Tynt’s CEO Derek Ball Responds to SEO Community Concerns

Tynt’s CEO Derek Ball Responds to SEO Community Concerns


My lengthy blog post last night regarding the concerns webmasters and search engine marketers have regarding the new Tynt Beta service was met with cult-like following.  While my post received attention from sources like Twitter and Sphinn, where many shared my views – it also helped Tynt to understand concerns and prepare a response plan.

Talk about proactive brand management, right?

I can’t steal any credit here. I spoke with Scott Polk earlier today as he prepared to have a phone call with Derek Ball, CEO of Tynt. Derek was interested in what Scott had to say, and based on the research and efforts that Scott (as well as many others) provided – Derek and Tynt were prepared to respond thoroughly.

Before diving in too far, I’d like to draw your attention to a few resources, cited accordingly:

Hi Eric and crew. Eric, you’ve put a lot of energy and concern in your posting and I want you to know that we are listening and not trying to be a huge thorn in your side. We’ve been thinking through many of the points that you (and others) have raised to our attention. I’ve written a more detailed response on our blog for those who are interested at http://tynt.wordpress.com/ . From your comments I fear that Tynt in its beta effort has already registered so deeply negative in your mind that I do not know if we can win you back, but I do want to let you know that we want to be valuable and useful members of this community and would welcome input on how you believe we can do this.

Hey everyone.  We’ve put some of our thoughts from Tynt on our blog.  If you are interested, please check out http://tynt.wordpress.com/

First, A Note of Thanks & Appreciation

First off, I need to thank everyone who read and weighed in on this issue. My approach was rushed as more information became available – and I know that it was not a great representation of me or my full take on Tynt’s intentions.

I apologize for that.

Reputation Management in Action

In our little niche industry, “reputation management” typically refers to pushing out some negative listings and promoting positive information. That’s skewed because of our professional background though and I want to recognize Derek and others at Tynt for being proactive. They not only responded quickly, but they were willing to listen to what we had to say.

Tynt may still cause concern for many content owners, but the fact that they’re willing to listen and provide resources for us to accomplish what we’re after is commendable.

I think it’s great that Derek not only commented here on my blog, on Sphinn and on the Tynt Blog; he actually took time out on extremely short notice to work with Scott and schedule a call where concerns could be aired.

A Review of My Core Issues with Tynt

Tynt replicates your site and does so in order to allow it’s users to markup your page visually.  Whether users add notes or clipart-like graphics, or simply cover things up… It’s all fair game.  Since they’re actually visiting tynted.net when they do this, it doesn’t affect the general visitor to my domain.  I get that.

Unfortunately, search engines do not.  Or at least have not.  Not yet, anyway.

In my original post I referenced a Google Search for “site:tynted.net” (quotes removed). At the time I mentioned that there were results being served up from Apple Insider in those search results, too. If you click on the screenshot I provided you’ll notice that in addition to being indexed, the pages on www.appleinsider.com.tynted.net also had their content cached.

And that’s a problem for me and other site owners.

When a user accesses a domain on tynted.net, they’re effectively having the visual overlay of Tynt appear over the page they’re browsing. The content on the sourced domain is still being served up by the fully qualified domain being viewed.

If you review Google’s Cache of pages indexed though (such as this one from Apple Insider) you will see that the text from the sourced page is now, in the eyes of Google, owned by Tynted.net.

This creates opportunities for confusion, as site owners now have to battle tynted.net as original soruces of content and information. I know that it’s unlikely that a site as large as Apple Insider would be effected, but that doesn’t create any less of a risk for them or other, more vulnerable content publishers.

Now, Derek speaks a bit to this point in the post on Tynt’s Blog:

…we have been very publicly accused of being ‘content-thieves’ and scraping content from other sites, storing it in our own systems, and serving it up for our own benefit and revenue. When the Tynt plug-in is used, we only ever visit the original site and all Tynt content is simply layered on top of the existing site…

That is incorrect. Once the text cached Google believes the content is indeed that of tynted.net subdomains. While Derek may not have realized it, Google is absorbing the content as if it were served up by Tynt as the cached version of pages show.

It’s worth noting too that last night images, css files, robots.txt files (thanks to Rae for pointing this out) and even webmaster’s sitemaps (ex: domain.com/sitemap.xml) were all able to be served up through Tynt.

Michael Gray Weighs in on Copyrights, incrediBILL Takes a Stand

Everyone in the search marketing space knows Michael Gray. I found one of his Twitter updates earlier this evening to be quite telling:

heh @tynt points for reaching out and trying to fix things http://is.gd/2vCh but I think you are wrong

My personal stance on Tynt is still a bit undecided as I can see the pros and cons of the service. Michael however carries a lot of influence and his opinions are not only respected – but also believed in by many unwilling to form judgment of their own.

Michael continues with two more updates (one in response to muunkky who disliked my approach in my previous post):

Update #2 — if there are any copyright lawyers following get in touch w me I actually have a full legal copyright on some sites be fun 2 see what happen

Update #3 — @muunkky showing copyrighted material without permission on a domain they own

His argument is simple and powerful. If site content is held under copyright, what legal abilities exist for Tynt to replicate that and permit markup on their own site?

If you’re familiar with Brett Tabke‘s WebmasterWorld you are likely familiar with incrediBill (Twitter, WMW Profile), the moderator of the Search Engine Spider Identification Forum and Cloaking Forum. Bill published a post on his blog called Exploring The Tynted Web which featured statements including the following…

Many webmasters take their livelihoods and reputations very seriously and don’t like being [expletive] with so there needs to be a way to detect the use of Tynt and or a way to opt-out of Tynt before this happens or it could get very ugly.

All very telling of his stance.

I remain surprised that Search Engine Roundtable, Search Engine Land and others have not discussed this topic yet.

What I Believe Tynt Needs to Do

There are many folks out there who are unwavering in their criticisms and concerns of Tynt. I applaud those people for holding onto their values and defending their stance.

For Tynt though, the time is now. As an emerging brand, company and service – Tynt will forever be challenged by this in a socially driven space.

It’s up to Derek and others at Tyne to make the right decisions moving forward.  The key for Tynt is to move on with this same approach by being proactive, responsive and willing to listen.  Assuming they do this with the same open mindset demonstrated in the past 24 hours, I’m confident they will find more success.

They will need to get the right people involved though.  Also, there’s a risk/reward with being engaged with critics and industry representatives. Being all of those things can take an incredible amount of time, money and planning.

I hope that Tynt understands this.  Based on some personal emails exchanged with Derek Bell, again, I will say that I am confident in their abilities.

My Opinion of the Response?

I openly applaud Derek and Tynt for being responsive to the concerns and criticisms at hand.  At the same time, I applaud Michael Gray, Edward Lewis, Scott Polk, incrediBILL, Rae Hoffman and everyone else who has weighed in on this discussion in the past 24 hours.

But, I simply cannot form any immediate opinion of Derek’s response. To do so now would be taking things out of context. Tynt, to their credit, is a BETA service at this time and restricted to a particular number of users for testing purposes. I will observe, quite closely, everything Tynt is up to.

But to further form an opinion now (as I did last night) would be unfair.

Follow The Tynt Twitter Discussions

Here’s a list of the people I have seen weigh in on the Tynt conversations on Twitter:

Apologies if I missed anyone.

You can always use Summize to search for tynt, but keep in mind that protected feeds like mine will not appear in those results.

17 thoughts on “Tynt’s CEO Derek Ball Responds to SEO Community Concerns

  1. Does the fact it’s a Canadian company change anything with regard to copyrights? I mean, does this decision on Ticketmaster v. Microsoft hold precedence against a Canadian company?

  2. You have put some serious energy into this and just the fact that there’s this much discussion on the topic shows it’s important to the webmaster community. Thanks for sharing the IP info as well.

  3. @Michael D – Yes, I’ve put some time in here but it’d be paper thin without the support of everyone else involved. I do agree that the ongoing discussions though are a great indication of how newsworthy this whole situation has been – even if only around water coolers in an IT setting. :)

    @Tanner – I do agree that there’s a lot of potential problems that Tynt could be facing. But, all of this unfolded in a very short amount of time. The proactive response demonstrated by Derek could be a sign that they’re truly committed to resolving the issues we have collaboratively presented. Let’s hope things continue in that direction.

  4. When I think about what frustrates me the most about what Tynt has done, it’s the fact that they didn’t ask me to be a part of their beta test. Not that I’m special, but they are using my content without my permission for something I knew nothing about. That they are proactive now is fine, but where were their heads when they were thinking, “Let’s see how many sites we can grab for our use before anyone finds out.”

    While I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I feel like they are responding now because their hand has been caught in the cookie jar.

    There are some very serious issues that Tynt has to face from my perspective. The copyright issues are huge. As you have stated, copyright laws permit some aspect of “collage” and mixed media, which make the end result of the original content new copyrightable content, but the “fixed” aspect of copyright confuses things.

    If the content is “fixed” permanently, then it is a copyright issue, but if the markup someone does to a web page is not permanent, then it isn’t an issue. If a search engine indexes and caches the marked up page and it becomes fixed in any form, then what? There are so many levels of potential copyright infringement here…this is new territory here and I’m not liking it.

    The issue of abuse, as you also mentioned, is also very high. While I’d laugh at someone drawing a mustache on my face, I’m not happy with what others might do and make public. They can do it without Tynt, but why encourage them to graffiti the web? Cute and a fad, but is there real benefit other than for the occasional educational slide show? The risk for abuse is too high. This brings up defamation and libel issues…are they prepared for that?

    They don’t have an Opt-Out process. They are considering one – too late for me. Too many companies want us to believe the BS that we should want their services and embrace them with joy, leaving only the disgruntled to take their precious time and energy to dig through links and opt-out of the service.

    The way to really create loyalty is to give people the freedom to choose. I have encouraged them to use an Opt-In process, letting only those who are willing to have their web pages defaced and drawn upon be a part of the process. If they enjoy it, they will spread the word and invite everyone to have fun drawing on web pages. Let the willing participate and leave the rest of us alone.

    Tynt may be the next great thing on the web, and I’m sure they had the best of intentions with this new online toy, but I bet it might also cause the legal system to sit up and take serious notice. Most of that venture capital might go into court costs.

    I’m watching and wishing my site was not among those they used without my permission.

  5. @Lorelle Your comment is worthy of your own blog post, and I strongly suggest you air your position on this to them. I for one agree with many of your points and also share similar resentments regarding content usage.

  6. Thanks, Eric. I did address this with them. And thank you for following through on this. You’ve taken a really good stance on both sides, and helped to all understand this better.

  7. “What a nightmare. It’s great that Derek is responding to the feedback Tynt is receiving, but there is no way to escape the nightmare in my opinion.”

    That sums up how I “personally” feel about the current challenges Tynt are facing. You could have easily avoided all of this by hiring a professional from the Internet Marketing industry to assist you with some of these more advanced technical issues.

    So you feel users would not install your application by themselves and you decide to wrap our content within a proxy environment and put the onus on Webmasters? And, not even let us know about it? On top of that, you have dynamic measures in place to try and prevent us from blocking the Tynt proxy. Or you did, I haven’t checked lately. My lead programmer and I spent a couple of hours dealing with your pesky UA and IP changes until we figured it all out. Now you get this…

    http://www.SEOConsultants.com.Tynted.net/

    And, we may even come out with the New Tynt Lynt Removal tool. :)

    You probably could have gotten away with this a little longer had it not been for the whole proxy thing. That group of IPs you have is poisoned, you might as well send those to the bin and get a new group. And even then, that group will get poisoned too. I think you could have done just about anything else to us but the proxy rape.

    You’ve created some new startup buzz alright. I’ve seen negative publicity work for startups in the past. But, this type of negative publicity is the type that buries startups. You’ll need to rid yourself of that proxy environment and think of something else. Either that or make it off limits to the public without a login. You can’t have those .tynted.net pages in the index, not a single one of them, oh no you can’t!

    And, who do you think gets all the “juice” from those indexed Tynts? You do. That is absolutely brilliant. And, at the same time, you’re “juicing” your root domain using the content of others. Shame on you! Some of us know the routine. ;)

    Derek, you are a true diplomat, there is no disputing that fact. Your guys/gals staff and advisors pages are impressive. I would have to think that this whole proxy backlash was on the table for discussion, yes? If it wasn’t then someone may have failed.

    You have now been classified as “another scraper” by those who don’t know any better. For those who do know better, you’ve been blacklisted at the core and that is something you may find extremely challenging to defend against. The Tynt.com/Tynted.net domain/IP block is circulating through the underworld right now and people are being “Proactive” in blocking your proxy. How does that make you feel as a new startup? I’d be really pissed right now, I would. Whoever made that decision to launch without first consulting with someone from the Internet Marketing Industry would be at the top of my list for a heart to heart discussion, behind closed doors, in a sound proof room. ;)

    It is interesting to watch the community provide you with insight into something you should have thought of before the design phase. It is referred to as being Proactive. Now you are in a Reactive mode and that is the worse thing a Startup could be in. At the rate that the messages are getting out there in regards to blocking your IPs and other strategical defensive solutions, there will be few sites of any real substance that will resolve using your current proxy setup.

    Tell me, what is different with Tynt and all the various collaboration tools that have been on the market for years and are behind closed doors where they should be? I was on the line with me lead prog and he tells me that MS have had this type of stuff for over 10 years. They’ve kept it behind closed doors for a good reason. I think you may have just found out why.

  8. This guy Derrick might have had good intentions and all, and his venture money people might have had them as well, but how clueless can these people be? VERY, it seems. Isn’t it amazing how people can dish out money right and left to these types of services without really knowing a darn thing about the consequences? My goodness; clueless is the only word that comes to mind. Did these people really believe we all would be jumping with joy about the prospect of our stores being vandalized and spray painted by others? What’s the difference between this social site and it’s members, and the criminals out there who run around spray painting the exterior of walls of businesses? None. Those types don’t get the permission of the store owners ahead of time either. LOL

    There is totally nothing that tynt can do to fix this as it’s a service that is not fixable. Even if things are blocked by the search engines and not indexed, the very principal of what the site is doing is bad stuff, and the business model is very flawed from the start. Remember the adware thing with “Gator” back in 2001, and the overlaying of ads on top of your ads? This reminds me of that. Gator wes sued by many over it, including a company some may have heard of….. Playboy.

    Amazing.

  9. @pageoneresults You need a blog. I mean really, look at how much content you’ve provided me here! Not that I’m arguing, I’m quite thankful that this post has inspired such commentary from my readers.

    You are correct, too. The startup culture demonstrates reactive decision making and a distinct failure to plan ahead.

    Tynt, as a visual markup service has a lot of potential. As you’ve described though, that’s nothing new. Research I’ve been performing this week shows that many design firms use this exact technology when having clients review web designs, newspaper adverts, etc.

    I wish the folks at Tynt would take a long, hard look at what implications exist.

    @Ciaran First off, it’s good to see you here commenting on my blog. I cannot help but agree with your inclination too on Tynt’s future. As a service, it has limited shelf life. I would like to be wrong and think that with Guy Kawasaki’s involvement, Tynt could become a great service for users.

    I just don’t see anything to hold onto yet. There’s no lasting value for this type of service to be shared in a social setting.

    @Dog Heil Another person I really didn’t expect to see coming through and commenting on my blog. Great to see you here and excellent commentary on the mindset of those both at Tynt and backing Tynt. Again, I’m in a agreement with much of what you have to say, particularly the fact that this will (and, has) grown out to be much deeper than an issue pertaining only to search.

  10. Just a heads up, Tynt have changed how they are using the Tynted.net and Tynted.com domains. They’ve decided to use amazonaws. You will now need to use the HTTP_VIA method.

    RewriteCond %HTTP_VIA .*tynted.*
    RewriteRule (.*) /404.tynted.asp [I,L]

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