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November 30, 2004

Terms & Policies: Google AdSense vs. Chitika RealContext - And the winner is... Google

AdSense has some pretty strict terms, and most competitors have had quite lenient terms by comparison, wanting to appear easier to work with and less strict than AdSense. Chitika, which launched earlier this month, brings the strengths of multiple PPC providers under one publishers program - RealContext - with over 500,000 individual ad listings. Their distribution partners include FindWhat, eSpotting, ePilot, Search123 and Shopping.com.

Some interesting things caught my eye when I took a peek at Chitika's terms and conditions. Things started to sound familiar... very familiar... So familiar, in fact, that it turns out Chitika decided to take the February 18, 2004 version of Google's AdSense terms, and use the entire "Prohibited uses" for themselves. What did they change? Google to Chitika, "ad unit" to "paid listing unit", and other minor specifics like that.

From Google AdSense Terms (February 18, 2004 version)

Prohibited Uses. You shall not, and shall not authorize or encourage any third party to: (i) generate fraudulent impressions of or fraudulent clicks on any Ad(s), including but not limited to through repeated manual clicks, the use of robots or other automated query tools and/or computer generated search requests, and/or the fraudulent use of other search engine optimization services and/or software; (ii) edit, modify, filter or change the order of the information contained in any Ad and/or Ad Unit, or remove, obscure or minimize any Ad or Ad Unit in any way; (iii) frame any Web page accessed by an end user after clicking on any part of a Ad ("Advertiser Page"); (iv) redirect an end user away from the Advertiser Page, provide a version of the Advertiser Page different from the page an end user would access by going directly to the Advertiser Page or intersperse any content between the Ad and the Advertiser Page; (v) display any Ad(s) on any error page, registration or "thank you" page (e.g. a page that thanks a user after he/she has registered with the applicable Web site), or in any email or on any Web page or any Web site that contains any pornographic, hate-related or violent content ; or (vi) act in any way that violates any Program Policies posted on the Google Web Site, as may be revised from time to time. Violation of any of the foregoing may result in immediate suspension of Your account or termination of this Agreement, and may subject You to state and federal penalties and other legal consequences.

And here is Chitika's verion of that same section:

Prohibited Uses. Client shall not, and shall not authorize or encourage any third party to: (i) generate fraudulent impressions of or fraudulent clicks on any Paid Listing, including but not limited to repeated manual clicks, the use of robots or other automated query tools and/or computer generated search requests, and/or the fraudulent use of other search engine optimization services and/or software; (ii) edit, modify, filter or change the order of the information contained in any Paid Listing or Paid Listing Unit, or remove, obscure or minimize any Paid Listing or Paid Listing Unit in any way; (iii) frame any Web page accessed by an end user after clicking on any part of a Paid Listing link ("Advertiser Page"); (iv) redirect an end user away from the Advertiser Page, provide a version of the Advertiser Page different from the page an end user would access by going directly to the Advertiser Page or intersperse any content between the Paid Listing and the Advertiser Page; (v) display any Paid Listing on any error page, registration or "thank you" page (e.g. a page that thanks a user after he/she has registered with the applicable Web site), or in any email or on any Web page or any Web site that contains any pornographic, hate-related or violent content ; or (vi) act in any way that violates any Program Policies posted on the Chitika Web Site, as may be revised from time to time. Violation of any of the foregoing may result in immediate termination of this Agreement.

Rather interesting.... But do the similarities stop there? Not a chance. Under revenue share payments (which they do state - in non-Google fashion - that publishers only receive 30% of the click value, far below the estimated 60-70% AdSense publishers are believed to receive) the similarities go on:

Notwithstanding the foregoing, Chitika shall not be liable for any payment based on (a) any fraudulent impressions generated by any person, bot, automated program or similar device or for fraudulent clicks similarly generated on any Paid Listing, as reasonably determined by Chitika and or its Partners; (b) Paid Listings delivered to end users whose browsers have JavaScript disabled; (c) Paid Listings benefiting charitable organizations and other placeholder or transparent Paid Listings that Chitika may deliver in the event that a Site is improperly configured to comply with Chitika technical requirements; (d) Chitika or its Partner advertisements for its own products and/or services; or (e) impressions co-mingled with a significant number of fraudulent impressions or fraudulent clicks described in (a) above, or as a result of other breach of this Agreement by Client for any applicable pay period. Chitika reserves the right to withhold payment of any Revenue Share Payment in the event of any breach of this Agreement by Client, pending Chitika's reasonable investigation of any of the foregoing or any breach of this Agreement by Client, or in the event that an advertiser whose Paid Listing are displayed on the Site defaults on payment for such Paid Listing to Chitika.
And the Google version from the February 2004 terms:
Notwithstanding the foregoing, Google shall not be liable for any payment based on (a) any fraudulent impressions generated by any person, bot, automated program or similar device or for fraudulent clicks similarly generated on any Ads, as reasonably determined by Google; (b) Ads delivered to end users whose browsers have JavaScript disabled; (c) Ads benefiting charitable organizations and other placeholder or transparent Ads that Google may deliver in the event that a Site is improperly configured to comply with Google technical requirements; (d) Google advertisements for its own products and/or services; or (e) impressions co-mingled with a significant number of fraudulent impressions or fraudulent clicks described in (a) above, or as a result of other breach of this Agreement by You for any applicable pay period. Google reserves the right to withhold payment or charge back Your account due to any of the foregoing, any breach of this Agreement by You, pending Google's reasonable investigation of any of the foregoing or any breach of this Agreement by You, or in the event that an advertiser whose Ads are displayed on Your Site(s) defaults on payment for such Ads to Google.
And as I am sure you can guess, the similarities continue throughout the entire terms. Definitely raises the question as to why these two terms for competing programs are nearly identical. So I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise at all when I view Chitika's "Program Policies".

Every policies section Chitika has is identical, including the much-discussed, uniquely worded phrase of "site may not include: Multiple Paid Listings units may be displayed on each Web site page, but no Paid Listings unit shall contain any advertisement in common with any other Paid Listings unit" that caused so much confusion for AdSense publishers earlier this year. (I will save you all from boredom by not quoting all the policy comparisons).

One interesting addition to Chitika's terms - something they didn't get from Google, is this:

Client's Obligations. Upon execution of this Agreement Client agrees to: inform Chitika of its approximate average daily searches for the most recent weekly or monthly period for which information is available, and provide at least 20 days advance notice to the Chitika of any expected increase in average daily searches or User Queries above 15% of the then current average;

Now most publishers cannot predict traffic spikes with 20 days notice, especially if a spike is measured as only 15% of average. But wait.... this is sounding rather familiar too....

When Quigo beta tested AdSonar last year, they included that same provision in their terms (dated November 20, 2003):

Provide Quigo at least ten (10) days advance notice of any expected increase in average daily Queries above fifteen percent (15%) of the then current average Queries on all Publisher Pages;

Except they only required ten days notice, not twenty. And for the record, Quigo's AdSonar's terms were not identical to Google's in any way, shape or form, although they did cover many of the same points in their own legal words.

Interesting, interesting... At least the other competitive programs I have seen have made the attempt to disguise the fact they think AdSense has the best T&C's, and at least mix it up a bit by using their own wording. There are many possibilities as to why the terms and policies Chitika came up with are so identical to the Google AdSense terms and policies... but usually it is not good. But their additions such as publishers only receiving 30% of the ad revenue and needing to give them 20 days notice on any traffic 15% above average makes Chitika a far less attractive package, even with the remaining terms and policies identical to Google AdSense.

Posted by Jenstar at November 30, 2004 03:02 AM

Comments

Wow, that was a lengthy and very informative post. Thanks for the info and welcome to the blog world. I've marked your blog in Sage with my Firefox web browser and look forward to reading and learning more.

Posted by: John Martel at November 30, 2004 05:22 PM

I recall those silly "spike" rules when I registered for AdSonar. Funny that Chitika is not only stealing rules, they are stealing the stupid ones too! Did they think that no one would notice. Did they think this this would escape Jenstar? ;-)

Posted by: Andrew at December 6, 2004 09:04 AM

Hey, thanks for the info, I was about to join Chitika, and wanted to learn more. Now that I know that it is kind of a copy of Adsense, I am not so sure I want to join anymore.

Mhmm. Thanks again!

Posted by: Ken at March 5, 2005 11:49 AM