Tuesday, July 22, 2008

“Testimaniac Testimanials”

As reported by Larry Seltzer from PC Magazine, one rogue anti-spyware product claims to have won a number of awards, including the PC Magazine Editors' Choice and Best of 2005. Of course, it did not win any such awards.

Factually, rogue anti-spyware employs typical biological mimicry, that "occurs when a group of organisms, the mimics, have evolved to share common perceived characteristics with another group, the models.." [source: Wikipedia]

An interesting research on mimicry has recently been published by ScienceDaily. According to the article [Hannah Rowlands, UK], "Previous studies have suggested that the relationship between two look-alike species is parasitic, whereby a 'tastier' insect reaps all the benefits of resembling a more unpalatable species. Scientists have argued that predators may get confused as to which species is most edible and which is not, resulting in them eating more of the unpalatable species than they normally would have done."

Applicable to rogue anti-spyware, it means that legitimate software vendors were believed to be the only ones to suffer from the declined sales as the customers would feel "confused as to which species is most edible and which is not" and thus resulting in them consuming more of the "unpalatable" (rogue) anti-spyware products.

Please note that when this mimicry analogy is applied in our case, the logic needs to be inversed - i.e. when the 'tastier' insect reaps the benefit of staying alive (not being eaten), the software company suffers as its product is not purchased by the end customer, and vice versa.

The recent study, however, suggests that "the two species .. do not undermine each other and benefit mutually from looking like each other" [Hannah Rowlands].

This translates to the fact that both rogue anti-spyware and legitimate software will inevitably suffer.

The researcher claims: "We coated some of the almonds in a non-toxic chemical which gave them a nasty taste, while others were moderately distasteful and some were left to taste simply of almonds. The birds in our aviary learnt to avoid the highly distasteful species quicker than the moderately distasteful ones. The 'tastier' species still benefited, however, in that the birds eventually learnt that in order to stop mistakenly eating the distasteful prey, they must stop eating both species altogether."

The new study sends a clear message to the authors of rogue anti-spyware: legitimate software will inevitably suffer, but not at the cost of the product consumption distracted by rogue anti-spyware (what they hope to achieve). It will suffer because the customer, who buys anti-spyware software, will stop buying both rogue and legitimate software, "in order to stop mistakenly eating the distasteful prey".

In simple terms, rogue anti-spyware is not a winner in a "win-lose" situation, as it clearly creates a "lose-lose" condition with no winner at all.

Unfortunately, these simple facts must still be too difficult to understand for so many, who could easily achieve much more by building real and demanded software solutions.