Amid industry discussion about what Google’s enforcement of new policies will mean for its AdWords distribution partners, IAC says its Mindspark toolbar company, and all of its companies, are fully in compliance with the policies currently in place. Google put new standards for its partners into place in October, issuing rules meant to bar software companies, including toolbar makers, from deceiving users or making uninstallation difficult.
“None of IAC’s companies prey on any unsuspecting users and we are fully compliant with Google’s standards and policies,” Justine Sacco, the director of corporate communications for IAC, told me.
Mindspark offers users free toolbars such as “Daily Bible Guide,” “Guffins,” and “Television Fanatic.” Once the toolbars are installed, any searches go through MyWebSearch.com, and the company shares revenue with Google when users click on the ads.
IAC’s comments come at a time when Google is stepping up the enforcement of new policies it established in September of last year, extending them to larger partners with which it has special deals. Critics of IAC like Ben Edelman — who recently wrote up a report accusing IAC’s toolbar business of shady behavior — believe that “fair enforcement” of Google’s policies would put a stop to current practices. (He notes, however, that some of the research for his report was done on behalf of an unnamed client, which may have an anti-IAC agenda.)
There’s certainly some room for interpretation with at least some of Google’s new software policies. Take the one that says, “At the time of installation or download, users must clearly understand the principal and significant functions of the software and the specific effects the software will have on their computers. This may be supplemented by ‘Learn More’ links.”
What exactly do average users — especially the less tech-savvy — need to have spelled out before they “clearly understand” what they’re doing when they download a toolbar? It’s not an easy question to answer.
Google definitely expects some of its partners to go away, or at least generate less revenue when they change their software to be compliant with the new policies. In the recent fourth quarter earnings call, SVP Nikesh Arora said Google was already seeing some shakeout from the changes:
[We] updated our policies for better enforcement. And that has resulted in higher quality results for end users; it has reduced in some cases the monetization that some of our partners are seeing as a result of this enforcement and hence you are seeing the impact on the numbers.
We just announced this policy sometime early this quarter, in the past quarter that we just went through, so you are going to see the impact over the next few quarters. We’ve also implemented more stringent policies around downloadable apps, and that’s why I think both those effects are going to stay with us for the year, but we think in the long-term is the right answer for us, it’s the right answer for users and it’s right answer for advertisers, so we think it’s a good thing to do.
Policeman stock image used with permission from Shutterstock.