April 2, 2002
11:22 AM   Subscribe

The company that brought full screen flash ads that overtake the browser is cooking up something new, which could quite possibly be worse: reskinning your browser and replacing toolbar buttons with advertisements. Although they don't state the limitations, I would assume it works in windows IE and possibly Netscape/Mozilla (through XUL). Perhaps it's time to switch to Opera once and for all.
posted by mathowie (25 comments total)
 
Browser sabotage! I hate it when website manipulate my system. I'm sure there is some sort of workaround, if not I'm just going to use an old build of Mozilla, where none of that crap works.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:29 AM on April 2, 2002


Boo-urns. As Neilson says, this is overstepping the bounds. Just because you can advertise somewhere does not at all mean you should.
posted by whoshotwho at 11:29 AM on April 2, 2002


Hijacking your browser should be illegal, and certainly a great deal less ethical than boxers tatooing an add on their backs. I will automatically NEVER buy something from a company that uses the techniques outlined in mathowie's link. As for alternative browsers, I love Opera, although there's some crap it just doesn't seem to do (like kick up the address book in Yahoo Mail). Another fine browser is the OffbyOne browser, from home page software. It's only 1MB, and man, it is fast.
posted by gnz2001 at 11:36 AM on April 2, 2002


Alright... my spur-of-the-moment letter to weather.com:

I just read the article on the siliconvalley.com website that mentioned you're considering using technology from United Virtualities to take over the browser of visitors to your site, changing their toolbar graphics and buttons. I consider that to be an obscene misuse of technology, bordering on unauthorized use of computer resources, which is a federal offense. Of course, I don't plan on taking you or them to court over this, it would be a waste of time. However, the moment you start using this technology, I'm afraid I'll have to start looking for another source -- TV and internet -- to get my weather from. It's a good thing there are so many of them.
posted by CrayDrygu at 11:36 AM on April 2, 2002


United Virtualities calls the product ``Ooqa Ooqa,'' the nickname of one of the cofounder's daughters. The firm's signature product is the ``shoshkeles,'' named after another daughter of a co-founder.

and, also, this article was posted on April 1st. i'm just saying.
posted by moz at 11:36 AM on April 2, 2002


Well, this is sure to be Windows only. (kisses powerbook screen)

[update -- ah, april fools]
posted by jragon at 11:37 AM on April 2, 2002


United Virtualities calls the product ``Ooqa Ooqa,'' the nickname of one of the cofounder's daughters. The firm's signature product is the ``shoshkeles,'' named after another daughter of a co-founder.

Something called ooka ooka is mentioned on UV's [user-unfriendly flash] site with the note that we won't believe the coming revolution.
posted by iceberg273 at 11:44 AM on April 2, 2002


I saw this in the wsj yesterday and assumed it was an April Fool Joke (this is the exact same article, just picked up by AP from Dow Jones). The name Ooqa Ooqa definitely sounds like a joke. But their other product is called Shoskele, so...

I don't see how it could work in IE since IE doesn't have skins (at least my IE 6 on Win2K don't as far as I can tell) and I'm pretty sure MS doesn't have a dom accessible api for the toolbar. Regardless, a website being able to manipulate software on your machine outside the confines of the html document without your permission sounds like a big 'ol security hole to me. I don't see how this could work without downloading software to your machine (and if you do that, it's your own damn fault <g>).
posted by dchase at 12:09 PM on April 2, 2002


It seems the day will come when web sites become popular not because they are the best at what the do, but because they don't employ mechanisms of annoyance. My how our expectations have fallen.
posted by fleener at 12:11 PM on April 2, 2002


This is a hoax. Karl Dubost on WD-L:

The website unitedvirtualities exists but when you are asking for example Press Releases, they are fake pages

http://www.unitedvirtualities.com/htm/wsj.htm
http://www.unitedvirtualities.com/htm/newsday.htm

And there's a lot of humour in client portfolio like

Wheather.Com
http://www.unitedvirtualities.com/demos/rhinocort.htm

Ebay
http://www.unitedvirtualities.com/demos/ebay.htm
posted by camworld at 12:11 PM on April 2, 2002


Wasn't Mozilla supposed to allow webmasters to pick their own XUL skin or even use a skin specific to the site itself? As for IE6, you can change the toolbar background using TweakUI, atleast TweakUI for XP let's you do that, but as dchase said above, I don't think it is accesible by remote sites.

Just saw Cam say it's a hoax, well still doesn't Mozilla let you do this?
posted by riffola at 12:16 PM on April 2, 2002


Wheather.Com
http://www.unitedvirtualities.com/demos/rhinocort.htm


But these ads are mentioned on newsites elsewhere! (e.g. 1 | 2 | 3)

So the entire world is in on the joke?
posted by iceberg273 at 12:23 PM on April 2, 2002


if weather.com does that to my browser, it will be the last time I visit weather.com. There are perfectly good alternatives.

I actually agree with Neilson for once (hey, I'm a flash designer, so we don't really see eye-to-eye). This is beyond the bounds of acceptible.

The unauthorized alteration of anything on my computer from the internet does seem illegal. It's not too many steps from Dave McOwen's crisis, where he was threatened 15 years of jailtime and $400,000 in fines for installing distributed computation software. The argument against him was that the software initiated "computer tresspass" because the distributed client received data autonomously from an outside server.

Who else thinks this is just another form of "computer tresspass"?
posted by LuxFX at 12:33 PM on April 2, 2002


Or perhaps the entire world is not in on the joke and that's why they're reporting it.
posted by UnReality at 12:38 PM on April 2, 2002


The company is not a hoax. We've discussed the company and their Shoshkeles earlier. I just pray that Ooqa Ooqas are a joke. The company does seem to have a sense of humor.
posted by dchase at 12:50 PM on April 2, 2002


I saw this in the wsj yesterday and assumed it was an April Fool Joke

"The greatest trick the devil pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."

--Verbal Kent, The Usual Suspects
posted by adampsyche at 12:50 PM on April 2, 2002


But these ads are mentioned on newsites elsewhere!...
So the entire world is in on the joke?


If it's a joke I bet they're not in on it. Instead, I bet they just picked up the story and spewed it out verbatim without checking for facts on a single word. That should tell you something about those sources.
posted by holycola at 12:51 PM on April 2, 2002


riffola: XUL will permit great customization of the browser -- that's the reason that Mozilla was designed around it almost from the ground up (or at least the last 2 years or so of development). Mozilla is just intended as a core browser; Netscape and others customize it for their own purposes (though not always using XUL). XUL is waiting for Mozilla 1.0 to set it in concrete so people can begin developing around it.

But I don't think the Mozilla philosophy rests on the idea that the webmaster can hijack the browser from the user -- quite the opposite, in fact. In the end XUL is no different, in principle, from Microsoft technologies like ActiveX and .NET that permit browsers to launch customized applets.
posted by dhartung at 12:55 PM on April 2, 2002


Sounds alot like HotBar.
posted by schlyer at 1:03 PM on April 2, 2002


Now there are reports that it might not be a hoax.

The biggest issue, of course, is security. One of the huge hurdles to cross when implementing the several versions of XUL into Mozilla was the security layers you had to consider when accepting files from remote or untrusted sites. Since everything in Mozilla is tied together using Javascript, you have to use the Javascript security model, which by most standards is pretty strict. I haven't explored this stuff in nearly two years so a lot of it may have changed and they may have come up with a better security solution for allowing cross-site scripting and external web pages to access the XUL and CSS of Mozilla.

Regardless, if a technology like this does come about and turns out to be real, it will not take long for the Mozilla hacks to release a patch or instructions for disabling it. The same cannot really be said to be true for Internet Explorer since you are compeltely reliant on the corporate mothership in Redmond.
posted by camworld at 1:29 PM on April 2, 2002


camworld:

The same cannot really be said to be true for Internet Explorer since you are compeltely reliant on the corporate mothership in Redmond.
That's not true. Microsoft releases a lot of documentation on how to extend the browser. Explorer bars (like the GoogleBar), menu items, custom context menus, and browser helper objects (BHO). These all allow third parties to customize or extend the browser. Microsoft does not release source code, instead they release detailed documention for all exposed API and Object Models. So in your 'hypothetical' fix, a Mozilla developer would fix the browser hijacking, hopefully, sometime at some point in the future it would be integrated into the source tree for release in a binary. For IE, any developer could code a quick fix and release immediately.
posted by patrickje at 2:03 PM on April 2, 2002


Have you noticed that if you pronounce it the way it looks "Ooqas" sounds a lot like "hoax". Hmmmmm.
posted by jeremias at 4:16 PM on April 2, 2002


cam: Frankly, I didn't see those pages you cited as evidence of any hoax. We know about shoshkeles; they were indeed covered in the media; and the examples cited are, well, typical shoshkeles -- which do tend to be engaging and "humorous" in a grab-you-by-the-collar kind of way. So, the vector of "hoax" here doesn't seem appropriate.
posted by dhartung at 5:46 PM on April 2, 2002


if weather.com does that to my browser, it will be the last time I visit weather.com. There are perfectly good alternatives. (link to accuweather) i might also add the a href="http://www.wunderground.com">Weather Underground people...same weather, low bandwidth.
posted by 40 Watt at 7:50 AM on April 3, 2002


oops. sorry about the malformed post. Hit "Post" when I meant to hit "Preview". Weather Underground link here.
posted by 40 Watt at 7:51 AM on April 3, 2002


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