When the Defense Department recently banned department personnel from visiting social networking and entertainment sites such as MySpace, YouTube, and 11 others, it cited bandwidth constraints and security concerns as the primary criteria. In the business world, however, while these sites don't exactly boost productivity, companies are much more concerned with shutting out banner and pop-up ads as well as adware likely to install cookies on company-owned PCs.
Barracuda Networks, a maker of e-mail and Web filtering technology, this week reported that the top sites its customers blocked over the past month demonstrate this trend. The top 10 sites blocked -- including Doubleclick.net, Googlesyndication.com, Omniture Inc.'s 2o7.net, Rad.msn.com, and Atwola.com -- are all related to marketing and advertising to Internet users. Meanwhile, sites like MySpace, World of Warcraft, and YouTube are still likely to be blocked by Barracuda customers, but none of them make the company's Top 20 list of most blocked sites.
Web-based content is blocked for three reasons primarily: to avoid legal liability for any illegal activity in which their workers might be engaged, to reduce the risk of malware infections, and to prevent drops in productivity that accompany access to nonessential Web content.
Although it's almost intuitive that a company would want to block any site that promotes worker procrastination, the fact is most companies are more concerned with blocking Web site categories, such as those labeled "adult" or "gambling," than with targeting individual Web sites like MySpace or YouTube, said Stephen Pao, Barracuda's VP of product management.
"Companies will block applications under the category 'streaming media' rather specifically block YouTube or XMRadio.com, although this does ultimately block access to those sites," Pao said.