never buy anything. The owner’s average per customer decreases dramatically and the store’s referrals are bogus.

“I may do a lot of things,” said Briggs, ” but I don’t lie, cheat, or steal, because it’s wrong. The temptation is there because it’s so easy.”

Briggs believes that if Google and other PPC engines continue to do nothing while profiting handsomely from click-fraud, then the Internet advertising will burst.

So far Google has not commented on the lawsuit, other than they are reviewing the motion papers.