Review: AllAdvantage Viewbar 1.0
Requirements: Power Mac with Mac OS 8.6 or higher, 32 MB of RAM, 4 MB of hard disks pace, Internet connection of at least 33.6Kbps, 800 x 600 resolution or higher.
Supported Browsers: Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 or higher, Netscape 3.0 or higher
Price: free; you actually get money
Most of us have learned to live with advertising, accepting it as a necessary evil in life. Advertisements are annoying, but they also make life much cheaper than it otherwise would be. If magazines or TV stations could not rely on advertisement revenues to pay their expenses, they would all be much more expensive. Even ATPM could probably not remain free without the banner ads on our Web site to pay for hosting expenses, software, etc. AllAdvantage takes this one step further. Instead of using advertising to make products cheaper, AllAdvantage actually pays you directly to look at advertisements. Although the concept is not really that new, AllAdvantage is the first to take it to a practical level, or at least close to it.
How Does it Work?
After signing up for an AllAdvantage membership, you get to download the Viewbar installer from the AllAdvantage Web site. Running the installer will place an application and an extension onto your hard drive. The next time you launch your Web browser, the ViewbarTM application will start up as well, displaying a small floating window on your screen, about 800 pixels wide and 60 pixels tall.
The window is divided into three areas. On the left is the AllAdvantage section with various buttons and indicators. In the middle is the main ad, and on the right side is a small mini-ad. Clicking on any of the ads takes your Web browser to the appropriate site. The AllAdvantage section consists of a help button; a little “LED” that shines green or red depending on the status; a downward pointing arrow that collapses the window; the AllAdvantage logo, which takes you directly to their Web site; and two unimplemented buttons.
Try to move or hide the window, and you will notice that you cannot hide it or move if off screen. This is to prevent you from getting paid without actually displaying the ads.
The window stays on top of all other windows, even if you work with your e-mail program instead of your Web browser, but if you quit your Web browser, the window and Viewbar application disappear as well. Unfortunately, iCab and other alternative browsers are not supported.
The Rules of the Game
So what do you have to do to get paid? The rules are fairly simple. Keep the green LED shining. Green = money, red = no money. To keep it green, you must have your Web browser in the foreground and be actually doing something with it, such as surfing the Web. If you switch to another program or stop using your browser for some time, the light goes red again; you don’t get paid, even though the ads are still showing.
How Much You Get
It depends on how much you use it. AllAdvantage pays you $0.50 for every hour you use the Viewbar (i.e. for every hour that the light is green), up to a maximum of 25 hours per month. For those too used to calculators, this corresponds to a maximum of $12.50 per month—roughly enough to pay for cheap Internet access.
But that’s not all. AllAdvantage wants you to get your friends to use it as well, so they came up with a typical referral scheme. For every hour a friend that you refer spends using the Viewbar, you get another 10 cents. And for every hour that his referrals spend looking past the ads, you get another 5 cents, and so on. This cascade can go up to five levels deep. [Note: The links in this review do not include referral IDs. —Eds]
An example will illustrate this. Say you can get ten of your friends to sign up using your referral ID, and those ten friends refer another 5 friends, and those yet another 5 friends in turn. Also suppose that all of them use the entire 25 hours maximum that AllAdvantage will pay. Then each month you will get:
$12.50 + 10 * $2.50 + 50 * $1.25 + 250 * $1.25 = $412.50
or about $5000 a year. Not bad for browsing for 25 hours each month.
Of course it’s fairly hard to get that many referrals, so your likely payoff will be much lower than that. Also, you will need to use it yourself for the full 25 hours if you want to get the entire time of your friends credited as well.
Is it Worth it? The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
It depends. If you can set up such a cascade, it might be worth the effort. However the Viewbar is not small, and it entirely blocks a vital part of your screen real estate. For people with dual 21" displays this might not matter much, but it’s very noticeable on an iBook display. There are also some stability problems with the program as of version 1.0, although AllAdvantage is working to address these issues. Version 1.4 for Windows is farther ahead, with an integrated search function and other neat features. It’s sad that most companies take so long to catch up with the Mac version. It is certainly not because this is such a complicated program to write.
If you do not have many friends that you can refer, the $12.50 might not be worth the loss of screen space and the possible crashes. My fiancée and I have been using it for a few months now and are averaging about $24 each month together. We’ll keep using it because we can use the extra $288 per year, but it might or might not be right for you. AllAdvantage said that they might increase the payoff in the future, as more companies start to compete for your screen space. Maybe by then they will also have a better version for the Mac OS.