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What is LJ doing to my links? Part 3
hellboy, POW!, my pasty white ass
shatterstripes
So I was looking at some of the other LJ support requests involving outboundlink.net. I came across this support request, in which dstroy provides a Target link that outboundlink.net was completely mangling for her.

Well, outboundlink.net seems to have been upgraded, because it worked for me when I clicked on it. Since all LJ pages now include the Javascript that does this (even your profile page! even the front page!), it went through their redirector.

I looked at the URL for an affiliate ID.

AFID=Performics_Driving%20Revenue%20Inc

Iiiiiiinteresting!

Now, view the source of this page. Or any other LJ page. Down by the bottom, you'll find the <script> tags that load and invoke the dRev.js code.

var DR_id = '1111'; // Is this a real ID or we'll be asked to change it? :)


I think I have an answer for this anonymous web developer's question!

I will let you do the math on how much money outboundlink/drivingrevenue* is making off of this lack of communication on ID changing.

(Of course, there is the chance that they're keeping track of all their redirects, and paying out some percentage to their clients like LJ. Maybe.)

I could mmmmmaybe let this slide if they only added affiliate IDs to unaffiliated links. But they don't; they rip your affiliate ID off and substitute their own. To make matters worse, untangling just who is owed what in stolen affiliate-link juice will be a nightmare - they grab, and presumably save, the referring URL, but how many people clicking on links are doing them from their friends page?

I smell lawyermeat here.

[ edit: I can easily come up with narratives for this happened that are just a comedy of errors rather than malicious money-grubbing on LJ's part. But this is really making Dreamwidth look better and better; this is far from the first time LJ's pulled shortsighted bottom-line shit like this. The test Amazon link in the previous post is the first and only time I've linked to an e-commerce site here, but the whole underhandedness of this whole thing is really pissing me off. They'd better have a damn good explanation. And a damn good apology. ]

* I am now 99% certain that outboundlink.net is part of Driving Revenue's system - they're running off the same IP address, the function that activates it is called "drivingRevenue()", and now this plaintext Target affiliate ID?

Thank you for your work -- I am linking to you.

I came here via vichan. Thanks for taking the time to investigate this. I wouldn't have even known anything was going on, much less where to start figuring it out...

I'm linking your entries on this in my journal post. Thanks again for your work!

Thanks for doing the work with this to unpack the code and posting updates.

Just below your post on my f-page is a link to this: http://caffeinepuppy.livejournal.com/214632.html
Easy way for non code savvy people to fix it. Yay!

Well, yes and no.

If you do that, LJ will stop dropping this code into pages it generates for you. But log out and look at the same pages, and it'll go back to sticking it in.

The real fix, which is part of what I've been doing, is to bitch loud enough that LJ realizes they've been caught doing something that makes their users start making noises about leaving, so they take it out. *grin*

Well of course, but I have no illusions of LJ caring enough to remove it, so I'll take any fix I can get. :B

So... this Driving Revenue place (with possible ties to outboundlink.net and cdnlayer.com) is in LJ's java script and changes affiliated outbound links by LJ members? (I am not too sharp about this stuff, but I couldn't help but be surprised at what everyone's uncovered!)

It sounds like LJ is using Affiliate VB from Driving Revenue. The description is the closest thing I could find to this situation:

Specifically designed and optimized for vBulletin, our patent pending software works by dynamically finding and appending your existing outbound links with a tracking code so that you earn revenue for driving sales to our partners. The original posted link is not modified, making this completely transparent to your members. Affiliate vB easily installs directly into your AdminCP as a plugin.

Again, I am definitely no expert, but from everything I have seen, this was not an accident at all. It looks like a cover-up, and since it's hidden, this all being a "mistake" is believable. I would hope this isn't true at all because, if it is, they can remove it at any time.

Would they really do this?? I'm mistaken, right??

Yeah, the descriptions of DR's products really really closely match what's going on!

And the "accident" is that (a) DR's code is sloppy, and made its presence known by altering links it shouldn't have touched at all; (b) DR's code is sloppy, and made its presence known by changing affiliate links on already-affiliated links (despite a half-assed attempt to not operate on affiliated links, and (c) DR's redirection/link-affiliating/tracking server made its presence known by going down for a while today.

If this had been better-implemented (tested the code on a wider set of links so as to not get false positives in what it decides to fiddle with, run the redirect/affiliate/track server on LJ's machines so they only go down when LJ is already down), I probably wouldn't have noticed it, and neither would have anyone else. Not for a lot longer. And they would've scavenged a lot more affiliate payoffs.

As is, incompetent implementation on the part of LJ ("Is this a real ID or we'll be asked to change it? :)") means that LJ probably got nothing out of this, but DR got a couple months of affiliate juice from everyone using LJ as a point of entry into an e-commerce site, and LJ just gets another wave of people saying "that's enough, I'm leaving for Dreamwidth".

Now I know why people were saying to fire the idiot who put them into LJ's console in the first place. Ahh... now it all makes sense, and like everyone else, I have to wonder WHYthis was even considered in the first place, and if LJ truly did not intend for this to happen, they should've been up front and honest about it to their members from the start. Stuff happens, especially with the internet, but the way they've dealt with this and their members' concerns is atrocious. It just adds to the frustration and distrust, and 'once bitten, twice shy'. I just don't get it. As you said so well: sloppy. The whole thing is sloppy.

=^;^=

The original posted link is not modified, making this completely transparent to your members.

I like how their sales pitch uses the phrase "completely transparent" to mean the exact opposite.

transparent: characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices

Yeah, that's what not they're selling, is it?




They're marketroids; they can't just come out and say "invisible".