Beware of green browser addons

I was just reading about a “green” Firefox web browser addon (also known as an extension) that claims to offset your carbon footprint as you surf. Sounds good huh?

What it does it to replace ads on sites you visit with ads from the company that supplies the add-on. They state the ads will be sourced from their own advertisers and revenue raised will go towards the development of clean energy sources like solar power and wind energy, plus reforestation projects.

Still sounds good?

Here’s the problem.

Remember, it *replaces* the ads on the web site you’re viewing; basically manipulating the content from what the publisher intended without the publisher’s approval, depriving that publisher of revenue and using that publisher’s efforts to generate the addon company’s revenue!

In the affiliate marketing industry this sort of thing is known as stealware – the only difference being is that the addon does it with your permission; that is if you bother to read the terms and know exactly what is going on before you click “I Accept”. Additionally, all sorts of details of your surfing habits are tracked.

When I trialled the plugin, I visited a few of environmental sites and yes it did remove the ads, and replaced them with nothing. I assume they don’t have the advertisers on board yet to fill all the available slots. Either way, the publisher of the site missed out on potential revenue from my visit.

Before installing something like this, consider the bloggers and site owners who put a great deal of effort into publishing content on green issues who will miss out on advertising cash that helps support them in their endeavors… it will go to the company offering the addon instead.

Aside from taking the food out of the mouths of the publishers of your favorite green sites, while the premise of the addon is somewhat luring, what’s not clear is what these “environmental” projects actually are and just how much of the revenue will go towards the project. Are the people behind the addon doing their side of things for free? I somehow doubt it. The details on this side of things are very scant.

Caveat emptor. Before you install any of these types of browser plugins, it would probably be wise to ask the vendor some pointed questions.

Being “green” encapsulates so much more than just our purchasing choices – it’s about sustainability in all areas of life, including business. A green business is one that plays fair and profits from its own efforts rather than stealing from the efforts of others.