The blogosphere is under siege. Spam, long the scourge of email users, is now haunting bloggers as splog or blam: weblogs created by spammers.
Festooned with popular keywords and replete with gibberish, a splog makes money when a surfer clicks on the advertisements hosted on it. Since search giants like Yahoo, Google and MSN base their ranking of websites, in part, on how many sites link to it, splogs are widely used to inflate a site’s popularity as well.
Some 56 per cent of active English language blogs are splogs, according to a study released in May 2006 by Tim Finin, a researcher at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA and two of his students.
Talking to Wired magazine, Finin said, “The blogosphere is growing fast, but the splogosphere is now growing faster.” Finin sourced web addresses of some 1.3 million blogs from webpulse, a popular blog search engine, for his study.
In December 2005, Mitesh Vasa, a splog researcher based in Virginia, found that nearly 10,000 splogs were hosted on Google’s ‘blogger’ service alone. In an online interview to Sunday HT, Vasa said: “Splogs are polluting search results. Users like us end up wasting time when we reach a splog. We also generate revenue for the sploggers through ads.”
Splogs generate content using soft ware robots that skim web pages and copy text, matching pre-fed keywords. For example, a robot may search a blog engine for keywords like WMDs, Lebanon, Aishwarya Rai, technology and ipod, and copy bits of the relevant information. The resulting splog will contain gibberish but will be returned by a search engine if any of the keywords are fed. Most splogs then use these keywords to host ads relevant to the keywords and generate revenue each time a surfer clicks on the ad.
According to Wikipedia, Google is working on a technology that will make it impossible to update blogs without human intervention. In an interview to the Wall Street Journal, Jason Goldman, product manager for Google’s Blogger hosting service, said that his company was witnessing a ‘spamalanche’.
Several anti-splog websites have come up. One such site, www.splogreporter.com, blacklists splogs reported by surfers, thus cleaning up the blogosphere, one splog at a time.