Belkin products have always been a retail staple: cheap imitation knockoffs with massive profit margins for the stores. They’re usually known for their overpriced computer cables ($15 for a 6-foot USB cable with a wholesale price of around $3). They also occasionally venture into the peripheral market, but their only successful peripheral has been the Nostromo SpeedPad.
In recent years, they’ve ventured into networking products. They now offer a full line of 10/100, 802.11b, and 802.11g cards and routers. They compete primarily with Netgear, Linksys, and D-Link, offering their products at identical or slightly lower prices. Unfortunately, Belkin products really aren’t very good, and aren’t worth even their cheapest prices.
I guess this is why they decided to serve ads through their routers.
In an appalling move, Belkin’s marketing staff decided to insert a feature into their latest firmware revisions and in all newly-manufactured routers. A router’s job is to be a middleman between some computers and the internet via HTTP requests. Every time you click on a link or download anything through your web browser, an HTTP request is sent and its response is presented to you. Belkin’s new feature intercepts a random HTTP request every 8 hours and, instead of passing it to its recipient like a router should, it redirects it to an advertisement for another one of Belkin’s products:
That means that if you have one of these routers, every 8 hours, some page you visit (or even just part of a page, such as its left frame) will be that advertisement instead of what you wanted. The possible consequences of this are astoundingly bad – what if a very important transaction is interrupted?
This was discovered and posted to a newsgroup by a Mr. Uh Clem. Belkin’s Eric Deming had this to say in respose, which has since been taken down:
I was made aware of this posting by an e-mail that was sent to Belkin's tech support e-mail box. Since I am a product manager for Belkin's LAN products and was very involved with the development of the Parental Control feature, I feel that I can shed some light on this subject. Firstly, without trying to sound too stand-offish, we are not talking about SPAM here. For me to clarify, an understanding of the Parental Control service will really be needed.
Since Parental Control is a subscription service, Belkin wanted to make registering for the service very easy. Since the router actually will work in tandem with an outside server (Cerberian, www.cerberian.com) registration information needs to be collected and sent to Belkin and Cerberian to activate an account. Traditional methods of registration, such as asking the user to go to a website or navigate to the Router's internal Web page to enter information didn't meet the ease-of-use goal. We elected to re-direct one http request to the "Register Now" reminder page. (There is a link in a previous posting if you want to see it) This page asks the user to register for the service for a free 6 month trial. Now, granted this looks like an ad. It should, it is intended to be informative and easy enough to understand. At this point, the user can register or click "No Thanks". Clicking "No Thanks" sets a flag in the Router to stop the Router from re-directing every 8 hours to the reminder page. (Again remember, only one http request every 8 hours). Admittedly, there is no controlling which computer on the LAN this message will pop up on. If the user just closes the window without clicking "No Thanks", then the flag is never set, and the reminders will continue. Now, if you are the type that doesn't want to click the "No Thanks" button, then no problem. Navigate to the Router's internal web interface (default IP = 192.168.2.1), click on the Parental Control menu. In the Menu, select "Don't Remind every 8 hours" (This phrase actually varies a bit, but you get the idea) then click "Apply Changes". DONE. Nothing to it. By the way, this procedure might have to be done if your router is behind a firewall. Reason: filter.belkin.com sends a response to the Router to set the flag. Firewalls will block the response. This might explain the problem in a school for instance.
We did this not to be evil, we did this to make sure that any non-techy person (part of our target audience) would have ample opportunity to opt in or out of the free 6 month trial of the Parental Control feature. The Router doesn't collect information on you and send it to Belkin. We don't have the ability to SPAM you at a later time if you select "No Thanks" or turn off the Reminder manually. I know this feature might be misunderstood and might PO some people. I know the manual could do a better job explaining it. These are all things that we at Belkin are working to remedy.
Oh, one last bit, when upgrading firmware for the Routers that originally shipped without the Parental Control feature, the new firmware has this feature added. This was by popular demand. Our customer install base began to notice the Parental Control feature on new models that we are shipping, and wanted a solution for themselves without having to buy a new product. So, we accommodated them.
I'm happy to answer any questions if you have any. Thanks!
I don’t feel that this requires any further explanation.
Last year, the adware company Gator was sued by the New York Times. Gator’s software was overlaying its own ads on the Times’ website ads. Belkin’s HTTP-substitute ad is no different. Owners of any Belkin router with this feature should sue Belkin for interfering with their web traffic without permission or prior notification.