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SECOND UPDATE: Ximian CEO Defends Google AdWords Campaign, Will Not Create New Ads

Feb 13, 2001, 12:31 (105 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Michael Hall)

SECOND UPDATE: Since this story was first published last night, the open letter appearing on Ximian's web site has changed, and Ximian has announced that it will "revise its advertisements on Google to eliminate the possibility of confusion, and will not create new advertising campaigns based on KDE-related keyword searches." A look at Google this morning confirmed that the keywords reported on below (kde, konqueror, kparts, dcop) no longer return a Ximian ad.

UPDATE: Since we spoke to him earlier this evening, Nat Friedman has announced that Ximian has changed course slightly with regards to its ad campaign. In a follow-up interview conducted after this story was first run, citing his conviction that Ximian had done no wrong in running the ads, Friedman announced that the ad campaign will continue uninterrupted. Ximian has posted a response of its own on its website,.

By Michael Hall, LinuxToday

Noting his own surprise at the vociferousness of a web page posted by KDE developers addressing his company's purchase of KDE-related "ad words" on the popular Google search engine, Ximian President and CEO Nat Friedman said the company will not suspend the ads, despite earlier plans to do so.

The conflict over the ads, which were first reported on Linux Weekly News, centers around Google's "ad words" program, which allows advertisers to purchase ads that appear in relationship to keywords entered by users of the search engine. In this case, searching on such terms as "kde", "konqueror", "dcop" (the KDE "Desktop COmmunications Protocol"), and kparts (the KDE component model) causes Google to display an ad for Ximian, which produces an enhanced version of the GNOME desktop environment.

Today KDE developers Kurt Granroth and Andreas Pour published a web page entitled ""Business Ethics" in the Open Source Community?" that took Ximian to task for the ads, saying the company had rejected the ethics of the Open Source community and engaged in "deceitful" practices.

Friedman defended Ximian's actions:

"We knew what we were doing," he said, noting that Ximian's goal is to ensure "as many users for Ximian GNOME as possible," within the context of "friendly competition."

Ximian's intent in taking out the ads, according to Friedman, wasn't hostile or deceptive, and he said he believes people searching for information on the KDE desktop environment "might also be interested in Ximian."

Friedman also addressed concerns that the ads, which make no direct mention of GNOME as they appear on Google!, were an attempt to deceive or mislead the site's users. Friedman said that if the ad campaign continues after the company confers with KDE developers, they'll likely include the word "GNOME" in the ads to allay these concerns.

Though some mail correspondence between the Ximian webmaster and KDE community members had taken place previous to today, Friedman also took issue with the abruptness of the web page's publication, saying it came without any attempt on the part of the authors to contact Ximian representatives to make their concerns known.

"We were a little surprised," he said, saying later in an interview conducted this afternoon that he "wished they'd talked to us about this."

Noting the past history of the the KDE and GNOME organizations, Friedman said the ads are "not the first volley over the wall", citing an incident in 1999 where Friedman and Ximian co-founder Miguel de Icaza purchased the "gnome-support.com" domain preparatory to launching a company centered around professional support and services for the GNOME desktop (what eventually became Ximian). According to Friedman, within weeks of purchasing the domain, KDE developer Martin Konold purchased "gnome-support.de" and redirected traffic to the KDE web site. Though Konold still owns the domain, it no longer redirects to KDE's pages.

Friedman plans to publish his own response to the issue later this evening, and a link to that page will be included here.

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