February 20, 2001

Ximian fan and Perens buy ads on Google

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -
After last week's "tempest in a teapot" regarding Ximian's decidedly capitalistic decision to place ads on Google linked to KDE search terms, it seems that the idea of using the inexpensive Google ads as a platform for free speech is catching on.Google launched its AdWord self-service ad creation program back in October of 2000. Geared toward low-budget advertisers, AdWord lets anyone create and preview an ad without obligation, attach keywords to it, and set up an automatic spending limit of any amount. After online payment with a credit card, the ads appear instantly.

Perens, does this mean war?

Go to Google and type in "Eric Raymond." An AdWords ad for none other than another Open Source advocate, Bruce Perens, pops up. "It's a joke," says Perens, adding that it was in response to the short-lived Ximian ad campaign. "I really should take that down." He says no one else has even noticed the ads, as far as he knows.

The KDE-Ximian saga continues ... maybe

In case you missed the brouhaha, earlier this month, KDE developers Kurt Granroth and Andreas Pour got their tighty-whiteys in a knot because Ximian GNOME placed an ad linking to its Web site that came up whenever any of several KDE-related keywords were searched at Google. The KDE guys posted this open letter; but the general consensus was, "get a life."

Later the same day, Ximian said it would pull the ads and would not create any more campaigns based on the KDE-keyword searches. Granroth and Pour added a statement to that effect to the open letter, and that appeared to be the end of it.

Ximian has a white knight, but do they need one?

Until now. A post on the GNOME developers mailing list from a guy by the name of August Zajonc pointed it out:

Has anyone searched for KDE recently at google? Very funny :)

Donate today at:


Turns out that "junk-adwords@aontic.com" is none other than Zajonc himself. A 22-year-old college student in Massachusetts, and operator, he says, of a Web site he'd like to keep nameless that serves "six million dynamic pages a day or so using all open source software (PHP/MySQL/Linux) on a six machine server farm," Zajonc thinks too many developers "cave in" rather than fight when it comes to skirmishes like the recent KDE vs. Ximian flap.

So Zajonc is making a personal sacrifice in the name of what he terms democratic expression. He claims that he's created ads on Ximian's behalf and funded an account at Google to the tune of $500. "I may go to $1,000, but if everyone clicks through to see what is going on, I probably can't sustain it alone," he says. "The success will revolve around people giving rather than me going it alone, more democratic. I don't think I could fund ad purchases for an entire year."

That's why he set up the fund at PayPal, encouraging interested parties to donate $10 to a fund that will go "back to Google to pay for ad purchases." The ad account has run dry a couple of times already, and Zajonc says he was surprised at how fast the allotted page views were used up. "I
had no way to judge the rate of ad purchases," he says. "Looks like KDE gets more hits then I thought."

A spokesman for Google was unable to confirm Zajonc's purchase, but said that the adWord program has been very successful and typically garners a much higher click-through rate than the typical banner ad campaign.

If Ximian is grateful for Zadonc's spontaneous generosity, they're not saying. Miguel de Icaza, CTO and co-founder of Ximian, didn't know Zajonc was buying ads, but "I find it funny," he says.

Zajonc's not sure how long this effort will continue. "[I] will gauge the response, if people like the idea it'll continue potentially
forever, if not I expect it'll die down after a while. I'm willing to fund
it myself for a bit out of principle, so unless the KDE search term gets
slashdotted or something I think it'll be there for a while."

As of press time, the ads were not appearing at Google. Zajonc says that he funded the account at a rate that should have lasted 50 days, based on Google's estimates, but in reality only lasted for one. "In the one partial day I ran the keyword there were nearly 100,000 impressions on my ad alone which is an incredible number."

Even with all that exposure, Zajonc has not received any donations. Maybe the folks at KDE subscribe to the GNOME developers list, too.

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