The Buzz - 1

Telecom

Vonages IPO follies

First, Vonage pitches its IPO to its customers. Nice idea—at least on paper. Then customers take Vonage up on its offer to participate, and the IPO tanks.

Whoops.

Now Vonage has a few customer service issues to worry about. Lesson: Perhaps its not such a bright idea to have customers and shareholders be one and the same. The mess has gotten so sticky that some Vonage customers are hanging up on plans to pay for woeful shares. The IPO, priced at $17 on May 23, fell to $11 and change by June 1.

Various news outlets re--ported that Vonage wouldnt hold underwriters responsible for shares customers didnt buy. Translation: Vonage would take the fall financially for customers who thought buying stock in a company whose revenue and net losses were roughly equal for the last year was a good idea.

Following those reports, Vonage had some explaining to do. On May 31, Vonage reminded its customers of the following: "Pursuant to the terms and conditions of our Customer Directed Share Program, if a customer was allocated shares in the Customer Directed Share Program, that customer is obligated to purchase their share allocation from the underwriters. To be clear, we have not offered and are not offering to repurchase any of the shares of common stock from our customers."

Bottom line: Vonage customers arent off the hook.

Acquisitions

NYSEs IT consolidation

The NYSE Group, parent of the New York Stock Exchange, on June 1 announced the acquisition of Euronext to create a trans-Atlantic stock exchange called NYSE Euronext. One side effect of the merger is a lot of IT consolidation.

Indeed, the NYSE and Euro-next aim to save $250 million on consolidating technology systems. The laundry list includes:

• Consolidating NYSE Euro---nexts three cash-trading systems and three derivatives systems into one cash system and one derivatives trading system over the next three years.

• Whittling 10 data centers (six in the United States and four in Europe) to two in the United States and two in Europe.

These savings are in addition to the technology consolidation in the NYSE-Archipelago transaction.

Blog Watch

Cuban on click fraud

It must take a big issue for Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to rant about a technology issue when his team is doing well in the NBA playoffs.

So what could possibly distract Cuban from his beloved Mavs? Click fraud. At his Blogmaverick.com site, Cuban surmises that click fraud is a bigger issue than the industry believes.

Heres an edited excerpt of Cubans reasons why click fraud far exceeds whats acknowledged by search companies:

Hackers exist.

Hackers exist for profit. Playing Thermo Nuclear War no longer cuts it.

Hackers will exert however much social or technical hacking as is required to grab and sell credit cards and other digital assets, [even though they know] the return is decent but the jail risk is more than trivial.

Hackers have figured out that the risk of proving they are breaking the law with click fraud is minimal. Try explaining the difference to authorities between a blog, a splog and a Web site that is trying to make money from any of the many, many affiliate marketing programs that also happens to host AdSense or other ad publishing network ads.

Hackers have figured out that they look a lot more legit getting checks from Google than trying to wash 10K in cash delivered in a bag.

Hackers have figured out that untold amounts of dollars are being spent on an ongoing basis by the biggest companies in the world to try to stop them from stealing data that has disputable value and is difficult to sell. Why waste time there when search engine companies are no match for the legions of hackers?

The number of splog/fake Web sites being created every hour is exploding.

"Now I have no idea how much money is being lost to click fraud. All I know is that when the black hat hackers see easy money, they take it," wrote Cuban.

—Compiled by Larry Dignan