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Popup ads, spam, banners, adsquares and sale of your personal information are not the only ways a Free Webpage Provider will screw you in order to make a quick buck. Be on the lookout for the following evil tricks...
404 Error Pages As
Pretty much all FWPs are acutely aware of the fact that they have a TON of 404 errors all over their site. They delete one warez page that gets 50000 hits a day, and the ad-viewers...er, visitors keep rolling in at this rate for over a year. Newbie lusers who don't know what they're doing leave a multitude of bad links in their wake, and other deleted/fed-up/moving-on-up ex-members have also pointed many Web links (on search engines, online directories, other peoples' pages, etc.) to what is now a Not Found error. Gee, what to do with all this free traffic? Hmmm... Spam them with a whole shitload of banners, that's what!
Now, as long as they're capitali$ing on pages getting deleted, what if some of the less profitable, less desirable members of their free-hosted society just started disappearing at random and being replaced by the 404 page...
Sounds a little farfetched? Maybe not. Sites that aren't technically violating any rules, but generate a lot of network traffic (3MB bitmap images on the index.html page, huge .zip files...), or advocate some political position the FWP doesn't like, or tend to be lightining rods for lawsuit/etc threats directed at the host ("Delete this page in few hours or we..."), or sites that otherwise don't make them any money ....see these pages becoming targets for deletion?
Even if the 404-money isn't the only reason to delete a certain page, you must admit that the call of extra dough has its influence. On a somewhat related note, my page on Digiweb got zapped recently. I complained about it to the webmaster, who looked it up and informed me that "Your account was indiscriminantly erased because of a lack of space on our freeweb server." And replaced with a full-of-banners 404 page. Why my 5-meg site and not someone else's 10-meg site? (1), my site contained 155(!) HTML pages--even if each page managed only a dozen hits or so a day, the combined flow of visitors was quite appreciable. (2), a Digiweb administrator had (legally) disabled the popup ads for this account some time ago. So, the account teased them with a great number of visitors, none of whom were making them a penny. Zap!
Solutions: On many FWPs, you can re-signup the same username immediately after it has been deleted. (An exception is Xoom, which locks deleted accounts out for some time.) So, as soon as you find out your page has been zapped, you can just sign up again and get the same URL! Then you can put up signposts to your new address, so you're getting all your old traffic instead of them.
And this brings me to...
When They Kick People Off Of Your Page
Upon inspection of some Digiweb pages (including my lovely new 404s), I noticed something else. A META-REFRESH tag which redirects your visitors to an adpage after 100 seconds! So, if someone's reading one of your pages, and it takes longer than a little under 2 minutes, POW! they get kicked off your page and spammed with ads. Not only that, but these adpages also have META-REFRESHes, to even more adpages! If the surfer was away from the computer, or surfing a different site in another window, think how this endlessly-reloading stream of ads would benefit the FWP! TheGlobe used to do something similar, refreshing to their Signup page (also loaded full of crap) after 600 seconds.
Since many (most) users tend to open more than one window when surfing the web (I have about a dozen open at any given moment), many of the on-the-bottom windows may be neglected for some time, making the FWP a lot of money at your expense before the visitor notices and closes that window (or even worse, clicks on the ad!). While popup ads are common enough that no-one but extreme newbies would be fooled by one, a visitor sees a fullsize browser window open, knowing that they themselves opened it, and naturally assumes that they therefore had some intention of being there! Of course, if they are surfing many sites at once, they're probably not going to remember exactly what was supposed to be there, except they surfed there on their own volition. At any rate, it means you're going to lose a lot of vistors so the FWP can make some more money off you.
You can usually beat them to the punch. If you know your FWP is sticking
in a REFRESH tag to kick people off your page in 600 seconds, put in your
to refresh them back to your page in 550. Let's see the wankers
The Infernal NO-CACHE
similar to putting their refresh tags into your page. FWPs may insert NO-CACHE,
CACHE-CONTROL and similar tags into your page so that browsers and proxy
servers are forbidden to cache them. This means that everytime your visitors
come to your pages they must be reloaded entirely from the server...and
everytime they press the BACK button to return to one of your other pages,
it must also be reloaded (this can get very slow!). The reason is that
when the page is cached, all the FWPs ads are also cached, as God intended.
But if they make the browser reload the page every single time, fresh ads
must also be downloaded each time, so they can serve more ugly banners
to each of your visitors and make more money! Naturally, it pisses off
your visitors something fierce, slows down the Internet, brings dialup
users to a crawl...But hey, it makes the FWP a few pennies more, and that's
all that really matters, right?
Ads In Your META Tags
The FWPs that force an adframe
on their members are notorious for this. You're going to want to register
your site with search engines, right? But if your site is stuck inside
the FWP's frameset, the FWP controls the main page that the engines actually
index, which means they alone control your site's META tags! These META
tags ("Description" and "Keywords") are what the search engines use to
determine what your page is about, and the description that appears alongside
the page in your listing. The FWPs love to take advantage of this,
which is why you will see many free-hosted pages, one of them could be
yours, in the search results with descriptions such as "11MB Free Space!
Signup Today!" and "Come to HomepageCities.com for Your Free Home Page!!".
The "Download Gateway"
Funny how they're never there when you first sign up and never mentioned in the service agreement. FWPs loooove HTML because they can spam all kinds of advertising on it. We of course know how they feel about .zip files and other downloads...they can't smush their advertising feces all over a zip file!! So they instead assault you with a "Download Gateway". When someone tries to access a non-HTML file on your page, instead of the file they get half a dozen porno popups and a page full of banners that says "Click here to download the file"... This means, for one thing, many headaches for any visitor fool..er, ambitious enough to attempt downloading a file from one of these surfer-hostile servers: these download gateways often don't work (try downloading a file from WebJunk...if you ever wondered why after waiting for hours for those multimegabyte downloads they won't open, try removing the 404 page and popups tacked onto the beginning of the file...), and even then, work only in a Web browser. Anyone with the sheer audacity to use a non-browser download tool (Getright, GoZilla, etc.) is out of luck (naturally, Getright can't show banners and porn windows!).