180 Solutions has announced plans to clean up their distribution channels.

Basically:

  • The new technology, dubbed S3, is designed to help “prevent the suppression or manipulation of the user consent experience prior to installation”
  • All new affiliates are required to use this new technology. Current (and sometimes naughty) distributors have until the end of the year to transition to it.
  • From what we can tell it looks like a re-coded version of the CBC Force Prompt. The CBC Force Prompt is a prompt that is supposed to come up no matter how 180 Solutions software is installed, to make sure the user is getting the software on their system. It hasn’t always been doing that, ostensibly because of “rogue distributors” bypassing it. I got one today. It looks very similar to this prompt that Ben Edelman talks about here.

Back in May, Daniel Todd of 180 Solutions and I had a chat about using technology to clean up their distribution channels. I wrote about it here.

Well it’s ironic since this is exactly the kind of thing I suggested to Daniel Todd about back in May.

Every few months 180 announces a new “reform” that will supposedly make its installation practices kosher. This has been going on for over a year, and at the end of all previous efforts we still have examples of unethical installs. So we welcome their continued publicly announced efforts at reform but admit to viewing another promised reform with a somewhat cautious view.

In its press release 180 says that this new technology “helps prevent the suppression or manipulation of the user consent experience prior to installation.” All fine and well, but if the “user consent experience” itself consists of these kinds of notice screens used in recent installations, then is that really enough? See the screenshots here and Ben Edelman’s analysis here.

Anyway, it’s good they are not going to pay affiliates for prior versions after December of this year. The primary problem in spyware is the economic model — it is just too profitable for some distributors to get honest. But we have several months to go before we can see if this plan really works — we’ll be checking 180 installs on January 1…

In the end, as we’ve seen with Katrina, PR means nothing without action. The definition of PR is “good works well publicized”. Get the good works done first, then publicize.

Alex Eckelberry
(Tip of the hat to Eric Howes for his contribution to this blog).

9/7/2005 4:39:22 PM Update: Seattle PI story here.