I can assure you, that thought process wasn't what went through our minds when this was implemented. The Rewards system doubles not only as a way for current customers to earn referrals for their own recommendations, but also for those who want to do 'normal' advertising on our behalf. Traditionally we've found that normal advertising just isn't worth the time and effort on our part to set up, but if potential advertisers think they can provide results and earn those payments, we'll provide them with a way to do so.
There are also some actual DreamHost customers who, for various reasons, like to keep their Rewards-related Web ID separate from any specific hosting account.
Either way, I personally wouldn't be comfortable with the idea of someone out there saying "I use DreamHost, it's great!" and gaining referrals when they're obviously lying. In the past, we've refused partnerships with 3rd parties who have proposed similarly devious deals.
I would actually agree with this, and would support it by saying that word of mouth and standard Rewards referrals are our #1 source of sign-ups.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that there is anything ethically wrong or smarmy with traditional advertising, though, just that it's not as persuasive. The web has made people more educated when it comes to their purchases, and an ad banner alone isn't usually enough to do the trick.
In any case, I haven't seen any widespread complaints about the behavior you mention, though I'm afraid I can't explain it either.
- Jeff @ DreamHost
- DH Discussion Forum Admin