Intermutes Ad Blocking Software Takes Aim At Search Engines

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2003-12-08 Print this article Print

The latest release of InterMute's AdSubtract tackles the lucrative sponsored links that appear along with search results on Internet search engines.

Those paid links that pop up along with search engine results have become the latest target of ad-blocking software. InterMute Inc. on Monday announced an updated version of its AdSubtract Pro software that can strip away the advertised links on popular search engines. These sponsored links, typically based on advertisers paying to appear when certain keywords are entered, are among the most lucrative areas of online advertising for search engines. InterMute CEO Ed English said that the new feature, called Search Sanity, in AdSubtract PRO 3 allows users to take back search engine results that for many have become overshadowed by advertising. The Search Sanity features joins AdSubtracts more traditional blocking of banner ads, pop-up ads and pop-under ads.
"Search engines have really lost their way," English said. "It used to be that search engines competed showing the most relevant listings the quickest, and now relevancy has taken a back seat to advertising."
The latest release allows for the blocking of paid links on Google, Yahoo, Overture, MSN, AOL, AltaVista, LookSmart and AllTheWeb. Different search engines handle sponsored links differently, but commonly place them alongside, before or after algorithmic search results. Online advertising itself has been on a rebound this year. In the latest figures form the Interactive Advertising Bureau, U.S. online ad revenues in the first half of 2003 grew 10.5 percent compared to the same period a year earlier to reach $3.3 billion. AdSubtract Pro 3 is a desktop application that acts as a proxy server on a users PC to filter out unwanted ads and content. Users can turn on and off the blocking of particular types of ads and also can specify sites for the softwares filtering to bypass. For enterprise customers, InterMute, of Braintree, Mass., is developing a server-based product that would combine AdSubtracts ad-blocking features with the spam-blocking and spyware-blocking features of its other products. It will allow IT managers to centrally manage filter settings and is planned to be launched in the third quarter of 2004, English said. "These are problems that people may get exposed to at home, but its just as bad or worse in the corporate environment," English said. Along with targeting search engines, AdSubtract Pro 3 also tackles the rise of Web redirects that push users to a specific Web site when they mistype a Web address or enter a non-existent one. Redirects gained widespread attention earlier this year when VeriSign Inc. launched its SiteFinder service but later suspended it amid controversy. To read more about VeriSigns redirection service and the controversy it engendered, click here. With InterMutes RedirectProtect feature, users can specify their own default site for redirects, English said, other than SiteFinder or the Microsoft MSN Search page defined in Internet Explorer. Other new features in AdSubtract Pro 3 include the ability to block contextual ads that appear as text based on the relevancy of a pages content, a feature called Image Cloaking for defining specific images in commonly visited Web pages to be blocked and expanded PC leaning capabilities for erasing such histories as Web sites visited and documents used. AdSubtract PRO 3 supports Windows XP, 2000, ME and 98 and Internet Explorer. It is available for a 30-day trial, and a full version costs $29.95.
Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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