Exclusive AVG has rejiggered the fake traffic it’s spewing across the internet, causing new headaches for the world’s webmasters.
AVG’s chief of research Roger Thompson says the for-pay LinkScanner is only using the IE6 user agent. Presumably, the company believes this is more likely to fool malware exploits. “There are still ways for concerned web masters to filter LinkScanner requests out of their statistics,” he told us over email. But he did not divulge these methods and did not say whether they might clip legitimate traffic as well.
And if that causes problems for webmasters, Thompson says, so be it. “I don’t want to sound flip about this, but if you want to make omelets, you have to break some eggs.”
Clearly, the company doesn’t fully realize the importance of web analytics. “Web analytics is about finding trends which can help online marketers/webmasters improve things for their visitors and their businesses,” says Steve Jackson, co-chair of the International Web Analytics Association. “It’s a big part of the whole online ecosystem in a fast growing up industry.
“No-one wants spyware or viruses, and AVG does provide a useful service which is getting better all the time. I wish, however, they would take business needs into account before launching software that makes life even more difficult for the people trying to do the analytics. Web analytics is not easy at the best of times, and this kind of thing from AVG just compounded the problem.
“In order to make an omelet you have to crack some eggs. But a good omelet has cheese, ham, peppers, mushrooms and all sorts of other ingredients which AVG seem to have forgotten about.“
But AVG continues to say it’s working to solve the problem – including the bandwidth issue. In saying there are still ways that webmasters can filter LinkScanner hits from their log files, Thompson told us, “We intend to leave those in place until we can find the right balance point which will allow us to continue to provide the best possible protection for our customers, without imposing too much extra bandwidth on websites.”
Well, how much ‘extra’ bandwidth is ‘too much’?
If we take a step back and look at this from a cost-benefit analysis. I’m hosting a very data driven website, sans-malware, and a company comes along and generates traffic to my said site that is ‘spoofed’ or ‘hacked’ – that purposely disguises itself as a human, that unto itself generates negative externalities on my end. Perhaps in AVG’s mind, everybody, including legitimate business, ought to suffer externalities so that it’s customers can mitigate risk – but the balance doesn’t seem right there.
Yet, why should the accuracy of our tools be destroyed (ie. why should we bear the costs) and the bandwidth costs, for the illegal actions of malware producers?
I’d place the onus back on AVG to figure out a way to provide its service sans-the-externality.
I think that if this becomes too much of a problem, you’re going to see a little backlash movement amongst the top web analysts.
I think it’s great the the WAA stood up for the little guys in all this.