October 20, 2005 4:00 AM PDT
Tempted by blogs, spam becomes 'splog'
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from the bloggers' real Web sites, Wyman said, along with links to the mortgage and other sites.
People querying the well-known bloggers' names in blog search engines, and people who track these bloggers and their write-ups via services like PubSub, Technorati and Feedster, then received feeds to the fake blogs, jamming RSS readers with useless links, Wyman said.
As a result, PubSub may stop including entries from Blogger-BlogSpot feeds in the normal results it delivers to users. PubSub is also considering requiring that users explicitly opt in if they want to see results from Blogger-BlogSpot feeds, Wyman said.
"We may be forced to filter out everything from BlogSpot," he said. "That would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. That's really unfortunate."
IceRocket.com, co-owned by well-known Net entrepreneur Mark Cuban, also said it would stop indexing Blogger-BlogSpot posts until it could get a splog filter in place.
Though it's difficult to measure exactly how big the splog attack was, Wyman said the number of RSS feeds that his service sends to subscribers more than doubled during the attack, from the 6 million or so it averages on a normal day.
Google said in the official Blogger blog that it had deleted more than 13,000 blogs during the "spamalanche."
As for the general threat of splog, blog search provider Technorati's State of the Blogosphere report estimated that 5.8 percent of new blogs overall, or about 50,000 posts on average, are fake or potentially fake.
Some affected bloggers complained that Google was to blame. "Google: Kill BlogSpot Already!" Pirillo wrote in his blog Monday.
"BlogSpot has become nothing but a crapfarm, and your brand is going to go down with it," he wrote. "If your motto truly is to do no evil, then you need to start putting some resources behind an effort to curb this train wreck."
In his frustration, Pirillo created a short video with screenshots showing him scrolling past the hundreds of splog listings in the PubSub RSS feed folder in his in-box.
Google's Jason Goldman, product manager for Blogger, said Google has been working to address the splog problem for a while, instituting precautions such as allowing users to flag suspicious blogs as potential fakes and prompting blog creators to manually transcribe distorted words to verify that the blog was created by a human and not a machine.
Goldman admitted that the weekend attack showed that those preventative tools are "broken" and serve as deterrents rather than outright solutions. He also said Google launched a feature Wednesday that would force suspected spammers to transcribe distorted words before pushing through individual blog posts. And he said Google is not alone in being attacked.
"Weblogs in general are having a problem with spam right now, not just Blogger," he said. "While it is a problem, it is certainly not the majority case on BlogSpot, at all."
Wyman said Blogger-BlogSpot and other blogging services should do more to monitor postings to keep spammers out. However, he defended Google, saying the company's blogging service was an easy target because it is simple to use, has an open API and is free.
"They've done a good job," he said. "That's the reason this is happening."
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