A new generation of controversial advertising software is wreaking havoc on the ad businesses of Web giants including Facebook Inc., Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc., inserting a layer of ads on websites or covering up other paying ads.
The software comes in the form of applications that allow people to customize their Facebook profiles with, say, special borders of snowflakes or colorful designs or turbo-charge Web searches. But in downloading the software, computer users open up a door to ads that the big Internet companies complain are rogue.
Once people download the apps, with names like PageRage and BuzzDock, extra ads can appear on Facebook and search-engine results pages. On Facebook, for instance, big splashy ads appear along the border and in the middle of the pages, pushing content—and the advertising actually sold by Facebook— further down the page. The applications can similarly interfere with search results, placing new sets of ads above the ones bought, say, by Google advertisers.
Facebook and Google don’t see any of the revenue from these ads, which often are for big-name companies including Gap, American Express and AT&T. The vast majority of user complaints that Facebook receives about advertising are because these ads, according to people familiar with the matter.
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