back to article Phorm woos browsers with personalised web

Phorm is aiming to strengthen ties with publishers by allowing them to track and target their visitors' interests as they browse the web. The web monitoring firm today unveiled "Webwise Discover" in London with the tagline "don't search, just browse". It made the announcement ahead of releasing its annual financial report. …


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  1. DutchOven

    Good thing?

    "Ertugrul said Phorm's seven years so far without revenues was "actually a good thing" because of the complexity of its products."

    No, it's a good thing because eventually those people who hold the purse strings will say "fuck off" - which is pretty much what anyone who knows about Phorm is telling them anyway.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    What a clown

    "This is real... what we don't do is hype things," he said.

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahah <breath> Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahah

  3. Cameron Colley

    Who do they think they are -- Google?

    Surely only Google can get away with the old "give us all your personal data and we'll give you 'something cool' in return..." bollocks?

    As for saying "'yes, they've done something right for a change'" -- I'll do that when everyone involved in Phorm fucks off and drinks some special Kool Aid.

  4. Rat

    Yeah right

    The day I opt in to Phorm's browser profiling is the day I invite Kent Ertugrul to anally rape me with a splintery stick. I'll be damned if my browsing habits go toward lining that fucktard's pockets.

    Oh, and don't think I won't stoop to badmouthing Phorm to each and every person I have any influence with regarding IT - and, like most geeks, that's quite a lot of people...

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Quote of the year

    "We wanted people to say 'yes, they've done something right for a change'."

    So they admit everything else they do is wrong?

    Foot meet bullet

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Surely some mistake

    South Korea?

    Surely this is the sort of programme for North Korea

  8. Man Outraged

    Erm, Javascript + AJAX and the world knows your interests

    Erm, Javascript + AJAX and the world knows your interests

    I just add the Phorm embedded tag to my website, lace my own page with a bit of Javascript and Ajax and I can read my visitors' interests and augment what I already know about my visitors, all thanks to Phorm.

    Whilst I know jack about interception and the other raging Phorm debates surely this is clearly a breach of Data Protection rules?

  9. ChrisInBelgium


    "Several journalists at the event were confused as to why Phorm had chosen to announce a product that is only available on a limited basis in South Korea"

    Why? Because "they don't hype things" of course.

    Phorm: what a load of utter BS.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Certainly, dear

    "Come, join our network of oiks". Indeedy... Replacing "ks" with "x" is fooling noone. Be tole.

  11. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge


    'Phorm plans to offer the system to publishers as free embeddable code, claiming it will increase their page views and so revenues. It does not stand to make any money from Webwise Discover, but will use it to build relationships and encourage publishers to join its behaviourally targeted advertising network, OIX.'

    What's the betting that this 'free embeddable code' is something along the lines of a closed-source browser plug-in which could be soing pretty much anything behind the scenes, such as -ooh, I don't know - tracking your web activity for fun and profit!

  12. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Up


    So once customers are logged in on my website, I will be able to use this tool to harvest a whole host of information about them and their interests, and store it without their knowledge in my own customer database :) Thanks Phorm!

    (we need a sarcasm smiley)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same old guff ...

    "We just wanted to do something cool," said Phorm's technology chief Marc Burgess.

    Translation : We are looking for another excuse to sneak our snoop boxes into ISP's.

  14. David

    At last, an admission!

    "We wanted people to say 'yes, they've done something right for a change'." said Marc Burgess

    I thought everyone loved Phorm and it was just Alex Hanff and El Reg who hated them? Surely if everyone loved them (as their hilarious propoganda website would have you believe) then that quote shoild be

    "We wanted people to say 'yes, they've done something right AGAIN'"

    Is this a subtle admission from Phorm that they are actually as popular as an independent auditor in the House of Commons Fees Office?

    Pirate because I'm a proud privacy pirate!

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Do not want!

    So if I browse for holidays in Pakistan and then apply to enter the US they can put me on a black list because of my browsing profile. Nice.

    What stops any site like amazon storing the profiling information against their logged in customers?

    Run away!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Phorm, can you just die? Please, do us all a favour, just die...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here we go again

    They can fuck off. Again.

    A less invasive angle to Phorm?

    They are still proposing to monitor your data. The same methods represent the same invasive nature.

    Anyway the whole thing is simply method for he government to spy on the people. That's why it is getting pusshed so much, I would bet on them having the Home Office's (unofficial) support.

    Viva le Dark Net.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    "Personalized web"

    Don't they really mean "personalized prices?" Then they just keep a database of what we told whom to prevent discovery by showing your wife a different price. Yup, gonna need a couple IPs just to keep these buggers honest.

    anon- what else?

  19. Steve Poll



  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not Cool, Just Desperate

    They seem to think that if you spend any time looking at one thing, then that's all you want to look at. Over the last few nights I've been looking at kite related content, I probably won't look at that again for a long time because I've bought my kites now. However Webwise Discover would bias my browsing towards power kite related content until it figured out I was no longer interested in that. How easy is it to tell it to butt out?

    The same could be said for their targetted advertising. Most people shop like I just did for kites, they spend some time browsing and making their decision and then move on and probably won't return to that subject for a long time, if at all. It's no good advertising 42" TVs to somebody the day after they've bought one. It's not as if they'll go out and buy another on the strength of Phorm's advertising.

    The business model stinks on all sorts of levels. Whether it's privacy, wide of the target advertising or the fact that no restailer will want Phorm to profile their traffi (why would any retailler want Phorm directing their customers elsewhere?).

    This latest move smacks of desperation. They've realised they're on a loser and so have tried to come up with something that makes their technology look cool, but it's a failure for two reasons (1) it's pretty lame and (2) even if people like the idea of this browser tool it doesn't mean their business model will suddenly work.

    They're Phucked.

  21. Dennis
    Thumb Down

    ohhh cool .................

    Nah still shite

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    South Korea?

    This sort of technology would be much more at home in North Korea.

  23. IanPotter
    Thumb Up


    I sense creeping desperation...


  24. Ash
    Thumb Down

    I've finally migrated!

    Moved house, no longer with Virgin, on an ISP with a strong anti-Phorm / Webwise policy. One month contract, so if it ever changes I only ever have 30 days. I'll be sure to tell them every day of that 30 too, just to be sure they get the message.

    Give up, Kent. We don't want it, and we'll bend over backwards to not have it.

  25. Ihre Papiere Bitte!!
    Thumb Down

    "... what we don't do is hype things,"

    That's true. It's so much easier to just lie through your teeth, isn't it Kent?

  26. Anonymous Coward


    Very good, but is this product legal???

  27. Lionel Baden

    will be presented about holiday home in france

    now why in the hell if i have just booked a holiday in france would i bloody well want to view even more homes !

    At the end of the day i just want to search for what i want not have it force fed.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "This is real... what we don't do is hype things," he said.

    Well as far as i can tell, in the past they haven't even bothered to mention "things" never mind hype them.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Publishers interested?

    Why would publishers be interested in a widget that does not earn them any income and facilitates Phorm scraping their content to profile their visitors so as to improve Phorm's and the ISPs' revenue?

    Interestingly the patent does talk about a script which is able to examine browser history and cached content, perhaps this is what they have been working towards.

    It is all very well for ISP customers who opt into having the widget but what about the rest of the world when they visit the site and have their browsing data harvested by the widget - how do they opt in? Word would quickly get out that site ABC is hosting some spyware/tracking script and people with security software would keep getting all these warnings about adware tracking them.

    If Google had done something similar, its google-analytics product would have been dead on the first review.

    The press release I want to hear is Phorm claiming that, like NebuAd and Adzilla, they have given up on DPI and are going back to the same BTA methods used by all the other hundreds of ad networks out there.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    About the whole BT part

    Are BT also still throttling iPlayer traffic


  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Yes they are a bunch of grubby little oiks.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Or.. a visitor to Amazon *automatically* served up a selection of TS/TV and midget porn videos via the embdedded widget. Nice. They STILL don't get it do they?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Actually, they COULD match my advertising preferences. None, please.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm sure I won't be the first to mention this, but given what Phorm does and the trials they have run...

    >"We just wanted to do something cool," said Phorm's technology chief Marc Burgess.

    The only cool thing they could do now would be to drop dead

    >"We wanted people to say 'yes, they've done something right for a change'."

    Announcing that all Phorm systems will be opt-in only (at an individual level, not ISP) would be a start. Dropping dead would still be better.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Just spent 30 minutes...

    ...on the phone to get my MAC code. It hurt...

    Now on to my 30th minute of a phone call to BT.....

    "Can I have my MAC code please?"


    "Because I have concerns over privacy with Phorm"

    "What you've read online about Phorm is inaccurate and completely incorrect. you should check out our official information "

    "Uh huh. MAC Code please."

    "Let me look into it."

    *waits for 10 minutes*

    "Okay, let me address your Phorm concerns..... blah blah blah blah blah and it's not active for you anyway"

    "Yes it is. Without asking my consent I have Phorm Cookies on my PC."

    "No you don't."

    "Yes I bloody well do!!!!"

    "Well I've addressed your reasons about Phorm...."



    "MAC Code please?"


    "Just give me THE BLOODY MAC CODE!!!!!!!!!!!!"

    *another 10 minute wait*

    "My manager would like to discuss you leaving us...."

    "I don't want to talk to your manager, I just want my MAC code please"

    "Okay, here it is...."

    "Wait, what?"

    It was painful, like drawing teeth. I'm in a foul mood now.

  36. Lloyd
    Thumb Down

    Hold on

    Hasn't the EU prosecuted them yet? Mind you how long has it taken them to shaft MS?

  37. Scott

    Lazy, Lazy, Man

    I'm a Lazy, Lazy, Man. does anyone have a link to El Reg's Privacy Pirate T-shirt (If they've got one, if not why not?).....Yaar!!!

    Oh and 7 years without revenue, anyone looked to see if a member of parliment say the departing Jacki has put this on her expenses as say essential security monitoring software used in her day-to-day job? because someones got to be bank-rolling 'em and Jackys department would be a leading contender i reckon.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vote with your feet people...

    It took me ages, but I finally moved ISPs, I should have done it years ago.

    I went from (aka Virgin) to Zen Internet, the process was a piece of piss.

    When I asked for my MAC code Tesco asked me why I was moving, I simply said "Phorm".

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    fees to me ?

    In this age when the RIAA et all are not going to play the game of giving things away for free, why should Phorm expect me to give them my data so they can make money from it?

    Seriously, offer me £10 for every company that benefits from my data and its yours.... offer me a lie (it will improve my browsing) and you assume that i am not happy with my browsing already..

    I dont need a machine to tell me what to browse and where... i can google / surf .. as can most people.

    Obvioulsy this is aside from the host of other immediate reasons phorm is bad as bad can be.

  40. Richard

    To Kent, with love

    Like a Night Club in the morning, you’re the bitter end.

    Like a recently disinfected shit-house, you’re clean round the bend.

    You give me the horrors

    too bad to be true

    All of my tomorrow’s

    are lousy coz of you.

    You put the Shat in Shatter

    Put the Pain in Spain

    Your germs are splattered about

    Your face is just a stain

    You’re certainly no raver, commonly known as a drag.

    Do us all a favour, here... wear this polythene bag.

    You’re like a dose of scabies,

    I’ve got you under my skin.

    You make life a fairy tale... Grimm!

    People mention murder, the moment you arrive.

    I’d consider killing you if I thought you were alive.

    You’ve got this slippery quality,

    it makes me think of phlegm,

    and a dual personality

    I hate both of them.

    Your bad breath, vamps disease, destruction, and decay.

    Please, please, please, please, take yourself away.

    Like a death a birthday party,

    you ruin all the fun.

    Like a sucked and spat our smartie,

    you’re no use to anyone.

    Like the shadow of the guillotine

    on a dead consumptive’s face.

    Speaking as an outsider,

    what do you think of the human race

    You went to a progressive psychiatrist.

    He recommended suicide...

    before scratching your bad name off his list,

    and pointing the way outside.

    You hear laughter breaking through, it makes you want to fart.

    You’re heading for a breakdown,

    better pull yourself apart.

    Your dirty name gets passed about when something goes amiss.

    Your attitudes are platitudes,

    just make me wanna piss.

    What kind of creature bore you

    Was is some kind of bat

    They can’t find a good word for you,

    but I can...


    John Cooper Clarke


    Same old

    Same personal surveillance.

    Same communication interception.

    Same phorged cookie setting.

    Same industrial espionage.

    Same copyright infringement.

    Same solution: FIND A PHORM FREE ISP

    Protect the privacy, security, integrity of UK telecommunications.


  42. Chronos


    With BT being the primary proponent of Phorm, not only do I actively discourage anyone else from using them as their ISP (not that I EVER used BT as an ISP), I have also dumped them for the phone line rental (I went with the Post Office, but there's also some very nice deals from other companies, such a Primus, First Telecom, Euphony and so on, and you can still keep your existing ISP) quoting Phorm as the reason. The sooner these idiots realise that one breach of privacy usually leads to a loss of trust on all their products, the better. If you feel the same way about this, I ask you to consider boycotting *all* of British Telecom's products, which can be done without becoming a "cutting nose off to spite face" situation. If they can betray you with the Internet, what guarantee they won't betray you in other areas as well?

    At present, we can only vote with our feet by boycotting BT, Virgin and TalkTalk, but doing so *completely* sends a clear message to anyone considering conspiring with this spyware company, and indeed anyone else using DPI, that we will not tolerate this sort of thing on our private communications.

  43. MinionZero

    A perfect example of utter corporate contempt of everyone.

    The utter contempt of this company never ceases to amaze me. They are a perfect example of why laws are needed to protect everyone from companies like this. This company has no empathy at all for its intended victims, which is all of us. We are all to be simply treated like cattle by them for their own gain. Yet they try to lie to us, saying its for our own benefit.

    I consider what Phorm are doing is literally theft without any way for me to stop them stealing my data and my privacy.

    The current government appears to be too corrupt and too spineless to protect us all from companies like Phorm, so the next government need laws drawn up to put Phorm like companies out of business forever. Nothing less is acceptable. There is no way their exploitation can be allowed to continue. People should not have to rely on their own means to protect themselves from crooked organisations. Most people do not have the technical knowledge to see how they can be exploited and they shouldn't have to. The public is expected to be protected by the state. If the state cannot provide the protection the people who vote them into power want, then its time to fire the people in power. They are there for a job and they are failing totally in the protection of people.

    But then as companies like Phorm and this government have proven beyond any doubt, they cannot be trusted, so its time for all data to become encrypted though the ISPs. This issue highlights no company can now be fully trusted any more. They have broken our trust and so its time to force them with law changes. ISPs are nothing more than data carrying couriers. They do not have the right to spy on everyone. We do not expect the post office to open and copy every letter it reads and then sell summaries of all it reads to companies!. Government wake up, that is what Phorm is doing to the Internet!

    I don't want Phorm to go out of business. I want all Phorm like companies legally wiped out by Parliament forever. If the people in Parliament intend to keep failing at this task, then its time to highlight exactly which corrupt people are behind helping Phorm. It looks like we may need a few more MP's to be thrown out of their jobs over allowing Phorm like companies and so failing to protect us all.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good call by Chronos

    I wholeheartedly agree with Chronos - just to add another to your boycott list, remember that Dabs is now owned by BT too. Haven't bought a thing from them since this happened and would hope others do the same.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Oh I Love Phorm

    Sorry - but I do.

    I mean I don't like their products. Not particularly fussed by their CEO, nor most of the board. But Marc Burgess is a funny bloke (whaddya mean funny ? Funny like a clown?) if a bit skittish and most of the people there are really actually ok.

    Still ..... I wouldn't put it on my fucking CV. I'm gonna say I've been in prison for distributing kiddie pr0n or something less contentious.

  46. Matt D

    Create a Phorm ISP

    If Phorm are so convinced that the great unwashed would love their products and deep packet inspection snooping, why do they not create their own ISP brand with all that lovely Phorm goodness built in?

    They get to snoop on all their punters, capture all their browsing history, punt "relevant, targeted ads" at them, AND keep all the clickthrough revenue themselves rather than having to share it out with BT.

    Those that can't see a problem with Phorm then have a choice (let's call it, say, "opt-in") to move to Phorm ISP, and the rest of us can stay clear.

  47. Bobby

    Yet more spyware..

    Same ole spyware scam re-repackaged yet again into another stupid product..

    Excuse me but why do these guys at Phorm keep harping on about their privacy enhancements when the truth is quite the contrary? Stealing people’s personal information certainly cannot be described as a privacy enhancement just because a renowned spyware baron tell you it is..

    It’s doing my head in..

  48. John Imrie

    How to realy annoy BT

    BT have an affiliate program at so if you find your self on any of their affiliates web sites, drop the affiliate a note explaining why you will be advising all you friends and colleges not to use that affiliate.

    Nothing can change policy faster than a bunch of annoyed affiliates.

  49. blue

    A spade's a spade

    Phorm: spyware at the ISP level.

    Any ISP that implements it is scum.

    Thank you for your attention. That is all.

  50. Camilla Smythe


    I am have to vote tomorrow so can I haz some recommendations as to wat to put my smudge againts.

    Tah +++++

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yet more greasy schmooze

    >"We wanted people to say 'yes, they've done something right for a change'."

    But they won't Marc, will they? We'll all say, "What's in it for them?" Cool? Do me a favour.

    >Discussing the delays, Burgess said: "You cannot understand how frustrating it is."

    But we do, we do. And we revel in your frustration. Your pain is our distinct pleasure. And when your grubby little dream bites the dust, we'll all get an extra little rush as we raise a glass to your demise.

    What's next? Handing out RFIDed sweets at primary schools?

  52. Waldo

    Phorm I'll keep your pretentious ploy simple...

    rearrange this popular sentence.... "stuffed Get."


  53. PJH

    Layer 7 Switch??

    # The Register understands delays were caused when BT

    # asked Phorm to develop a network-level opt-out, based

    # on its own layer 7 switch, dubbed PL7.

    Assuming this is a reference to the OSI Model, WTF is a Layer 7 (application layer) switch, and WTF is one doing in an ISP? Again, assuming OSI, this implies that BT are doing their own DPI.

  54. Martin

    who to vote for?

    Hai, put your smudge against the tories, after all those moats are not going to clean themselves are they?

  55. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    A quote

    "Ertugrul said Phorm's seven years so far without revenues was "actually a good thing" because of the complexity of its products."

    And let's hope they enjoy another seven years without revenues, and another, and another.....I wish they all the " good things" they can get.

    Let them bleed their supporters drier that a dead dingoes donga!

  56. Anthony

    Cry moar

    Discussing the delays, Burgess said: "You cannot understand how frustrating it is."

    Yes! Yesss! Oh, let me taste your tears, Mr Burgess!

    Mm, your tears are so yummy and sweet!

  57. VulcanV5

    Phorming at the mouth?

    C'mon people. Lighten up.

    What was *supposed* to happen to this marvellous enterprise was an early and profitable roll-out across three ISPs accompanied by a mega media party at which no less than Mandelson himself sang the praises of this superb British company showing the world how brilliant we truly are. (**)

    What actually happened is that some failed forgotten politico called Lamont was lurking in the background of a blatantly desperate news conference called in London to announce the trial in, um, South Korea, of some "cool" thingie that won't bring a cent in revenue to an outfit that's already been seven years without income.

    Whether Phorm succeeds in its pathetic aspirations over there, or does indeed become more Seoul-less than it is now, is beside the point.

    It's dead.

    And the fun thing is, because it won't lie down, it can continue to be on the receiving end of a good kicking by everyone else.

    I'll miss it when it's finally buried because as a stress reliever, shouting FUCK OFF PHORM! is almost as good as, well, being in Paris.

    (** Lest any of you missed it, Mr Ertugrul was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's "You & Yours" yesterday lunchtime. He said Phorm was a British company -- a British *technology *company of tremendous quality. The assertion passed unremarked, as is always the case when something requiring the exercise of journalistic vigilance is aired on the BBC.)

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