Terms of Service

I can’t even guess how many times I’ve either explicitly agreed to the terms of an End User License Agreement (EULA) or offered tacit approval of a website’s Terms of Service (TOS) by using the site.  It has to be in the thousands.  But I can count the number of times I’ve read a TOS start to finish – one.

Last weekend I was wondering if my web host (Dreamhost) allows users to install WordPressMU. The answer is yes, so long as you have a Virtual Private Server account.  But what really surprised me was the only other bit of software singled out in the Dreamhost TOS – All In One SEO Pack.

Customer agrees to not engage in activities pertaining to Black Hat SEO, Spamdexing, and so-called “Scraper sites.” These can all have a severely detrimental effect on server performance and are not permitted. Pursuant to this policy, the poorly-written WordPress plugin “All in One SEO Pack” is expressly prohibited on DreamHost shared hosting servers and may only be installed on DreamHost Private Servers (VPS).

I have no idea if AIO-SEO-P is in fact poorly written, and it doesn’t really matter to me – it’s Dreamhost’s sandbox and they make the rules.  I found it a bit unfortunate because that plug-in seemed to be doing the job of several other plug-ins, and was quite easy to install and configure.  Regardless, I uninstalled it from the 9 WordPress installations I have.

I read the Yoast.com article on WordPress SEO and I’ve since installed a few other plug-ins to make up for it.   I lost a little bit of time, but it was worth is because of what I learned along away. And now I’m practically 100% in compliance with the Terms of Service.

But the real lesson here is about these agreements we’re making all the time.  They’re typically written in a way that makes them almost impossible to read (not true of the Dreamhost TOS), and we’ve been conditioned to blast past them.  A while back everyone was up in arms about the Facebook TOS, but how many people actually read the whole thing?

Maybe I’ll start reading them.

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