Click Forensics: a community sharing approach to improving pay-per-click quality

by Andy Oram

Like so many Internet abuses--spam, artificial measures to boost search engine rankings, and most recently, anonymous postings by businesses or political campaigns that pretend to be unaffiliated--click fraud is an Internet war that undergoes constant metamorphosis.

Both sides (those who wish to abuse the system and those who want to keep it clean) are always increasing their sophistication, pushing more and more criteria through more and more complex algorithms in an effort to outsmart the foe.

In these sorts of battles, the good guys are always attempting to reduce the burden on humans by automating their responses, and run up against the problems involved in anticipating a creative human foe. Also endemic to these situations are complaints about unfairness, inaccurate classifications, and other weaknesses suggesting a need for standardization.

What interests me about the company Click Forensics is the distributed, P2P-like strategy put into practice by their Click Fraud Network. It attempts to maximize the volume and variety of data available for sifting the good clicks from the bad.

The Network brings in a huge amount of input data and allows fast turn-around for results. The question is whether this technique will work for the domain of click fraud.

As in all the collaborative, Web 2.0 sorts of sharing that are currently making the news (or quietly making revolutions in various fields), the Click Forensics strategy reaches out to large numbers of affected users in an appeal to combine their power and try for ever-better results. The philosophy behind this strategy is intriguing; whether or not it proves successful, it is already yielding some interesting public results.