Is your site being hi-jacked by Smart Tags?

Provided by the Good News Web Designers Association

Return to Directory of Tutorials or GNWDA home page

There is a danger that your website(s) will be used to drive visitors to other sites. Software has been developed that scans webpages and documents for key text anywhere on the Internet, specific words or phrases that can be used as launching points for advertisements. This software then highlights the words, converting them into links that carry your website visitor elsewhere. It's a lucrative way that unscrupulous businesses are starting to use to make money from advertisers. It's called "smart tags".

It's also called "theftware" and "scumware".

To prevent it, use this meta tag at the top of each webpage:
<META NAME="MSSmartTagsPreventParsing" content="TRUE">

Scumware usually gets installed on unsuspecting users' computers as an add-on piece of software that piggy-backs secretly on other downloads. One of the programs that distributes scumware is named KaZaA, a NAPSTER-style file-sharing program. A few others are:

Surf+ (This one claims to have turned off the scumware component.)

The software helps people fill out forms (e.g. Gator) and stop pop up ads (Surf+). But it comes with a program called TopText (or HOTtext or DesktopDollars, to name two others). When the software is installed, TopText delivers ads using the text on any website.

Advertisers buy words. When a webpage loads, TopText looks for words that have been purchased words and overlays a link to the advertiser's site on that text.

The potential certainly exists that your visitors will be sent to porn sites! But any theft of visitors through scumware is vandalism of your sites, copyright infringement, and fraud.

Interested in seeing what it looks like? Here's a screen shot that someone else has posted from getting hit by TopText on their site:

Educating your website's visitors about which downloads are carrying the scumware is currently the only way to combat this. When people get fed up with all those links springing up during their web surfing, they will delete the software from their computers. Once this advertising tactic is no longer enticing because the price of buying words is too high and ineffective, scumware distributors will give up and seek other sources of revenue. The decision that Surf+ has already made to stop distributing TopText is proof of that.

If you want to post warnings about this on your site(s) and tell people not to download software from the above-mentioned sites, you may copy some or all of the information here without further permission, but please give credit to the GWNDA with a link to our home page ( You might also want to link to this public page that explains how to delete the SmartTag software:



Below are links to other articles about this topic. If you have more information on this, please notify GNWDA admin.

Real Life Internet Evil: Microsoft's Smart Tags
(scroll down the page to this title to read the article)
New Web advertising tool gets results, draws criticism
Yellow Link Virus
Don't Eat the Yellow Links

Return to Directory of Tutorials or GNWDA home page