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Whats up with TB and skimlinks?

Discussion in 'Forum Usage Help' started by JackANSI, Aug 17, 2010.


  1. JackANSI

    JackANSI

    Sep 12, 2006
    PA
    When I was clicking on a link to parts-express.com I was redirected through several sites (domains) that specialize in partner/commision type things. A total of 4 redirects before I got to parts-express.com.

    At first I thought it was my cable connection so I tried my 3G-cell connection and got the same thing. Thinking it was a virus my PC might have caught, I tried on the browser in my android phone and ipod touch and it still did the redirects... To verify I tried it on: 1 android, 1 iOS, 1 Mac OS X, 1 Windows XP, 1 Windows 7, 1 Ubuntu. (Two of which I don't normally do any browsing or email tasks on.)

    I found the problem... its TalkBass...

    in the .js here: http://talkbasscom.skimlinks.com/api/skimlinks.js (a good contender for the convoluted code competition, but not hard to figure out what its doing after a little reformatting)

    its for http://www.skimlinks.com/

    Contained toward the bottom of any showthread.php source I load on talkbass (and only talkbass) is this:
    Code:
    <!-- Start Skimlinks -->
    <script type="text/javascript" src="http://talkbasscom.skimlinks.com/api/skimlinks.js"></script>
    <script type="text/javascript">
    var skimlinks_pub_id = '3043X598154';
    skimlinks();
    </script>
    <!-- End Skimlinks -->
    I think I'm the only one that has found this so far, but if you want to look for the above code it was toward the bottom of the showthread.php page source less than 20 lines from the EOF.

    The TalkBass site is transforming links into partner dollars and filling your browser with cookie crumb trails.. All you have to do to disable is to modify your hosts file to direct talkbasscom.skimlinks.com AND skimlinkscom.skimlinks.com to 127.0.0.1...

    I don't believe for one second that any site admin is above funneling links through that "skimlinks" crap. My guess is they have not rolled it out to everyone yet, but they will if it makes more than a few pennies. I've been doing this 'interweb' thing as part of my career going almost 2 decades (since before Netscape, in the time of Mosaic ) So I know a good many of the tricks advert/spammers use.

    I doubt some cross-platform virus is responsible and I doubt Verizon, Comcast, Windstream, and AT&T got together and started messing with me. I also tried a few known good third party DNS servers to make sure it wasn't just that.

    Besides, can you argue with the fact that there is a domain like talkbasscom.skimlinks.com ? I know that its possible that all *.skimlinks.com could be made to resolve to a server dynamically. Just don't ignore the fact that snippet of code can be found on every showthread.php that I load here on talkbass, and only talkbass.

    If it were the machines I tested with causing the problem: 1 android, 1 iOS, 1 Mac OS X, 1 Windows XP, 1 Windows 7, 1 Ubuntu. (Two of which I don't normally do any browsing or email tasks on.) It would happen on more forums, but TB is the only one. Would also be one heck of a fine cross-platform virus considering... but to only effect TB.com? What a waste..

    The fact that I'm a supporting member and they chose to do this to me speaks volumes about what the future on TB will be like... I'm pretty sure that it will happen to more and more people on here, it always does.
     
  2. Selta

    Selta

    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    More reason why my frequency of visiting here will continue to decrease. However, with 150k+ members, I'm sure that they won't care if even 10,000 of us left over this, especially since they'll be bringing in more money.
    As if two banner ads and supporting members isn't enough. If it's not, sneaking in redirects is still not cool.
     
  3. I scratched my head, thinking of a funny picture or snappy remark to post, but in all seriousness if this is true, it's pretty messed up :(
     
  4. UncleFluffy

    UncleFluffy

    Mar 8, 2009
    California
    Head Tinkerer, The Flufflab
    AB+ catches it.

    (Though personally, I don't feel that bad about this. Apart from the cookies - which I don't allow to persist between sessions - it's not intrusive).
     
  5. JackANSI

    JackANSI

    Sep 12, 2006
    PA
    Don't get me wrong, the site admin can do whatever he wants to make a dime off his users, it is his site after all.

    I just have an issue with it happening to me while being a supporting member of (I guess ;)) good standing... i do not like paying for spam...

    It is an easy fix so far, just a hosts file edit...
     
  6. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    So this only happens when you click on a banner ad, or every time you click on a thread?

    -Mike
     
  7. rarbass

    rarbass

    Jul 3, 2008
    If this is true, I don't ever click banner ads. I've had them blocked, always. I understand it helps to pay for the site, but I've just never clicked ads, so for them to be there is pointless.

    One part of me says "It probably takes a lot of money to host and run TB, and so I think that something that's pretty much harmless like this is not too bad a thing." But then, why are the supporting members paying? I'm not a supporting member, but I don't know any other forum where you have to pay to have an avatar.

    I'm not complaining though, I think it's a good way to make money and one day I do intend to become a supporting member, because I enjoy the way TB is operated and how mature the membership is because of how it is operated. However, if people are already supporting, I don't think that this "behind the scenes' activity is necessary.

    If it's true, I think they should at least be up front about it. I wouldn't mind then.
    Don't get me wrong, I love TB.
    However, I'd like to hear what an admin has to say about this. It seems a bit too sneaky to actually be true...
     
  8. CapnSev

    CapnSev

    Aug 19, 2006
    Coeur d'Alene
    I don't get it.
     
  9. Selta

    Selta

    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    It's happening when you click a link someone puts in a post... like if I were to say, hey, go here www.whatevertheheck.com and you click it, you'll get sent to multiple redirects before finally ending up where the link should go :|.
     
  10. L-A

    L-A

    Jul 17, 2008
    Eh?
    Skimlinks takes your click on a site link (gallien-krueger.com for example) and counts it as an ad-click if the target site counts incoming traffic clicks.

    I.E. you click on a user-posted link that says www.gallien-krueger.com and if TB (or skimlinks) is affiliated with GK, the forum will make click-through revenue while you browse from Talkbass to GK.

    In terms of user experience, it shouldn't change anything. If you get several redirects, I'd suspect a malicious script on the linked site more than a talkbass-registered Skimlinks script. FWIW, I don't get them (clicking on a parts-express link on TB).
     
  11. rarbass

    rarbass

    Jul 3, 2008
    Having looked up skimlinks, it seems like a legitimate way for websites to make more money easily. It doesn't even really seem to affect us too hugely, but I'd like to hear still what the admin has to say about it.
    I'm sure we all wouldn't mind, but I think it's a bit odd that it was kept under wraps.
     
  12. CapnSev

    CapnSev

    Aug 19, 2006
    Coeur d'Alene
    Huh. That's never happened to me yet.
     
  13. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    it's not 'multiple redirects', it's a single redirect, and all it does is generate some commissions for paul if you guys buy something from the site being linked to, if they have opted into the system. no information about you, your surfing habits or anything else is stored anywhere, either on talkbass or anywhere else, nor is your internet experience impacted in any way other than the slight delay in bringing up the link.

    i forwarded your earlier helpdesk ticket to paul related to this issue, as well. i'm surprised that you haven't received information from him regarding it. i will send him to this thread, so that he can explain this in more detail.
     
  14. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    i don't think it was intentionally kept under wraps so much as it was just perceived (And paul will correct me if i am wrong) that, due to the nature of what is actually happening, it was not considered important to announce - it's really only something that handles links, not something user-specific.

    of course, paul will be here momentarily to let you guys know specifically what's happening.

    as an addendum, you guys should know that all of us running talkbass with the exception of paul were once just simple members. none of us would countenance anything going on that would compromise both the integrity of this site or the privacy of our users in any way.
     
  15. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    lastly, i moved this thread from ot to forum issues, where it belongs.
     
  16. rarbass

    rarbass

    Jul 3, 2008
    Good to hear, and I didn't really think that anything malicious was going on.
     
  17. JackANSI

    JackANSI

    Sep 12, 2006
    PA
    I never thought it was malicious, but just a bit 'wrong' to be doing to supporting members..


    If you want I can redo my redirect track on my part-express experience and give you exact urls... there were 4 seperate redirects, not just 1 like you suggest..

    And there is tracking involved because each one of those sites planted a cookie. I'm going to make a point out of never clicking through a link or banner ad here on TB and encourage as many others as I can to follow suit.

    Also not going to re-up my supporting membership since it doesn't seem to matter to the admin I'm a supporter or not.. I get the same redirect/ads/etc as a non-supporter...
     
  18. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    But you do get an avatar. :D

    -Mike
     
  19. rarbass

    rarbass

    Jul 3, 2008
    Pssh who needs supporting membership?

    tbavatar.
     
  20. Given the amazing resource that Talkbass is I can't see why you wouldn't just manage your cookies better. If one was to care that much about it surely a more principled stand would be to stop using the site altogether rather than refusing to support it, yet continuing to benefit from the community and resources here?

    This would be a lot less hypocritical if I were a supporting member... :bag:
     

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