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Just this past weekend, Google's popular blog-creation tool, Blogger, was targeted in an apparently coordinated effort to create more than 13,000 splogs, the search giant said. The splogs were laced with popular keywords so that they would appear prominently in blog searches, and several bloggers complained online that that the splogs were gumming up searches for legitimate sites.

A typical splog might contain entries discussing how to play poker, with embedded keywords such as "online casino" and "Texas Hold 'em," making it turn up in searches for gambling Web sites. The splog may link to Web sites that receive commissions for sending customers to Internet casinos.

The splogs also are a big source of frustration for several search-engine start-ups that focus on blog searches, such as IceRocket.com LLC, Technorati Inc. and Feedster Inc. Technorati estimates that 2% to 8% of the 70,000 blogs created daily are phony blogs or splogs. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and majority owner of IceRocket, recently went online with a complaint that Google's blogging service lacks sufficient controls to prevent automated software from creating splogs in bulk. Title of his message: "Get Your Blogspot S- Together Google." (Blogspot is the name of the Web site where Google provides free hosting to blogs created with its Blogger tool.)

"It's the biggest problem on the Net right now after identity theft. We have to kill millions of the splogs per month" from IceRocket's index, Mr. Cuban said in an interview. He said that while spammers use a variety of blogging tools to create their phony sites, most that he encounters have been created with Blogger -- something Mr. Cuban attributed to the tool's ability to create blogs quickly, easily and free of charge. Following the weekend outbreak, IceRocket temporarily blocked new Blogger sites from appearing in its index.

Jason Goldman, product manager for Blogger, acknowledged on Blogger's official corporate blog Monday that the company had been targeted by what he called a "spamalanche." In an interview, he said he sympathizes with Mr. Cuban. But he said that spam is going to be an issue for the blogging community for a long time to come and that blacklisting Blogger would not be an effective response.

"Spam is a particular challenge for us because we want to continue to make the [Blogger] tool very simple to use but not encourage or make it easy for spammers to use," he says. Google's blog service, which hosts millions of blogs, began to notice a lot of phony bloggers using the service six months ago, he added.
If you've ever used a blog search engine to search for a common term, you'll know exactly what Cuban means when he writes about the risk of good signals being swallowed by the noise. There are a number of variations on splogs, but most merely contain pages of links, and many contain nonsense entries or fragments of commentary clearly cribbed from other sources.

Identifying Splogs
  • short posts (50-100 words) with hyperlinks
  • contain entries with embedded keywords such as "online casino" and "viagra"
  • search terms in the anchor links
  • odd-looking, super long URLs that are packed with keywords
  • multiple dashes in the URLs
  • use of .info domains (which are favored by sploggers because they are cheap)
Blogger: About Spam Blogs
Wikipedia: Splog

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