Microsoft Slimes Google with HoneyMonkey Nectar

By John Pallatto  |  Posted 2005-12-21

Microsoft Slimes Google with HoneyMonkey Nectar

Nothing can be more satisfying for a software company than to use its technology to uncover a serious business problem that needs a solution, especially when it gives you a chance to discredit an arch-competitor.

That is the situation Microsoft took advantage of when it disclosed this week that its HoneyMonkey exploit detection technology showed how a typo-squatters ring was using misspelled domain names to steal traffic from major Internet brands including, (a Microsoft property) and

Its one of those supremely dirty, but certainly not little, secrets of the Internet that typo-squatters are using misspelled domain names to generate revenue by redirecting Web surfers to porn portals and other bogus sites stocked with Google AdSense adds.

The squatters receive revenue every time surfers click on those ads at these sites. But it is doubtful whether legitimate advertisers are getting any benefit from these ad clicks in terms of higher sales of products or services.

But as serious as this problem is for Web users and advertisers, Microsofts apparent motives for releasing the study results are hardly altruistic or for the good of the industry. They did it for the good of Microsoft.

It was no coincidence the Redmondians released the results of its HoneyMonkey study literally on the eve of the announcement that Time Warner Inc.s American Online division will continue using Googles advertising technology for another five years.

Microsoft was competing head to head with Google for this deal, which also gave Google the right to acquire a 5 percent share of AOL for $1 billion.

It looks like a desperate last-minute attempt to derail the deal by calling into question the integrity of Googles AdSense system.

It can hardly be a coincidence that Microsoft released the results of its HoneyMonkey study the day before Google was set to announce it had won the AOL deal.

Googles success in winning this deal has raised questions among industry analysts about whether Google has supplanted Microsoft as the premier technology innovator and deal maker in the computer business.

Certainly Microsoft hasnt lost many deals of this magnitude since it managed to whipsaw control of the PC operating system market from the hands of IBM.

Click here to read the details about Googles $1 billion advertising deal with AOL and Time Warner.

Microsofts timely HoneyMonkey exposé highlights the spiking intensity of the competition between these two very ambitious companies.

Just how intense its become can be seen from an incident, widely reported on the Web, about Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer throwing a chair across his office and vowing to kill Google after learning that Google had hired away another high-level Microsoft employee.

It doesnt sit well with Microsoft that Google has become so dominant in search and is competing so vigorously to win a generous share of the e-mail, local search, instant messaging and online advertising markets.

Microsoft has grown used to dominating in any market it chooses to enter.

Next Page: Solving the real problem.

Solving the Real Problem

It is apparently galling to Microsoft that it wont be easy for it to knock Google from its position as the dominant search engine in the same way Microsoft took over other markets, from Web browsers to spreadsheets.

Instead, Google is proving to be a growth engine that looks very much like the youthful Microsoft when it began its relentless expansion trend in the 80s. Microsoft is finding it hard to win points from the nimble and aggressive Google.

So Microsoft does what it always does in these situations.

It shadows its adversary with its own announcements about Microsoft search, messaging and its recent Office Live and Windows Live offerings.

Regardless of Microsofts motives for producing the study, typo-squatting and the exploitation of Googles AdSense service are problems that need to be solved.

People should have confidence that they wont be transferred to pornography sites or other junk sites because they entered a single mistaken character in a Web address.

Web advertisers have a right to know that their ad dollars are bringing eyeballs to their own sites and helping sell products and not just enriching some scammer.

Click here to read what effect Googles deal with AOL could have on the competitive landscape in the instant messenger market.

If Google wants AdSense to be a long-term and lucrative success that is valued by advertisers for its integrity and effectiveness, it should put the companys considerable technological expertise toward solving this problem.

The public at large as well as advertisers are defrauded every time some stumble-fingered Web surfer is misdirected to some useless site that was created as a porn-portal or as an automated ad-revenue generation engine.

The Web should not be reduced to some electronic shell game by scammers who have nothing to sell and whose only asset is an incidental ability to generate revenue from random ad clicks.

Now that it has gone to considerable lengths to air Googles dirty linen, it would be interesting to see if Microsoft could engineer a search-driven online advertising system that would display any greater integrity than Googles AdSense.

Its quite possible that Microsoft would accept widespread misuse of advertising system if it could supplant Google as the dominant search engine.

John Pallatto is a veteran journalist in the field of enterprise software and Internet technology. He can be reached at

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