[rumori] pho: SADaily editorial: Most Dangerous Piece of Software in the World

From: Don Joyce (djATwebbnet.com)
Date: Fri Mar 23 2001 - 06:19:51 PST

forwarded by Negativland.

> The Most Dangerous Piece of Software in the World - by Jason
>McCabe Calacanis
>by Jason McCabe Calacanis
>No, it's not Napster. It's not Freenet, the anonymous, global,
>non-traceable P2P system. And no, it's not the highly addictive
>"Age of Empires II." The most dangerous piece of software on the
>Internet today is built by a spin-off of Siemens, the huge German
>conglomerate. It is called WebWasher; and simply put, it is
>WebWasher instantly and seamlessly removes all advertising,
>cookies, and pop-up ads from your browser with the promise to
>maintain your privacy while saving you time and money by reducing
>all the bandwidth taken up by online advertising. It is an
>undeniable value proposition.
>Software like this has existed in various forms over the years, but
>nothing I've seen is as seamless and user-friendly as WebWasher's
>latest version. This is not to say non-techies are going to start
>installing it, but in my estimation WebWasher is about two versions
>and 12 months away from going mainstream.
>For the past couple of weeks, I've been using WebWasher and seeing
>just how powerful it is. The New York Times' site suddenly feels
>clean and uncluttered: Gone are the talking skyscraper ads and
>multitude of mini-buttons and banners all over the site. From home,
>where I'm writing this today, I'm forced to use a 56k dial-up
>thanks to my DSL provider suddenly going out of business (uggghh!).
>WebWasher really makes a difference in this situation, making pages
>load about 50-percent faster. I can't wait to use it the next time
>I travel overseas and can only get a 28.8 or 14.4 connection.
>Visiting CNet with WebWasher is one of the scariest experiences you
>can have as a publisher, because its new "big box" vanishes without
>a trace, leaving the text to flow seamlessly down the page like it
>used to.
>This is not to say non-techies are going to start installing it,
>but in my estimation WebWasher is about two versions and 12 months
>away from going mainstream.
>How could you not love this software? Easy, if you're a publisher
>or an advertiser; you're screwed, in the words of Dick Cheney, "big
>The software is free for individual users and academics, and
>available for a licensing fee for enterprises. That is when it gets
>really scary. For a 100-person company, WebWasher will run $1,900,
>or $19 a head. Organizations with hundreds or thousands of
>employees have two great reasons to install this software.
>First, companies can save a serious chunk of cash on the bandwidth
>savings alone. Second, the software has the ability to keep hackers
>and overzealous marketers (think: porn, gaming, etc.) from taking
>over machines with pop-up windows and cookies. This will reduce
>wasted time spent by employees, and even more importantly, wasted
>time spent by expensive IT folks repairing machines screwed up by
>viruses, cookies, and the like.
>A recent survey at the kuro5hin.org site, which, granted, is
>populated by the somewhat-wacky digital elite, had a survey on
>banner ads recently. The survey asked, "What sucks most about ad
>banners?" Most of the responses would not surprise you: The top
>response, with 34 percent of the vote, was that banners advertised
>products surfers weren't interested in. Coming in second, with 30
>percent of responses, was the fact that banners used too much
>However, the most interesting and compelling response to me, chosen
>by 19 percent of respondents, was: "How should I know, I filter out
>all ads." Now, these are admittedly a bunch of geeks, early
>adopters with some intense anti-corporate attitudes, but they are
>also the same people who were talking about P2P file-sharing
>systems before Napster. They are the vanguard, and the masses
>follow, eventually.
>WebWasher is technical, but it is getting easier to use with each
>version. While it is still well under the radar, with CNet's
>Download.com, a pretty good indicator of a product's popularity,
>showing only a couple of thousand downloads to date, the company
>boasts more than 4 million users.
>Bottom line: This piece of software is about to break out.
>Now, I'm not a lawyer, but something that will impact so many large
>businesses is bound to wind up in court. But is there anything
>illegal about it? If it reaches critical mass, which I would say is
>around 10 million users, you can expect AOL Time Warner or someone
>like that to file suit, right?
>The software has received little-to-no press here in the United
>States, which the conspiracy theorist in me does not find
>surprising. Software like this, if it catches on, could be a huge
>blow to content providers who are generally teetering somewhere
>between profitability and death today.
>I've turned the software off at work and I turn it on at home
>sometimes. Recently, I've started missing the ads, wondering what
>is in the big, long, empty white space next to the business section
>of The New York Times. As a person making his living in large part
>off advertising, WebWasher scares me--a publisher who's fallen in
>love with the software that could kill him. Now I know what it's
>like to be a record executive.
>Feedback: lettersATsiliconalleyreporter.com
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