Saturday, May 2, 2009

Curse Client: Premium Version, Spyware & Addon-Policy

Premium Version

At 29th April 2009, Curse gaming enabled the “Premium”-Mode of their Curse Updater Tool for World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online.

Many people are pissed, because the free really sucks for the following reasons.

  • You can’t update all your addons with one click anymore. This is especially annoying for people with many addons (more than 30) and it’s very easy to get this amount of addons. For example if you use Cartographer, it has ~10 addons + a hand full of Ace-Libraries (each one counting as own addon)
  • You download speed gets throttled down
  • And there is some nasty banners everywhere which are really annoying

Besides that, Curse Gaming also violates against the new Blizzard Addon Policy which clearly states that it’s forbidden to charge money for addons, or any services connected to this addons, not even ask for donations or advertisement (at least in-game).

Add-ons must be free of charge

All add-ons must be distributed free of charge. Developers may not create "premium" versions of add-ons with additional for-pay features, charge money to download an add-on, charge for services related to the add-on, or otherwise require some form of monetary compensation to download or access an add-on.

Dugi's Ultimate World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King PvP and Leveling GuideI’ve marked the most important part of this policy. The change took a few weeks ago on 19th March 2009 giving all addon developers and publishers 2 months of time (until 19th May 2009) to adapt this and made necessary changes to their addons to make them freely available and free of charge until this date, before Blizzard start to taking actions against it (may it be legal actions or disabling addons in question).

However, Curse decided to offend against this policy and exploit their users of the client by charging them for services and addons which are (and should be) free for all, instead of asking for donations or only limit themselves to advertising to cover the traffic costs.

Dugi's Ultimate World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King PvP and Leveling GuideThe money gained through advertising is more then enough to cover ALL traffic and server costs as well as to get some really nice profit, if you do your the calculations!

From experience i can tell you that from 1000 visitors on your website, there will be 0.5-1% who click on the advertisement. That’s 5-10 clicks per 1000 page views. The income of this 5-10 clicks can vary between $0.50 (~10 cent/click) up to $2.50 (~50 cent per click). Multiply this with 30 and you got $15-$75 per month, with only 1000 visitors daily.

Curse however is much more popular than my blog here (i have approximately 1500 visitors daily, more if there are some special events or new instances released, like Ulduar which lead ~100.000 visitors since 14. April 2009).

According to TrafficEstimate, Curse had little over 2.000.000 (2 million!) visitors in the last 30 days. That’s approximately 10.000-20.000 clicks per month (if you assume 0.5-1% click-through rate, which is very realistically, probably more. Always depends on the side and your visitors). Which turns in into $1000-$2000 (worst case of $0.1/click) up to $5.000$-$10.000 or more (assuming $0.50/click). Sometimes there are clicks worth even more (my highest was around $3.00, but are quite rare). According to Alexa Ranking, every visitor views ~10 pages. So take the numbers from above and multiply it with 10. That’s up to $50.000-$100.000 monthly! More than enough to pay of 10 people working on the page and this only by advertising!

This is by far much more than you’d ever need to pay traffic/server costs, pay 10 people for full-time working on the website and still have a profit margin of up to $50.000.

And this only through advertising (i.e. Google Adsense). However, for such high traffic websites, advertisers can directly by advertisement spots on this pages, which year a much higher income or PPC (Pay-Per-Click) rate. Even PPM (Pay-Per-Mile/Thousand of Impressions) which pay ~1-2$ per 1000 impressions (with 20.000.000 pageviews per months that’s $20.000-$40.000).

And that’s nothing compared to affiliate programs, where you get a fixed percentage of the sales. For example from a $50.00 Leveling Guide you refer, you get 50% ($25.00). This has a much better conversion rate than any other form of Advertisement. Don’t believe it? I’ve earned $295.93 with this blog by having only an average of 1.500 visitors per day!


What I am trying to say with this? The thing i want to say, is that this greed really annoys me, as there is much more ways to make money from a website without having to exploit your visitors and charge money for a free service (and to violate against any policies).

Curse Updater & Spyware

Additionally to that above, there is some weird behavior of the new version of the Curse Updater. Since the update a few days ago before they switched to Premium, there are some warnings from my Personal Firewall, that the Curse Updater tries to access private data. It’s accessing some of the values of the Internet Explorer which are declared as private data.

Click the pictures to enlarge:




Looks like more ways from them to exploit the users and make money by collecting personal data (like which website you’re visiting and sell it to marketing companies).

Dugi's Ultimate World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King PvP and Leveling Guide


Anonymous said...

Nice post, but I completely disagree with most of what you are saying.

If read literally, the policy is written for developers. In fact, the sentence you highlight starts with "Developers". Curse is a service provider that offers the addons as part of it's service... both free and as part of the premium package. I don’t see any violation of the policy by Curse.

Even if what you say is true, I am sure the Blizzard can take care of itself... and if it is true, then we may all pay the price by having to move back to the “stone age” if Curse stops providing their service.

Now, as far as the "exploit the users"... you are probably the type that yells "FIRE" in a movie theater when you see a flash of light... you have no idea what you are talking about. Because of the ads, the client probably implements a web client in their code and is grabbing a couple of keys to display default local info if there is a problem getting a web page...

I read this whole blog as someone who is mad because they can't get something for nothing.

Odessa Silverberg said...

It's not about getting something for nothing. But WoW addons cause such little traffic, that it simply doesn't justify the $2.50 ($30 annually) fee. The traffic fees caused by downloading the addons are minimal and can easily be compensated by advertisement.

And with WoWMatrix now blocked, the amount of traffic will go down even further while the advertisement income will go up.

I mean just think up. If traffic would be that expensive, every broadband internet provider would be bankrupt by now as people have unlimited traffic for a few bucks.

Diablo 3 G33k said...

I really wonder why that kind of websides do not hire professional devs to create content. isnt it enough to earn 3k $ every day?

It´s nice to see, how much you earn with your blog. Mine is free of ads, but i only have ~300 Uniques per day, so I guess its not worth to get affiliates yet.

Keep on blogging - i like your articles.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what anonymous has said about your angle of this post. The policy does not cover what Curse is doing with their downloader.

And also, downloading addons is not the 'little' traffic you consider. Think. Every update for, say Quest Helper, is 5.5M. Now, multiply that by the average daily download, of 56,000 times, and you really, really don't have 'little' traffic.

And that's just for one addon. We're talking terabytes of transfer for a single addon on a patch day, and you think that it costs nothing?

Anonymous said...

The phrase "must be distributed for free" does not create a compound clause with "developers must not create premium versions".

I expect Blizzard to close this loophole tho, and let's be honest it is a loophole of sorts. But unfortunately that means that Curse can still eliminate the free updater and then propose that the automatic updater is a pay-only service.

Addons will still be distributed "for free" via the website (which features ads).

Perhaps this is a fight the users don't want to have. Ever since Kaelten was spending cash out of his own pocket to pay for 8 million players to get wowace update downloads this has been a big big problem.

I agree it's kinda lame that the curse updater doesn't provide a 1-button update mechanism. What would you say if it did a 5 second pause between each addon updated and/or limited you to one "one button" update per day?

Odessa Silverberg said...

Questhelper, some Cartographer Addons and a few other addons with huge databases are the exception or addons which comes with very big textures inside.

Most addons however are 10-50 kb in size (compressed). However, it's quite not the problem of the addons himself that cause traffic (even though big addons are rare). This could easily be corrected if you only let the updater download the actuall difference instead of the whole addon. Like Kaspersky Antivirus.
Instead of downloading 30-40 MB big signature file everytime, it only downloads the difference and patch it, so the update consists of 5-15 small 10-50k files.

This alone could reduce the traffic by factor 10 at least. In case of QuestHelper for example: If only one quest route or coordinates where changed, this is probably 1-2kb max. Saves 5.5 MB of traffic.

Bad programming/design is never an excuse for high costs.

And i never said it costs nothing, but the costs of traffic are pretty low (unless you have the wrong provider which charges hilarious prices, in this case it's bad management/choice of ISP) and can be covered (even with profit) with advertisements only.

Karl the Pagan said...

Odessa, as you know servers are delivering larger and larger pieces of content these days. Youtube videos are hundreds of kb to megabytes.

You can't simply boil-down a webserver's activities to it's MB/second thruput. Addons represent dozens of requests rapidly executed to download the zips. This is after the index which is hundreds of kilobytes itself (and independently throttled).

Don't call this bad programming, that is ignorant and arrogant.

The best experimental servers can process 30,000 simultaneous requests or more on very expensive hardware. Production quality servers handle fewer requests.

I'm sure that Curse hasn't reached the state of the art. They probably should push archive files via static content urls (file paths can be randomized, there's no confidentiality or non-repudiation concerns which require SSL for the archives), they could also figure out a way to use http 1.1 streaming to deliver all of the archives with a single socket connection.

Unless you are familliar with the source code or extension points in Apache or Tomcat or IIS or Glassfish or Nginx or Lighttpd these are experimental features.

I hope you understand that when you are dealing with content delivery on this scope that our usual day-to-day Internet problems are only the beginning.

Karl the Pagan said...

Also check your facts on the "30 to 40MB" download.

I just ran the Curse Client, let it update its executable... and then I started wireshark and restarted the updater (full exit, and restart).

It only downloaded 175,154 bytes. Including the updater check, index, and ads. The Curse index and the wowace index has never ever been bigger than 600kb, and that was before http gzip was enabled. Check your facts please.

Odessa Silverberg said...

This could easily be corrected if you only let the updater download the actuall difference instead of the whole addon. Like Kaspersky Antivirus.
Instead of downloading 30-40 MB big signature file everytime, it only downloads the difference and patch it, so the update consists of 5-15 small 10-50k files.
The 30-40 MB was an example of Kaspersky Signature file. I don't have to download 40 MB everytime there is a new version. Instead it only downloads small patches. Same could be done with Curse too.

And btw from that 175kb you listed above, ~60kb are from adds (approx. 2 250x250 banners) and this traffic doesn't come from curse servers, but from add server.

Dunno how big the index file is, but with the index it's 115kb at best, without probably 60kb or less.

And if a user has 60-100 MB in addons (which is quote normal for someone with many addons), that's ~30-50 mb zipped. But as some addons are updated less frequently that's maybe 30-60 MB traffic per month per user and around 300-500 MB yearly.

That's nothing with the amount of traffic curse has. One click yearly on an advertisement or 50-100 unique impressions (~$0.10) yearly (1 ad every 3 1/2-7 days sounds realistic for an user who regularly updates his addons).

Even the worst banner impressions (PPM) rate is something around $1.00. And for $1.00 you can get at least >10 GB in traffic, if you have the right ISP.