Too true. Any business model that depends on the whims of another company to make money—such as, in this case, a search engine with a proprietary algorithm and the financial and technical resources to do anything necessary to uphold its reputation for efficiency and user-friendliness—is probably not a good idea. Or, rather, it’s an okay idea for a little while, but as soon as Google discovers that something is gumming up the machine, that’s the end of that business model.

Parenthetically, when I started writing this post I was trying to remember the name of that little bird that rides on top of the rhinocerous. It turned out to not be the best metaphor to use, because, as I remembered, the rhino and the tickbird have a symbiotic, rather than parasitic, relationship. A more fitting metaphor for spammers might be a tapeworm, or some kind of viral infection. In any case, I mention it just to point out that when I typed in “bird on rhinocerous,” Google led me to this truly illuminating page on

Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner