The News, at My Site and Elsewhere

I’ve recently written about increasingly controversial online schemes — from installations through security holes, to spyware companies deleting each other, to programs that set affiliate cookies to claim commissions they haven’t fairly earned.

These aren’t nice practices, so I suppose it comes as no surprise that someone — perhaps some group or company that doesn’t like what I’m writing — has sought to knock my site offline. For much of Monday and Tuesday, as well as several hours last week, all of was unreachable. My prior web host, Globat, tells me I was the target of the biggest DDoS attack they’ve ever suffered — some 600MB+/second.

The Operations, Analysis, and Research Center at the Internet Systems ConsortiumDDoS attacks continue, but I’m fortunate to be back online — entirely thanks to incredible assistance from Paul Vixie of the Internet Systems Consortium. You may know Paul as the author of Bind or as co-founded of MAPS. (Or just see his Wikipedia entry.) But he’s also just an all-around nice guy and, apparently, a glutton for punishment. Huge DDoS attack? Paul is an expert at tracking online attackers, and he’s not scared. A special thanks to his Operations, Analysis, and Research Center (OARC) for hosting me. In any case, I apologize for my site’s inaccessibility yesterday. I think and hope I’ve now taken steps sufficient to keep the site operational.

Meanwhile, there’s lots of spyware news to share. I now know of fourteen different states contemplating anti-spyware legislation — a near-overwhelming list that is partiucularly worrisome since so many bills are silent on the bad practices used by the companies harming the most computer users. (Indeed, seven of the bills are near-perfect copies of the California bill I and others have criticized as exceptionally ineffective.) At the same time, federal anti-spyware legislation continues moving forward — but in a weak form that I fear does more harm than good.

Then there’s COAST’s dissolution — to my eye, the predictable result of attempting to certify providers of unwanted software when their practices remain deceptive. It’s reassuring to see Webroot standing up for consumers’ control of their PCs, though surprising to see Computer Associates defend COAST’s certification procedure as "valuable." Now that Webroot and CA have withdrawn from COAST, COAST seems bound to disappear — probably better for users than a COAST that continues certifying programs that sneak onto users’ PCs.

The final surprise of last week’s news: Technology Crossover Ventures joined in a $108 million round of VC funding for Webroot. Wanting to own a piece of Webroot is perfectly understandable. But TCV is also an investor in Claria, a provider of advertising software that Webroot removes. (See also other investors supporting spyware.) How can TCV fund both Claria (making unwanted software) and Webroot (helping users remove such software)? TCV seems aware of the issue: They’ve recently removed Claria from their Companies page. But other sources — Yahoo! Finance, Private Equity Week,, and even the Google cache — all confirm that the investment occurred.

New Site Online

Welcome to my new site!

I’ve finished my time at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and will therefore be publishing future work on this site rather than on the Berkman Center’s servers. But old links should remain operational indefinitely, and I’ll maintain a single listing of publications that includes my work there as well as subsequent projects.

Despite the change of venue, my substantive interests remain largely the same. In the coming months, look for new articles about Internet filtering (notable developments in Asia and the Middle East), about domain names (evaluation of new gTLDs, and documentation of the controversial practices still used by some registrants), and about pop-up advertising (programs like Gator and WhenU remaining in the spotlight).

I have also begun to think about my economics Ph.D. dissertation — a major undertaking, of course, but a project I’m particularly excited about. I can’t yet say precisely what I’ll be writing about — but I wouldn’t be surprised if my articles included analysis of the domain name industry, of pay-per-click advertising, and perhaps even of online travel services. More details in the coming months.