Update: We have made slight changes to point 5 of the technical clarification since originally posting.
There’s been some noise in the blogosphere over the discovery that Posterous had installed VigLink and was utilizing it to monetize the latent commercial traffic on their platform. We’ve avoided commenting until our customer decided what they wanted to do in order to avoid interfering in what is no doubt a sensitive matter for them.
VigLink leaves decisions around disclosure up to our customers. Our terms of service require publishers to comply with all applicable local regulations but as these are still new and evolving, we leave it to our customer to judge what is most appropriate for their specific communities and their local legal jurisdiction.
In the coming weeks we will be working to make it easier for publishers to disclose the use of VigLink through branded badges a publisher may add to their site, linking to a clear explanation of what we do and offering the ability for a permanent customer opt-out. However, the ultimate decisions on how best to disclose will remain in the hands of our customers.
A few points of technical clarification:
- We and our competitors do not affect the PageRank of a page. We have received assurances from Google that this is so (we are backed by Google Ventures) and Danny Sullivan has written that he’s received the same guidance from Google. Our publishers who watch these things closely report no change in PageRank as a result of using our code.
- Posterous was not overwriting any existing affiliate links. Neither are 99% of our customers. The option is available for customers who would like it (those who run forums prohibiting commercial links for example) but very few have done so.
- We work hard not to “break the web” – we don’t use redirects, ad blockers work as intended and even if our servers are unreachable the page continues to behave as expected. We’ve gotten reports that middle clicks under some circumstances were mis-behaving and so we’ve disabled all modified click rewriting until we get this issue sorted out.
- We also work closely with merchants and affiliate networks to ensure we are meeting the requirements of their programs. Some merchants have “blacklists” or “whitelists” and we only affiliate links from publishers that those merchants find acceptable.
- Any link can be marked “not rewriteable” by adding the attribute rel=”norewrite” to the anchor tag. We will add a global tag that allows a page author to easily opt the whole page out of being rewritten.
- Offering the ability for our customers to share the revenue with their customers is something we are investigating. There are numerous technical and business challenges involved but we hope to be able to offer this ability where appropriate in the future.
VigLink believes that sites that facilitate commercial activity are contributing to the ecosystem and unobtrusively deriving revenue from that activity is entirely appropriate. We recognize that community expectations about what is acceptable will vary widely and we think decisions about what’s most appropriate in a given context are best left to our customers. We are working to provide even more tools for all our customers meet the expectations of their community.
If you have comments or concerns about VigLink, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or me personally at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you.
Co-founder / CEO, VigLink