ContextAds is a targeted advertising program designed for the Linden Lab Second Life virtual community. Selected ads of potential interest to individual end users are transmitted to computers, cellular telephones and other portable digital communications devices based on the content of user communications in the Second Life environment.

In ContextAds, a group of subscribers called a "board" actively monitors the conversations of users, transmitting advertisements to individuals who input specific keywords. For example, if a user enters the phrase "audio system," that user may subsequently see advertisements for amplifiers or speakers. The subscriber can then click on the ad and be transferred to a relevant Web site providing the opportunity to shop for items and purchase them if desired. Advertisers who join the ContextAds program bid on keywords but are charged only when one of their ads appears on a subscriber's digital device.

In Second Life, users participate with full awareness that targeted advertising is part of the program. However, the increasing use of targeted advertising in the larger Internet has sparked concerns about privacy. Surreptitious monitoring of user e-mail and Web browsing habits has been criticized as spyware abuse. The installation of code on a computer to facilitate eavesdropping without the user's explicit consent has been decried as Trojan-like behavior and may expose the affected computers to compromise by malicious hackers. Defenders of targeted advertising point out that subscribers can block JavaScript or third-party cookies, two of the most common vehicles by which such advertising is carried out, by judiciously setting the preferences or options in their Web browsers.

One of the oldest examples of targeted advertising based on user behavior is Google Adsense. Since the inception of Adsense, other online entities have begun to use targeted advertising, which has been proven to increase revenue for advertisers and reduce superfluous and irrelevant reception of ads by end users.

This was last updated in July 2007

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