60-Second Window
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60-Second Window

You know your web page sucks if it attacks the reader and never stops loading

What happens when your web page breaks the rules and attacks visitors?

here are hundreds of thousands of web pages devoted to exploiting the Photoshop tutorial nation. Sometime in the mid 2000s it became a very lucrative market, extracting money from tip-hungry beginners in search of training for their newly pirated copy of Photoshop. Much like the porn industry, these tutorial replicator sites popped up all over the third world and Eastern Europe. They used every trick in the book to lure in readers so they could view and click revenue-generating ads.

When I get an email inviting me to use a tutorial link to replace a broken link on my site, I feel compelled to at least take a look. This one promised to show me how to create realistic wood grain in Photoshop. It’s sort of ironic, since I’ve incorporated wood grains in hundreds of Photoshop projects over the years and have shared how to create realistic wood grain since Photoshop version 3.5 in 1994. So there we went to see if anything has changed in 25 years!

Under Attack

Boom! Arriving at the site I’m immediately attacked by, blinking, loading and reloading ads. Trying to scroll presented a challenge because scrolling would start, then stop, then start, jerking along while an ad tried to keep up in the right column. This is not going to be easy.

I immediately implemented the “Reader” button I always use when landing on a heavy-duty spam or stalker / predator site. Boom! Nope! The reader button does not work here like it’s supposed to. It does not display the ad-free article as it should.

Ad-blocking revenge : at the end, I’ll share the ENTIRE page with you so you can see for yourself.

No ads, no content.

This is their idea of revenge. If you’re gonna ignore their ads, then they’re not going to show you the article.

They’ve circumvented Firefox’s “reader” function to present you with a page that lists all the advertising purveyor utilities they use, and what they use them for. You’ll be treated to : AdWords, LiveRamp, UpSellIt, Doubleclick, RocketFuel, Twitter, Facebook, Sprinklr, Dstllery, Marin, LinkedIn, Demandbase, Yandex, AdForm, Baidu, Yahoo! Japan, Naver, Storygize, Quantcast, AdRoll CJ Affiliate, Radium One, Afilio, Media Math, Commission Factory, Engagio, ADC Media, AgrantSEM, Bidtellect, BigBang, Bing, Cybba, G2Crowd, InPowered, LinkPrice, RealClick, VK, Ziff Davis, Impact Radius, Call Tracking, Rhythm One, and Beehive. (At the end of the article, I’ve shared the entire page with you just so you can see what I am talking about.)

Each explains how the ads are based on both their data and behavioral data that they collect while you’re on any of their sites. They explain how the data they collect may include pages you’ve visited, trials you’ve initiated, videos you’ve played, purchases you’ve made, and your IP address or device ID. This information may be combined with data that any of the utilities has collected from you. They then use the data that they provide to the ad server to better customize your digital advertising experience and present you with more relevant ads. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen — this site is GDPR’s worst nightmare come true!

…to better customize your digital advertising experience and present you with more relevant ads.

Yet, all that effort didn’t seem to be working correctly because none of the ads appealed to me. It looked like they thought I was an unemployed pregnant, black woman shopping for an apartment who plays video games and eats vegan food. They thought I must be close to delivery because they showed me baby clothes and opportunities to go back to school to start a career in accounting. Of course there was a mix of Adobe, and Netflix along with Uber and several of those security “Download Now” buttons that sometimes download a virus or malware to your computer.

I decided to take a look at a few of these. OMG “Rocket Fuel” sounded like a good one to check, except BOOM :

BOOM : Rocket Fuel appears to be reported as “intrusive” … no doubt!

I landed there and thank goodness Firefox was on duty to protect me with this not-so-subtle warning to go away. I suspect however, that they’re not really a malware site, but rather so intrusive, using such industrial strength prying techniques that Firefox’s intrusion alarms started going off. I only tried a few of the links, but stopped after this one.

How does all that work? See my side article You know your web page sucks if it crushes you with cookies”!

spam-site score of 32.2 noise to 1 content ratio

Let’s do the math:

This web page uses 8,318 words of code (63,094 characters) to deliver 362 words (1,958 characters) of content which computes to a spam-site score of 32.2 noise to 1 content ratio. We cannot rank it for page load time because it never stopped loading. It’s almost as extreme as our last anatomy of a spam site article. It gets worse.

One of the advertising purveyors crashes my browser if I try to use the link, as a “real” link. https://ads-adseast[dot]yldbt[dot]com/ … who the hell is Yldbt dot com? Oh! Hosted by Amazon, it stands for Yieldbot Inc. in New York!

The status bar is exploding looking for 70 images, but the page never loads because the ads keep rotating. I start clicking ads.

I had to represent the ads to the right as multiple ads, but actually it was a moving ad mask that moved along with the screen as you scroll. Every few seconds, and/or each time we scrolled the screen the ad updated to a new ad. After I captured several dozen, ads I gave up. As far as I can tell, there could be an unlimited number of ads served to this page — the page, and cookies never stopped loading, even after an hour keeping it open while writing this article.

I clicked each ad a number of times to test if it changes after a click. We probably generated several hundred bucks of revenue for this site, just while attempting to test and analyze all the ads.

Several of the ads set off the browser intruder alert again, so we backed out fearing malware. Ransomware is purveyed by loading and/or clicking certain ads. The ad purveyor isn’t aware of the malware until it is too late. Ransomware is costing businesses more than $75 billion per year, and increased 350% last year!

The ads expanded the browser cache by over a gig. What was the rule?

You know your web page sucks if it’s over 160K???

And this one purveys over a gig of ads?

At the end of the day, this site appears to have one goal in life, and that is to extract data and money from its visitors, while purveying a couple hundred words. The tutorial was not a Photoshop star by any stretch of the imagination. No wonder the guy wants me to link to his page — it’s all about the money, NOT the tutorial!

Bottom line

When you hit a spam / stalker / predator site, if you really want the content that badly, first try to use the browser’s “Reader” function.

If that fails, then PRINT the page to a PDF file. It will take a few seconds, then you can close the window and read the tutorial off-line. You don’t even have to scroll, and you can immediately minimize the window to save bandwidth and prevent all of that visual pollution from loading.

Sooner or later, people might learn to be nice. Probably later. Thanks for reading.

Web Design & Review ~ The Design & Publishing Center
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Fred Showker‘s editorial column “60-Second Window” in 1987 as part of a syndicated news service distributed, via diskette, to computer user groups all over the country. The 60 Second Window explores issues surrounding technology and it’s effects on people and society.

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Fred Showker

Design, Typography & Graphics Magazine and 60-Seconds exploring technology since 1987