FreeRice.com is a simple website that you'll enjoy spending a few minutes on. It's a word game, monetized by Cost Per Action affiliate ad links, with a social justice twist. Those are just the boring details, though, and it's probably a scam.

The site asks you to define a series of words, with multiple choice answers, and ranks your vocabulary profficiency over time. The gimick is that for every word you define correctly, FreeRice.com says it will donate the cost of 10 grains of rice to the UN World Food Program.

Is This For Real?

How does this happen? The big brand advertiser logos at the bottom of the page are paying for the rice, the site says. Those ads appear to be Cost Per Action ads from LinkShare. In other words, the ads only pay when the FreeRice visitor clicks through the ads and make a purchase. They pay quite well in those circumstances, though.

In order to track purchases, which aren't made through the kinds of affiliate URLs you see from Amazon affiliates, for example, LinkShare puts a cookie from linysyergy.com on your browser. I have no problem with cookies myself, I like them, in fact - but a quick look around the web indicates that many people find Linksynergy cookies distressing.

No Really, Is This For Real?

The site doesn't appear to be officially affiliated with the UN at all, it appears to have been started by a man named John Breen. Breen launched the website Poverty.com early this year; it's a bare bones shell of a website with a snazzy looking domain name. It could well lend legitimacy to any number of affiliate campaigns like FreeRice.

What's the cost of a few grains of rice? Nearly nothing. Is it a worthwhile investment in exchange for pushing CPA ads at do-gooder word-nerds? It might be a great investment - it might be a scam.

Let's say there's 29000 grains of rice per pound (long grain white, per Producers Rice Mill) and let's say a pound of rice costs 70 cents (that's good rice, probably not what the UN is distributing). What's the math? At ten grains per click, FreeRice.com is donating 20 cents per 1000 clicks. Are they making more than that from these brand name CPA ads? I'm willing to guess that they are. If I'm getting the numbers wrong here, please someone let me know. At the very least, the site has an obligation to show us how much they are bringing in - not just how much rice they've donated.

One way or the other, it's a fun site to spend time on. It's probably also a money maker for the man behind it.