Does anyone really like adware?

Does anyone really like adware?

Summary: Here's your chance to sound off about adware and online advertising.

TOPICS: Security

I bring up this question because adware company reps and adware apologists have been known to make statements about anti-spyware zealots (like myself, admittedly), that we think "our views are the views of every consumer".  A few months ago I asked Spyware Warrior readers to respond to a few questions related to the value proposition of adware/spyware. I'd be interested to know what readers here think about adware and online advertising in general.

The term 'value proposition" was used often at the CNET AntiSpyware Workshop last May.  Wayne Cunningham, former Spyware Confidential blogger, described it well and gave an example

The concept of a value proposition arose from the discussion, whether adware makers could offer potential users anything compelling in exchange for getting ads served to them. Historically adware makers have not honestly offered this choice, instead relying on deceptive installations. It was pointed out that one of the apps offered by WhenU in exchange for viewing ads is a clock sync program, something already built in to Windows XP. Obviously that’s not a good value proposition. If WhenU or other adware makers can offer me the equivalent of an Adobe Photoshop in exchange for viewing a few ads, I would consider it. But they’re going to have to do a lot better than the rinky-dink games and screensavers they currently offer.

Now for the questions:

1.  The adware companies talk about their value proposition. Can you think of any adware applications that you would want on your computer in exchange for viewing ads? Some examples might be Claria’s eWallet or Dash Bar, 180solutions’ Zango Search Assistant or Zango Astrology, DirectRevenue’s Best Offers, eBates' Moe MoneyMaker, eXact Advertising’s Bargain Buddy. Why or why not?

2.  Online advertising is a fact of life, just like TV commercials. Does it matter to you as a user how online advertising is delivered? Let's rate some ad delivery mechanisms in order of one to five, one being "it's perfectly acceptable and I like it and might actually purchase something from the ad" to five being "it's absolutely unacceptable, I hate it."  Or do you hate all forms on online advertising?  Some examples of online advertising include static banner ads, pop-ups, pop-unders, flashing banner ads, in-line text ads, embedded ads, slider ads.  I probably missed some, so feel free to mention any others that come to mind.

3.  There has been a lot of talk about relevance of ads and contextual advertising  (Click for definition and see examples).  If you are shopping for airline tickets, for example, do you appreciate an ad, no matter how it's delivered, for a competing site or company if it saves you money? 

4.  How much influence do online ads have in your purchasing decisions?  Would you buy from one type of ad over another?  For example, would you buy from a link in a banner ad but not from a pop-up ad or vice versa?  Or do you comparison shop at familiar sites and make decisions based on features and price, not advertising?

5.  What do you think adware companies could do, if anything, to make their software acceptable to a majority of internet users? What, in your opinion, does the future hold for adware companies?  For online advertising in general?

After such serious questions, here's an entertaining rant, I Hate Pop-Ups.  Excerpt:

Pop-Up advertising is the equivalent of running down the street and yelling in people's faces to buy a product. Imagine walking along one day and some guy screaming at the top of his lungs to buy your printer cartridges from his website or your Hot-Dogs from his Fast Food place. What makes the Pop-Up worse than a guy yelling in your face on the street is that on the internet you don't get to yell back or tell him where to stick his Hot-Dogs.

Disclaimer:  I make no pretense of this being an unbiased questionnaire.  I've tried to refrain from interjecting my own opinions, but my bias is undoubtedly obvious.  I'll respond to the questions later in the comments after others have their chance.

Update:  The new edition of Mike Healan's Spyware Weekly Newsletter was just released.  Mike, another self-described anti-spyware zealot, (he used the words radical extremist) writes about why he now blocks ads and links to a Slashdot thread on the same topic.  His reason for blocking ads now (when he didn't before), pop-ups and sliders. 

Update Oct. 22.  Thanks to everyone for the comments.  A couple of notes here -- it was pointed out to me by a couple of people, including the gentleman from eBates, that MoeMoneyMaker was not a good choice for inclusion on the list of adware examples.  Even though it is classified as adware by a number of anti-spyware programs, it apparently does not serve ads.  One reader wrote to me by email:

eBates MMM does help consumers actually save money (extra rebates).  No extra pop-ups.  Much less obvious why this is bad, relative to the other programs you list (none of which a sensible informed user would be likely to want).  In that vein, I don't generally use the word "adware" to describe MMM; I do think it has sometimes found itself onto users' computers without users wanting it or knowing where they got it (less so now than in the past); but it's just not quite like the other adware apps.

Mr. Alessandro Isolani, CEO of eBates, wrote to me and stated:

There is little similarity between our software and the other products you mention.  MMM is not an adware delivery mechanism; it is an adjunct to our main program.  It only interacts with users when it is saving them money.  It is easily removed by the 'add and remove programs' control panel. And once removed, it cannot be re-installed without writing our customer service to obtain a reinstallation tool, thus preventing accidental reinstallation. 

I have never used or installed MoeMoneyMaker.  I included it in the last because I know it is labeled as adware by a number of anti-spyware apps.  I have, however, seen eBates' software installed via exploits along with adware/spyware but not in recent months.  Other spyware researchers told me they have not seen eBates' software instllled via exploit recently either. 

Eric Goldman responded to the question "Does anyone really like adware?" at his Technology & Marketing Law blog.   Eric's response actually surprised me.  I recommend reading his blog to anyone interested in this topic.   The adware companies would do well to read it also.

Topic: Security

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  • Does anyone really like adware?

    Sure -- the people who send the stuff just love it. As for me, I can do my own research, thank you. (i.e. -- the airline ticket example given). Besides, many times with the adware, it may point you to cheaper prices for something, but who knows what can/will happen to your PC [subliminal] "additional adware/spyware" [\subliminal] upon entering the site (especially via the pop-up ad.) Plus all the "fine print", etc., etc.

    Maybe some people like adware, but if I never saw another pop-up ad again (with or without ad-blocking on), it would only be too soon!
    X Marks The Spot
  • Reality Check

    I just noticed that contains ADVERTISING -- yet another ad-supported web site. Does anyone else find this annoying? Why can't I have free news without the ads?! Come on, ZDNet! Take down your ads! And tell Google to do the same -- why is Google spying on my searches, and showing me related ads?
    • Big difference between Adware/Spyware and a Web Page Ad

      But of course you knew that. Not sure what the point of your post was.
  • Adware

    1. No, there really isn't any software out there that I'd be willing to accept adware for. I'd rather pay full price for software than to be bombarded with distracting ads in my face.

    2. Small ads on web pages, that don't popup or flash constantly in my face seems like a fair tradeoff. I hate flashing ads as much as I do popups and popunders because I personally find it too distracting.

    Online advertising in itself is not a bad thing, however the way most of it is done is just downright distasteful. I think the way most ads are presented is the equivilent of screaming. It's rude and unnecessary. You wouldn't yell at someone if you wanted to get your point across and be taken seriously.

    3. I usually do my own research for products or services. I don't need to be reminded that there are other companies out there selling a similar product.

    4. Ads have zero influence on my purchasing decision. I generally make up my mind from my own research which products I will purchase.

    5. I really don't think advertisers can do anything to make what they do acceptable. I don't know anyone who personally likes this type of advertising.

    I think advertisers run the risk of shutting us off altogether by forcing the issue. Just as people tend to blank out when a commercial comes on. Very few commercials get my attention. They really have to be entertaining for me to sit through them.

    One bit of advice for ad companies, think subtle.
  • They have to pay the bills

    Would you rather see ads here or pay for a subscription to view the site? ;-) The ads here are not intrusive, IMO, unless I'm missing something due to my my firewall's ad blocking. It doesn't block all ads, just some of the larger ones.
    • I agree completely....

      The ads on ZDNET are generally not that intrusive though I have to say that any animated ad in a bit annoying. I guess they are supposed to get my attention when they move on the screen. However, they are generally no more than a distracting annoyance.

      I have never, I repeat never, purchased anything as a result of an online ad. I've never even clicked on one. Apparently some people do because the practice continues.

      But as Ajay said in a previous post, it's all a matter of how subtle the ads are. Some ads are so annoying that they actually make me dislike the advertiser. Not exactly the desired result I'm sure. I've had to remove FlashPlayer from all the computers I use because of the annoyance factor. Flash is used to create some of the most irritating ads on the planet.

      So, ZDNET is doing fine. Here's hoping they don't get any more aggressive.

      In regards to the other issues in your article, I would say that static banner ads are the only acceptable means of advertising. Pop-ups, pop-unders, etc automatically place a company in the "I hate them" category. And adware... NO WAY, NO HOW. Nothing they have to offer is worth it.

      I don't buy based on advertising. The simple fact is that no advertisement can be trusted completely. Doing my own research is a pre-requisite to any significant purchase. I never have and never will buy something because I saw the advertisement.
    • Not my problem

      As the consumer, it's not my moral obligation to support your site by tolerating your annoying ads. It's your responsibility to find a model that will let you make money without annoying your customer.

      The fact is, ad blocking software is becoming more prevalent and the day will come when you will have to find another business model to fund your operations because no one will be looking at your ads.
    • websites vs software

      I allow (non-popup) ads on my browser.

      BUT adware is not the same as websites. Adware is [b]software[/b] with ads.


      You happy now?
    • I believe.. intrusive is the key...

      If they are intrusive.. People won't like it. If it's not intrusive.. People will either ignore it, or look at it.

      I say they should stick to installing adware in applications (similar to Opera etc) but that's as far as it goes application wise.

      When you start installing adware on my computer without me knowing until after it's installed.. I have a problem with that.

      Allow the consumer to choose what they want to do with the ads. Either ignore them or look into them.. Not show them 100 before they can do what they need to do.
  • Online Advertising

    I personally don't have an issue with a certain level of advertising. Being a technoslut myself, I do follow ad-links for interesting looking products now and again (and also find advertising on travel websites to be useful!) Contextual advertising is a good idea IMO - I'm not a pregnant male lesbian, so why should I be treated like one!

    Let's face it:

    * if it weren't for advertising, we wouldn't be aware of half the products and services we currently are. Other than advertising, what have you got? Word of mouth. Nobody could grow to the size of Microsoft (to choose an example) through word of mouth. Directly or indirectly, advertising is how you find out about something. If there were no advertising, how would you know to come to to bitch about it in the first place, and want to pay for a subscription to avoid the ads!?

    * Companies offering free content have bills to pay.

    I strongly agree though that the level of advertising we are bombarded with is getting frustrating, pop-up ads being the scourge of the internet. And adware has a way to go.

    I guess I have to agree with AJane here with advice for advertisers - think subtle. Advertising is part of life, but make it useful - not painful.
  • i say no

    About the only adware that i tolerate is the "banner" type ad on the right side of the screen. And I don't have any inclination of ever clicking on any of those links. People on the adware side who bring us pop-ups and etc just don't get it. If people wanted this advertising they wouldn't have to stoop to unethical and possibly illegal means to do so.

  • Most hated ads are...


    Go see [url=]Most hated advertising techniques[/url] to check what user really dislike.

    Ads are part of a website bread and butter, they have to work hard to serve the best possible ads to get the most people to take a look at it. It offer great ways to get people to learn about new products.

    ZDnet as a fair use of ads, not overall good but fair.

    BuisinessWeek is kind of in the bottom of value proposition on a website, usually assuming it work.

    I do not know why some companies tries to oversell stuff trough to much adware. I can remember the X10 camera used the best ad technique available at that time and it was shrewd.

    People usually search for text on a web page. So I guess that text ads that offer a real value proposition has a chance to win customer. Why do you think google ads work?
  • Does anyone really like adware?

    I find that MOST ad-aware is per junk..

    I spend 5+ hours every week at work removing such junk programs, I find this unfair to the company that they have to pay me to uninstall programs that are not work related. We DO have the computers setup so all users do not have install rights, but this only stops some programs from installing. Why should they have to spend $20,000 a year JUST for fixing something that the users did not even know was installed in the first place? (70 computer network)

    I also use to work at a computer store before starting here 9 months ago. I would have to say sadly that 40% or more of all our work for the past 2 years was removing ad-aware/spyware. The customers spend I would guess Billions a year on having this problems cleared up, and who know how many lost hours of work.

    I have seen adware/spyware cause MAY users to just stop using the internet all together becuase all the problems that it has cuased for them and added stress to there life. Thanks to adaware people think that there old computers are "old and slow" and just buy a new computer and the computer may only be 12 months old, Large companys like Dell and HP take the blaim for there computers running like crap and people stop buying there computers becuase they think the company sold them a faultly computer.

    Ads on websites:
    Ads like that found on zdnet I do not have ANY problem with, lets face the facts they are here to make money, and I understand that. When you goto any larger site like this one or these sites major revenue is the banner ads, without the banner ads they would not beable to pay for staff, hosting, and may other thinks...It's was makes 90% or there income!!! I do have a problem with sites that have ANY kind of popup, just stick to the static banners. I have found some sites that make you see a "middle" page before getting to the one that you wanted, I also find this anoying as hell, but better that popup ads and spyware.

    On some programs they have found Okay ways to display ads that is not anoying. For example MSN Messanger, they have a small area at the bottem of the program that displays ads, there are no popups. I would like the program better if it did not have any ads at all, but I can deal with something like this. They do not install some extra program in the back ground that will cuase any issues, just a simple static banner in the program that uses less than 5% of the total viewable area, I understand that companys need to make funds.

    sorry if there is any rambling or mispellings, I only have 2 hours of sleep becuase of "dyfuka" and and two other adware/spyware programs some how getting installed on my printserver at work... God I love spyware...LOL, someone please throw these people in JAIL for 25 years, they will slow them down a bit.
  • I admit, ads influence my behavior...

    ...But typically negatively. This includes TV and all other ads as well as the Internet. If an ad insults my intelligence or otherwise interferes with what I want to do, my opinion will reflect negatively on the product being advertised.

    There are some ZDnet ads that cross the line. They have middlepage and inline popovers that I find irritating. Static banners I find tolerable. The only type of ads I've ever been tempted to explore were google ads.

    I find it interesting that so much money is spent on advertising but so little attention is payed to supplying sufficient information about products on websites. If I am going to make a purchase, I want as much useful information about a product <b>including price</b> on the company's site. As soon as I feel like a company is trying to manage information about a product, I feel like they have something to hide and that product is immediately devalued to me.
  • Gator eWallet was good (w/o ads)

    Gator eWallet was a very cool product. Eventually it turned into aggressive AdWare, but before that, when other products were selling for $30, at least it was free -- and probably the best one out there.
  • Actual user satisfaction statistics...

    First off a disclaimer: I'm a member of the executive management team at Ebates, one of the companies mentioned in the article.

    Since my personal opinions on the questions you pose are obviously biased (and would likely be dismissed as such), I thought I'd confine my reply to the area where I can answer with 'just the facts' and not rely on a personal opinion...

    You ask whether users would want so-called 'adware' applications on their computers and referene our Moe Money Maker software as an example. I had two comments on that front:

    First, I would dispute the labeling of our reminder software as adware to begin with. As a simple starting point, I'd note that we don't sell or deliver ads in the software which would seem to refute the notion that it's adware. More broadly (since I know many of these definitions are subjctivly applied), I'd also note that the software never attempts to entice a user away from their task at hand to promote another site or product. Instead, it simply reminds users of the software when a rebate is available at a store they're already visiting. This information is no more "advertising" than any other alert or reminder service provided by other media or shopping services (including, I might add ZDNet & it's parent company CNET Networks).

    Second, I can confidently say that Ebates users value our Moe Money Maker application. We conduct frequent surveys & customer service outreach to monitor user opinions of the software, and we consistently see +90% user satisfcation ratings (92.4% at latest count). In fact, some of our most common customer service inquiries about the software relate to how to re-install the software after a removal program uninstalled it without the user knowing about it.

    Thanks for the interesting piece and thought-provoking questions.
    • blog updated regarding MoeMoneyMaker

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comments. I've updated the blog with information I received by email from Mr. Isolani, CEO of eBates, and feedback about MoeMoneyMaker sent by a reader.
    • Not Adware/Spyware? Hah (NT)

  • Ads?

    I don't see any ads... at least on the sites I frequent. I hate them, I hate the ones on TV the radio and on the web. I find them annoying and distracting. I also dislike a good program being interrupted by ads evey 5 minutes.

    I have all but stopped watching TV, I no longer listen to the radio and web pages that I frequent, I use ad block and iFrame blockers in FireFox to get rid of them. So all I see is the content I am there for in the first place.

    As someone else posted here, if I want something I pretty much know who makes it and will take some time to research the products available and from whom and cost vs. value. Then I will make my purchase.

    As hard as I try I cannot think of one thing I have bought because of an ad.
    Linux Advocate
  • well who does...

    I had read the article by Mike Healan this morning and I cannot agree more. I myself use the firefox aswell and am a happy user of the MVPs Hostfile ( ).
    I do have - some - adverts on my website as well, but they are Google Adsense text ads.
    I do not use the extension Mike mentions, but am annoyed by popups very easily. His points of counterproductive actions that arise through the ruthless tries of working around popup blockers are well worth underlying and I fully agree with that. As to adware itself, I find it a pain in the neck. I am cleaning PCs off this kind of modern emergence on a daily basis. Reffering to your recent blog about the "consent for spyware" ( ) and the users often non-existing knowledge, there is far too many adware infected PCs out there. I cannot think of a good reason, why people should regard adware as a positive factor of the modern Internet age. To the contrary, it is more likely always regarded as bad. Financing a Website through ads is fine with me. It is up to me if I am to view the ads or not. I am sort of quietly agreeing to support that site. Adware however, does this most often through misleading EULAs and / or without real consent of the noob user.
    I do not think that the adware scene will be able to clean their image that easily and all that soon, though recently attemps where made by known adware / spyware companies.
    Sorry for this rather long blog. Regards from Germany,