Dell To Fix Misleading Advertising Links

Posted by dcparris on May 5, 2007 10:17 AM EDT
LXer - Linux News; By D.C. Parris (Charlotte, USA)
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LXer Feature: 05-May-2007

In some Google searches for Linux computers, Dell advertisements have cropped up in the advertising links, leading unsuspecting users to Windows-only computers at Dell's website. After initially being ignored, LXer finally gets a response from Dell.

In late February or early March, active LXer member, cyber_rigger, raised concerns about Dell advertising links showing up in Google searches related to Linux computers. In searching on the terms "linux notebooks", a Dell ad appeared in the result page. The problem is that unsuspecting users, believing they would find Linux computers being sold by Dell were taken to Dell's site offering Windows computers - no Linux anything to be found. Many in the GNU/Linux community viewed the ads as intentionally misleading.

LXer's Don Parris, initially skeptical about cyber_rigger's findings, sought and received, screen shots and links. Although the links seem to be buried somewhere in a thread, the screenshots showing the Dell ad links were preserved at Flickr. Parris confirmed that the links were misleading by following them, and sought to raise the issue with Dell's public relations team.

Dell did not respond to Parris' initial inquiries. However, since Dell spokesman, John Pope, recently began interacting with LXer's audience, we were able to get a decisive response to the issue. As Parris explained to Pope, "I can verify that in both cases, the links led to Windows-only computer options. It seems to have ceased, but for how long? It's problematic for many of our readers. We want computer novices/new users to be able to find and see the Linux options alongside the Windows options. Advertising like that in the screenshots is quite misleading. There are still many novices that honestly don't understand that Microsoft isn't the only vendor out there. I've met them personally. At worst, such users think they're buying 'Microsoft Linux'. That's funny when you think about it, but I doubt seriously that the user will be laughing when they discover the truth."

A second representative, identified only as Kent, responded to screenshots showing both a Google search result, and an advertisement banner on LXer's front page. Kent stated in a private message to Parris that, "We are working with our ad team to correct this". The response comes as Dell moves to launch it's desktop Linux initiative, and may be a sign that Dell is taking the GNU/Linux community seriously.

Dell faces strong skepticism coming from many in the GNU/Linux community, and will have to work hard to overcome that. One of the greatest concerns is that Dell will offer, but not seriously promote GNU/Linux. The fear is that Dell will allow the GNU/Linux offerings to be lost among the Windows offerings, difficult to find and priced higher than their Windows counterparts. Some hope Dell will contribute to the Tux500 campaign as a way to both demonstrate their seriousness, and to help their Ubuntu-centric initiative.

Regardless of whether Dell responds to the Tux500 challenge, fixing misleading advertising links will definitely be a welcome sign to many in the community. No one wants to follow a link looking for Linux computers, only to be offered a web page full of Windows computers. While it is possible that the misleading ads crop up in error, or are poorly thought out, the important thing is that Dell is working to correct the problem. How effective Dell's advertising team will be remains to be seen. The community will definitely be watching.

Editor's Note: It should be noted that recent efforts to duplicate the advertising link problem failed to bring up any Dell ads at all - at least, not on the first few pages of the results.

» Read more about: Story Type: LXer Features, News Story; Groups: Community, Linux, LXer

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
Dell is still anti Linux cyber_rigger 15 2,043 May 15, 2007 4:57 PM
Misleading links djohnston 15 1,898 May 7, 2007 2:00 PM
Really? macemoneta 2 1,967 May 6, 2007 4:59 AM

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