Surreptitious Adware Company Zango Finally Shuts Down
from the about-time dept
Remember back in the days of surreptitiously installed adware/spyware? For the most part, those days are gone, driven out by better security, FTC crackdowns and more sophisticated users. However, one of the big companies in the space, Zango, hung around for years, and finally shut down.
The company, which was originally known as 180Solutions, raised millions from VCs who didn’t seem to recognize just how hated the company was, and just how many of its installs weren’t by choice, but through annoyance. Then, for years, the company kept trying and failing to shake the “spyware” label, always blaming “bad actors” in its distribution network, but doing little to actually stop any of those bad actors. At times, it even rewarded them or made ridiculous claims about how its software couldn’t be used for sneaky installs any more, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Incredibly, the company merged with another infamous adware firm and renamed the new company after the firm’s most hated app Zango. And then, of course, came the lawsuits and a settlement with the FTC, which the company didn’t appear to live up to. Most recently, the company was supposed to have “reinvented itself” in the “casual gaming” market.
Of all things, I’d actually run into some folks from the company at a conference last year, where they were pitching their “innovative advertising solutions,” but would clam up or use misdirection any time you asked them for specifics about who would see the ads and how the software had gotten on their computers in the first place. In the meantime, one of the company’s founders has written up something of a post mortem, where he suggests that only 4% of their installs early on were “completely silent,” but doesn’t note how many weren’t necessarily “silent,” but were done through trickery or a lack of full info. He also blames others in the space for being worse, and getting a bad rap because of their actions. Eventually, he also admits that the company also never provided much value in exchange for the advertisements, and at least is willing to admit that the company’s management “was brain-dead” and should have recognized this early on. It’s a fairly open and honest piece on what happened, though I think he doesn’t give nearly enough blame to the company itself. It was quite evident how problematic the company’s actions were from a very early stage, and the fact that it continued right up until recently suggests this wasn’t just a case of a few small mistakes, but a systematic culture at or around the company that encouraged those types of actions.