A lengthy thread is going on over at ABestWeb right now about activities going on with the loyalty program called OneCause.
According to Haiko who has posted numerous screencasts, the OneCause browser plugin is activating automatically and encouraging users to click for earnings, and thereby overwriting other affiliate clicks.
In some cases, the redirect is happening completely automatically with no user action required.
I haven’t tested this myself, but after watching several of these screencasts, the sequence of events, which differs depending on whether there was an identifiable affiliate link clicked on previously (either a network link, or afsrc=1 in the link), is as follows:
- “regular affiliate” link is clicked.
- user ends up on merchant site.
- toolbar activates and encourages the user to click to get their rewards, (this step won’t happen if there was no identifiable affiliate link clicked previously.)
- user is redirected through a second affiliate link, overwriting the first.
It is important to note that this different behavior is not random. This application is coded specifically to behave differently when there was an identifiable affiliate link previously clicked or not.
For example, when plain affiliate links are clicked, the “Earn Contributions” button appears.
Also, when an affiliate link that’s behind a local redirect, but does have afsrc=1 on the link is clicked, the “Earn Contributions” button appears.
Otherwise, the “Earn Contributions” button doesn’t appear and step three above is skipped. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t an affiliate link previously clicked, it may have been, just not identifiable. Or a merchant’s PPC ad may have been clicked. Or an affiliate’s PPC ad may have been clicked. Or the user may have gone directly to the merchant’s site.
It’s been a long time, but my recollection of the Code of Conduct is that as long as the user has agreed to have this software running and actively clicks to get their incentive, it is “ok”. This active click is happening in many of the screencasts that Haiko produced. That doesn’t make this any less controversial, as it has always been.
OneCause very likely believes that they are operating within the letter of the various networks’ respective rules. And they may be correct.
Even though it may be “ok”, the vast majority of the software plugins have opted to go completely dormant when there was another affiliate in the mix, steering clear of the issue almost entirely (except for the case of return visits tracked by cookie).
This falls into the heavily contested area which is what does the end-user want? And even though the argument goes in that direction, of course, the end user should have nothing to do with deciding who gets commissions for a sale.
And there you have the major problem with incentive publishers playing in the same channel as acquisition publishers. The two just don’t mix!
But wait, there’s more to the story.
OneCause is owned by Rakuten, or perhaps even directly by Linkshare. This acquisition happened a little over a year ago, according to posts by Shawn Collins and Kellie Stevens. I’m not certain if Rakuten or Linkshare owns them, but this page on the Linkshare website seems to indicate the latter:
“ok” or not, what are they thinking?
More reading on the subject:
Hot Charity, or why your favorite coupon site is losing money.