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2010-03-06 07:43 pm (UTC)
A lot of commercial websites such as Amazon and eBay have "affiliate links" - these give a kickback to the referrer if someone clicks on the link and subsequently buys something. So if Fred links to a book on Amazon, and I click his link and end up buying the book, Amazon pays Fred a (very very) small amount of money (generally in the form of a gift certificate). This works because Fred's link contains his affiliate id embedded within the URL.
The truly nasty thing here was that you couldn't tell this was happening from hovering over the link and looking at the URL - the script is activated by the click. It was only noticed by an eagle-eyed LJ user who realised that links were starting to pop up in separate windows instead of the same window/tab (a side effect of the script), and who went digging to find out why.
(I imagine more people might have noticed in a month or so, as they all suddenly wondered why they weren't getting any kickbacks from Amazon etc. anymore...)
So that's how LJ was making money from people's links... directly taking the money away from the people who _should_ have been getting the money, and pocketing it themselves instead. And hence the sudden mass migration of pissed-off geeks away from LJ...
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