The current spotlight is on “net neutrality” so I suggest that we look into
a less popular, but extremely important aspect of the net neutrality issue: the
lack of anti-hijacking protection for SMEs’ customers who type brand/company
names into the internet address bar.
(You may read more about “customer hijacking” on Whose Customers Are Those Typing Brand and Company Names in the Internet Address Bar?)
Let’s begin by exploring staff hijacking, followed by delving into the concept of “digital revenge”.
In some countries, SMEs employ up to 90% of the workforce. Many of these
SME employees work not only at a desk in their employer’s office, but also
somewhere else online. When an SME staff member accesses the internet via
his or her computer, and the first page is not the company’s website, he or she
starts working for a different company. Many business owners and employees
are not aware of this.
Connecting to the internet via a workplace computer is like opening and walking
through an office door. If you use the computer at work, you are supposed to
be doing so on behalf of your employer. Today, however, in many workplaces,
when an SME employee goes online, he or she opens a “door” to (and enters)
a different company! He or she goes to online search companies or the portals
thereof. In effect, the employee in our example contributes to the revenue of a
different company – the search company that he or she uses. It probably does
not happen within all SMEs, but it certainly does happen more often than most
By typing their company's name in the address bar, SME staff are unknowingly
making the portals richer because the act of doing so results in portal usage
instead of connecting them directly to their company website.. There is no
problem, however, when employees type their company's complete domain
name in the address bar. However, many employees simply type their company
name (without .com, etc.) because it is easier that way. Nevertheless, when
they type simple names in the address bar, they are unable to directly access
their company’s website. What happens next? Browsers take the employees to
the search results page.
There are some cases when the direct link to the company is on top of the
results page. This is good. In other cases, paid advertisement links for the
company are on top of the results page. In this case, some companies may
have to pay more money when their employees (accidentally) click on the paid
This is how some SME workers (unknowingly) make money for other
companies (ie: portals). This is what we call staff hijacking in the Internet
address bar. Employees are not connected directly to their company website.
Instead, they are redirected to the search website results. Business owners
need to be aware of this.
The SME owners are cheated out of revenue in this backhanded process. The
SMEs are unknowingly financing the portals.
Now let’s delve into the concept of “digital revenge”. In the case of company
owners who pay for online advertisements, they need to be careful not to offend
their employees and customers. Imagine, if you will, an angry employee who
decides to use click fraud as a way to release their stress. Further, an angry
customer could do the same thing repeatedly. This is an extreme example but
it can, and does, happen.
This is one example of what I would call “digital revenge”
The distorted internet mechanism makes the above-described digital revenge
Who benefits from digital revenge? The higher the incidence of this kind of
digital revenge, the more money goes to the portals.
These might sound like ridiculous examples today, but the lack of protection
for the customers of brands as well as for the companies in the URL bar could
make digital revenge more widespread.
Nowadays, more people prefer typing brand and company names than
complete domain names. This is why there is also a net neutrality issue in the
In this internet age, genuine network neutrality starts in the address bar. Here
is a simple process to help prevent employee hijacking: If 10 million SME
employees in any given country change their default homepage to their own
company's website, instead of the portals, that means 10 million employees go
straight to their respective SME’s website.
If these employees also set their default page to the web page that they use
everyday at work (ie: their specific division page of their company’s website), it
is even more efficient for their company.
Many business people from older generations are not familiar with the details
of keyword advertising. They could become victims of this kind of hijacking.
National leaders and internet experts must also pay attention to what’s currently
happening with SMEs in terms of the internet.
Staff hijacking, customer hijacking, digital revenge, and the issues of net
neutrality are all connected to the concept of digital divide. That being said, it is
important to understand that net neutrality is not just about networks, it is also
related to the concept of digital divide.
The digital divide is expanding because many leaders are still unaware of -- or
not paying attention to -- the many problems inherent to the internet.
Leaders are not well-informed, so the SMEs in each country are being
overlooked. As a result, the economy is not booming as it should. This is
another aspect of the digital divide within the economy.
Before there can be net neutrality, the digital divide needs to be narrowed.
National leaders and internet experts must pay more attention to the state and
degree of digital divide. Perhaps establishing what constitutes “fair play” is a
good way to start resolving the issues I have mentioned above.
Digital divide is not only about differences between the old and young people or
between advanced and developing countries. The concept of digital divide also
involves the awareness levels, understandings and beliefs of national leaders,
experts and political leaders. The world economic issues are connected with the
digital divide because even presidents are not aware of this all-encompassing
distorted internet mechanism. That’s why every country is suffering from
national economic issues. They do their best to improve their country’s
economy, but their results are meagre. This is one hallmark of the digital divide at the national leadership level.
This is what I believe to be the true root of the current worldwide financial