Easy Money

Getting paid for doing nothing: some would call that an American dream. People have always tried to develop fool-proof schemes to make money without exerting effort. But now one company may have made the dream a reality.

AllAdvantage.com CEO and co-founder James Jorgensen developed an Internet-based service that pays subscribers for viewing advertisements on their computer screens.

It works like this: Advertisers pay AllAdvantage to deliver highly targeted advertising to a group of Internet users, the ones that have downloaded the company’s special viewbar onto their desktops. The viewbar displays rectangular, one-inch ads similar to those that appear atop most Web sites. Subscribers also have the opportunity to fill out a questionnaire and direct content tailored to their interests.

Then the money pyramid begins. The original subscriber, let’s call him person number one, gets 50 cents an hour to view constant advertisements running on the bottom of the screen and also receives a code from AllAdvantage. For every person who downloads the viewbar using person No. 1’s code, person No. 1 gets 10 cents for each hour that person No. 2 browses the Web. Person No. 2 counts as a direct referral. Person No. 1 also gets five cents an hour for each indirect referral, (those people signed up using the referral numbers of person No. 1’s direct referrals.) It might sound complicated, but the short version is that once one person downloads the viewbar and passes on his code, he or she should begin to make money.

AllAdvantage explicitly forbids cheating the system by leaving the Internet on all day. But many users have found ways around this provision by downloading programs that simulate an active screen and a moving mouse.

Phillip Greenspun, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher who teaches advanced Web programming, told The Washington Post recently that developing a program to fool the system would be easy for many software novices.

I would expect any of my students to build a near-perfect spoofer, he said in The Post article. If they couldn’t, I would give them an F.

Those who use it swear the program works as advertised. One freshman woman who joined AllAdvantage said she received a check for $25.32, but she hadn’t cashed it yet.

A sampling of students on a recent evening at Mitchell Hall’s Subway and Little Caesar’s found mixed attitudes toward the service. One freshman named Sam, who declined to give his last name, succinctly explained why he used AllAdvantage.

Cause they pay me! he said sarcastically.

Ron Streeter, a graphic designer from Syracuse, N.Y., earned more than $2,000 in one month, making him the fifth highest-ranking AllAdvantage member worldwide.

Matt Kraycinovich, another freshman waiting in line for a sandwich at Subway, appeared to be in the dark about the program.

What the hell is AllAdvantage? he said. After a bit of explanation his eyes lit up as he recognized it as the company that pays you to surf the Internet. He continued, I’d rather spend an hour researching it and invest.

Other students like freshman Andrew Rossi had never heard of AllAdvantage.

When you said it, that’s the first time I have ever heard it mentioned, he said.

Rossi is the exception, rather than the rule, in some GW circles. And the trend of the business of paying people to view advertisements has virtually exploded nationwide.

First there was AllAdvantage.com. Then GoToWorld.com. Now there is Myemag.com, which pays readers of its online magazine.

DesktopDollars.com, ePipo.com, and UtopiAD.com as well as others all offer to do the same thing.

The American dream, free money, is exemplified by freshman Adam Weiss’ comments in between bites of his turkey, I like it.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.