There's a controversy brewing over David Watanabe's Inquisitor Safari search plug-in manipulating search results to insert income generating affiliate links.
I've purchased a couple of David's apps and I tend to enjoy the experience; it's a fair deal, he produces nice software, and if I value it sufficiently, for whatever reason, I'll pay the price.
In a blog post, titled "idealism lost", David complains that he's been unfairly vilified, which is simply not OK, and then offers a pretty reasonable-sounding explanation:
Jon Gruber follows up by saying that:
I don't want to attack David, but simply observe that there's a dissonance here; the problem is that this search behaviour was not public knowledge, as he contends, and that advertisements are not clearly indicated. Affiliate links are masked, and income-generating links are inserted above legitimate search results, without the user's knowledge.
Unfortunately these comments seem somewhat disingenuous; while the Inquisitor site now includes the statement that:
This note seems to have been recently added, and a quick perusal of the WayBack Machine shows that it wasn't there throughout '07 when v3.0 was available, nor for any of the previous indexed copies, back to Oct 29, 2005.
I'm not out to get him in the least, but the veracity of his statements appears to be in question. Again, quickly checking back over his blog I have not seen any references to this behaviour, but have found plenty about Inquisitor being free, about it retaining your privacy with local search history, and the statement that your search history will influence the results, all positive things, but nothing about income generation for the author, however marginal, incremental or seemingly harmless in the author's eyes.
Finally, since offering Inquisitor 3 David has requested donations. It could be argued that without publicly mentioning affiliate income via result manipulation, and by requesting donations, David did not clearly indicate how he was deriving income from this 'free' application, and users could be forgiven for their surprise that donations where on the sole income stream.
The issue simply comes down to disclosure, and in this regard David has erred in the eyes of the community, however unfortunately rabid some of it's members can be. Ultimately Mac developers are running a business, and in that context disclosure and perception, or public opinion, are legitimate concerns.
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