back to article Phorm losses shoot up by half

Phorm made a loss of $24.7m (£13.8m) in the first half of 2008 as it fought privacy advocates, lobbied to get politicians on side and tried to overcome technical problems dogging its ISP adware system. The firm's losses were up 52 per cent compared to the same period in 2007. It still has about £24.9m in cash reserves, mostly …


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  1. Dangermouse

    BT's test...

    If the Reg has not heard from anyone taking part in the trial, could it be that Phorm and BT are maybe telling porkies and the trial is not actually happening? However, BT tells the regulators thus - "We ran a trial, honestly we did Guv, and nobody was affected, noticed, or complained. Therefore, all good."

    Shome mishtake, shurely?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Significant challenges to meet"

    Yeah, there's a big one called the law. Which, if you paid attention to any of the meetings you attended, you're breaking. if you've forgotten.

  3. Chris Simmons

    Is there a list...

    ...of any companies and/or websites that have signed up to deliver their content/ads through OIX? I would like to get my blacklist ready for blocking them.

  4. Chris Simmons
    Thumb Up

    Virgin Media

    If they ever adopt phorm (damn, time to disinfect my keyboard) then we will drop our services: V+ TV, broadband and landline (about £1200 p.a.) and two mobiles (probably close to £300 p.a.).

    Surely they must realise that DPI targetted ads would not generate that sort of revenue for them?

  5. Luther Blissett

    Wot no 4th trial?

    The one for the deploying non-cookie-based opt-out system that Beatie announced a couple of days ago. There will be a trial of that, won't there, Beatie?

    Trial by ordeal for Beatie

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Dangermouse

    Given Phorm's reputation for attempting to alter what is already known to be true I wouldn't be surprised if they tried that tactic.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    "...hired a major lobbying firm in a bid to persuade Congressmen "

    in order to remove excess padding in the above sentance.. retype as

    "give backhanders to congressmen"

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I wonder if Phorm's shareholders know that the company they have invested in are actually relying on breaking the law to conduct their business. Has anyone told them yet?

  9. Eponymous Cowherd
    Thumb Up

    At that rate of loss.

    6 months and Phorm will be bust.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Rotting from both sides


    I wonder if Phorm's shareholders know that the company they have invested in are actually relying on breaking the law to conduct their business. Has anyone told them yet?...


    If the current shareholders / investment groups are able to smell an "alive" cash cow at a time of rotting corpses then perhaps... most likely it is a bunch of guys hedging bets to keep losses to a minimum and would you tell your boss if you knew?

    Flames because incineration is the best solution.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    You won't see any BT customers...

    ... as the existing Phorm servers (in listen mode only) will be used to detect El Reg readers, who therefore won't be in the trial.

  12. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    They only lost twenty four million?

    It's not enough...

  13. Dave
    Black Helicopters

    You wont hear from anyone

    Hey Reg, The reason you havent heard from anyone yet is because BT are already using phorm to see who reads El Reg ..... and blocking them from being offered participation.

    Helicopters cos you know im right

  14. Anonymous Coward


    better question; Do you actually think that anyone who would invest in a company like phorm would care about them breaking the law? As long as they get their cut of the profits I doubt they'd care too much if phorm were murdering babies and shagging the entrails.

    Anyway, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the shareholders were in fact labour cabinet ministers or mp's.

    Mines the one with tinfoil hat in the pocket.

  15. Sir Runcible Spoon


    You only have to review the comments on the iii discussion board for their stock to get the answer to that question.

    Not a single sign of this in the wild yet afaik

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    or maybe BT have quietly keeping an any on which subscribers regularly visit sites like El Reg or Dephormation that are persistently critical of the whole affair so they can be excluded from the trial.

  17. Bad Max

    The sweetest words I've heard all week

    "Revenue remains zero."


  18. Dan

    Get ready to boycott

    ...any companies advertising via this method, and tell them so to ensure they know why.

    Skull cos they'll do this on my connection over my dead body.

  19. Florence Stanfield

    Talking to a wall

    I have tried to tell shareholders of Phorm but they are led by the nose with greed, even though Phorm have heavy losses, not to mention never made a profit in the last 3 possibly 4 years. Also shareholders do not get any divi apparently it is the money carrot Kent twists around they are tortally blind and numb. They have no minds or ability to think outside the pounds and dollars signs.

    AS Phorm made larger losses in the first 6 months somehting that was posted then removed by moderators might jsurt be true perhaps somone needs to ask the euro MEPs if they were wined and dined or bribed to become phormites in europe?

    Remember the saying many a true word said in jest. read below and make your own minds up.

    by Gibberish.

    ""Phorm's engagement in Brussels with European Union audiences, Commission officials and key

    European Parliamentarians has also been

    high-level and comprehensive. This process has helped develop a better understanding of

    Phorm's technology and the role it can play in the

    future by helping to raise online privacy standards. "

    I know that the EU was the last hope for some of the anti's, so this really shows how slow they are off the mark. Phorm have already engaged the EU and will have it on side.

    All that sales and marketing dosh will have been wining and dining and bribing the Eurocrats - money well spent ;-)"

    As you wikl see from the link it is no longer avaiable but i had already quoted it in BT groups shareholders thread asking if BT had the same treatment.

  20. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Chris Simmons

    Some are here:

  22. Wokstation

    Of course the trial's not begun...

    ...BT only said that to help PHORM buff their shareprice in the light of increasing losses, most likely.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Any other BT Broadband people with flaky connections since yesterday?

    Okay my BT connection* is slow, but it is pretty reliable. But since last night it has been falling over slightly more than a Reg journo coming back from a trade show. Websites timing out, URLs not being resolved, online gaming connections failing repeatedly.

    Coincidence? Or has anyone else seen crapola performance since the Phorm trial allegedly started?

    * Serving time until my contract ends or until I can summon the energy to do battle for hours on end with BT Total Broadband's appalling customer service and tell them I no longer feel bound by their unilaterally revised contract.

  24. Anonymous Coward


    Alternatively, you may request specifically that your website is not scanned by Webwise. To request that your website not be scanned by Webwise, please email:

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone been able to leave BT whilst still in contract?

    Simple question.

    BT normally charge you the remainder of your contract fees and the price of the router if you choose to leave their delightful company before your contract expires. Has anyone here been able to escape without charge before their contract ended by claiming that Phorm, Webwise and the changes to the T&Cs have invalidated the original contract?

    I know lots of people say do it, they won't chase you, but has anyone got away with it?

  26. Wokstation

    @"Interesting" anonymous coward

    Yeah, email them to get your site excluded. They'll then email the domain owner for validation, having gained the owner's contact details via a WHOIS lookup...

    ...only one very slight, teenyweeny, tiny little problem there:

    "The registrant is a non-trading individual who has opted to have their

    address omitted from the WHOIS service."

    So you get two options - give your contact details to anyone who does a WHOIS on your domain, or get your website PHORMed. I think not.

  27. rasmus petersen

    "we have engaged with the majority of the key media agencies".

    "we have engaged with the majority of the key media agencies". is that an other way of saying Bt did think it where a good idea, at the time ?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    tirelesss work

    Keep up the good work Chris.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Mike Richards

    Yup, mine too. Less so today, but still, something's definitely afoot.

    I reckon its all go and up and running. I plan to cancel this week. I don't plan to pay the remaining balance of the contract either.

  30. Frumious Bandersnatch
    Thumb Down

    I decided I'd submit a site I have on the internet to see what would happen. I received this automated reply:


    Key: HELPDESK-****


    Project: Helpdesk

    Issue Type: Task

    Reporter: Frumious Bandersnatch

    Assignee: **** *******

    I object to Phorm/Webwise's wholesale scanning and modification of internet

    content in general, but I have specific objection to you scanning my website

    below [...]

    I shall be monitoring the site for any modification and you shall be hearing

    from me again if I find that you have not honoured your promise to exclude

    sites such as mine.


    Frumious Bandersnatch


    I have not managed to access the URL mentioned in the mail. It seems their system is either overloaded or not functional. I notice that there was no mention of any password or other access details included with the URL, so I rather suspect that if the site were operational it would be possible to enter any case number and see other submitted exclusion requets. So, (a) their "exclusion" system is not working, and (b) even if it were to work, it would probably be completely insecure and leak any sensitive information you submitted in your original email. Be warned!


  31. Chris Simmons

    @Mike Richards

    Thanks for the link - it's not exactly an auspicious list of blue chips is it. I do not believe I'll be missing anything at all.

  32. Anonymous Coward


    And why do webmasters have to inform BT Webwise to help BT not break copyright laws?

    The answer is simple stupid. Get your own Phorm user agent so that we can exclude your dirty crawling and invasive profiling and not stop our site being ranked in Google. Get real PHORM - we know what your sly intentions are!

    It's obvious you cannot share the Google user agent with benefit to website owners.

    When used by Google it drives traffic to our sites. If used by Phorm it drives traffic away. I bit of a contradiction in terms of value. I hate Phorm nearly as much as I hate BT for allowing this.

  33. Wokstation

    Maybe this...

    ...maybe this'll prompt Google and Yahoo! to change their useragent string? Afterall, it's being exploited for the purposes of copyright and ripa breaches...

  34. Chris Simmons

    Not wanting... be a poop-in-the-party, but won't the ad's only be displayed on OIX "enabled" websites?

    As much as I hate the idea of phucking phorm (disinfect keyboard again) surely the ads will only be shown on sites that subscribe (phucking phidiots) to the OIX ad model?

    Having said that - phuck'em; phuck'em royally'n'righteously.

  35. JCL


    I've asked a couple of people who've never heard of El Reg (well I never!) and they're in the clear. I am too. Maybe BT are excluding readers of these types, maybe the sample is so small we've missed it, and maybe they haven't actually started yet.

    I remember when this first came up someone posted a link to an academic page that ran a few tests so that you could determine whether your traffic was being modified or not. Does anyone remember what that link was?

  36. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    An interesting wrinkle?

    When the spam^H^H^H^H targetted advertising phase is introduced. Could BT's {ahem} customers be guilty of aiding and abetting an unlawful activity?

    I ask this, because it occurs to me that no modification of anyone's website (hence copyright infringement) will occur until one of the BT victims actually calls up the URL..

  37. Claire Rand

    new users...

    how much are people betting that the "trial" users will be new signups? i.e. people they hope won't have a clue what this is and will just view the signup page as something _else_ they have to agree to?

    also tried to signout my website, apparently they need to "check" with the sites registered owner by email. well thats me, still waiting for the email. but they *have* been inphormed that they don't have consent.

    so no implied consent there then. need to find something to validate this now, and install it. and then find the number of that new high tech crime unit, and see if I can get a crime ref number out of them. bets?

  38. ilago

    @Link? By JCL

    This site does some testing of your connection to see if it's clean.

    This site is working on detecting proxy servers in the connection

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Advertisers beware!

    Yes, I we know prospective Phorm clients read El Reg, and they have been following this great debate (debacle).

    If companies support phorm, they'll get NO business from me, not now, not ever.

    Simple really.


  40. Mark


    Bit of a financial white knuckle ride for Kent and his fellow pond life then. Six more months at that rate of spending and we can all break out the beers.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    24 mil loss...

    Maybe we should gather some pennies and short-sell them into oblivion...

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I suggested a web tripwire a few months ago ...

    .. all we need now is W3C to get it in as a standard .....

  43. Louis

    Part of the problem

    with inphorming advertisers they will not get your business if they use Phorm, is that most of the people that will take that step are those who would not buy from web adverts anyway. I suspect they know this, and are targetting the millions of uninphormed numpties inhabiting the intarwebs.

    I feel the call to arms posted int he comments on a previous story about Phorm (recently, last or this week" is potentially the only way to go now. Perhaps we could engage in civil unrest, as I understand (although IANAL) that if you have genuine cause for concern, and the legitimate channels for addressing the issue are failing/have failed, REASONABLE actions will not incur penalties in the courts - I read a case recently where the defence was along these lines, and the court allowed it. Unhelpful, I am aware, and so apologies, but I cannot remember where or what specifically it was regarding - I read a LOT of stuff online, much of which is bullshit, but this was a legitimate article somewhere.

    Anyone have any thoughts on what actions we could take? I believe the defence above even allows for criminal damage, but not violence towards anyone, and it has to be REASONABLE folks!

  44. RogueElement
    Thumb Up

    helping to raise online privacy standards

    I laughed so much I wet myself.

    Right, Mike Richards, you asked "Has anyone here been able to escape without charge before their contract ended by claiming that Phorm, Webwise and the changes to the T&Cs have invalidated the original contract?"

    Well, no but.... I did manage to escape from Tiscali before the end of my contract by complaining that they had failed to provide a service that was even remotely approximate to the their own T&Cs and walked away with the router plus two filters for free*.

    * "FREE" in this case ignores the fact that I was denied the final 24 days of my "paid in advance" connection and excludes the cost of printing out 24 pages of screen-shots, hours spend writing 6 letters and 4 emails plus the cost of 4 registered parcel postages and the receipt of 2 extremely intimidatory letters from debt collectors demanding £14... and had to get Trading Standards involved.

    PLEASE NOTE - As I understand it, if your ISP doesn't have your signature on an official agreement document then you are NOT UNDER A LEGAL CONTRACT and you may therefore leave any time you like without penalty or punishment. Everything else is just harassment. [Would any legal beavers out there care to confirm?]

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @RogueElement - not legal without signature untrue

    "PLEASE NOTE - As I understand it, if your ISP doesn't have your signature on an official agreement document then you are NOT UNDER A LEGAL CONTRACT and you may therefore leave any time you like without penalty or punishment. Everything else is just harassment. [Would any legal beavers out there care to confirm?]"

    Er no. It's not that simple at all.

  46. Wokstation

    @Anon Coward

    "It's not that simple at all" - don't you just love fulled formed answers?

  47. RogueElement

    full formed answers

    aye mate.... but then, I suppose I didn't ask for a full answer, just confirmation.

    However, if there is more to this, it might be an idea to let Trading Standards know because that is the bottom line as far as they are concerned.

  48. RogueElement


    methinks the anonymous one must be a lawyer ... awaiting pay before he/she/it spills the beans.

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