What Is Adware?
|Published:||Jul 21, 2005|
|Author:||Michael E, Callahan|
In conjunction with the information I wrote about "spyware" I also want to tell you a bit about what is commonly called "Adware." The concept of advertising paying for things is an old one. Think about it. You turn on your television and every program is sponsored by a variety of products. You read a newspaper and you see advertising for a wide range of things. The same is true in all magazines. You read a page, you see an ad. Ads for cars, makeup, computers, vacations, books, music, food, and just about every other thing you can imagine. It's a fact that advertising helps pay for many of the things we enjoy. So, it was just a natural extension for people to think about putting advertising in software.
The Adware Boom
"Adware" is a concept that started in the mid to late 1990's. It was going full blast around 1999. The idea was simple. A software author could put advertising in their product and not charge you for the product. Why? Well, because theoretically the advertising would pay them even more. For shareware authors, who use the "try before you buy" concept of marketing, it looked like a great idea. They could still make good software and distribute it, but they'd get paid for every copy that was used. The companies that presented "adware" to software authors were good sales people. I personally know a number of reputable software authors who tried the adware concept. The problem was that the ads simply didn't pay enough. Many users didn't want to have advertising in the software they used. All of the software developers I know who tried it were hurt by it. And all of them got out of it.
That's not to say that advertising is bad. As I already stated early on, many of the things we enjoy are funded, in whole or in part, by advertising. With some things we're perfectly willing to put up with advertising, like TV or magazines. The same is also true with some software. I've subscribed to several different sites that provide music. And when I agree to the terms of those sites I'm agreeing to use their site-specific software which will show me "ads" pertaining to music. Ahh, but the difference here is that in this case I don't mind the advertising. It seems fair to me since I get to listen to free music all day, and only pay for the songs I want to keep. Hmm, but what about tracking? Well, if you think about it, in some instances you agree to be tracked. You agree to have things put on your computer as well. Don't think so? Read on.
Not All Tracking Is Bad
Lets go back to that music site I talked about. Pick a music site, any music site. I like just about all kinds of music, but I like certain kinds better than others. The site says, "Tell us which genres of music you like best." So, I pick rock, blues, folk, (don't laugh), and heavy metal. That way I get the latest information on the types of music I like best. But, in doing so, I've effectively told the site what types of music I like. They can track what I listen to because I've told them they can. Nothing sinister about it, it's just the way business works. I give them some information, they show me ads about the things I like. Albums, and concerts, and shows, Oh My! I also have a "home" page where I get exactly what I want. News, sports, weather, stock market, and so on. The site even says "Welcome Doc" when I arrive. It shows weather for my town, scores for my towns teams - you get the idea. Does it do this by magic? No! Whether you realize it or not, you've at some point agreed to have that home page. And the site has dropped a cookie on your computer so it knows these details you want it to know. Again, nothing sinister about it. If one is on the Internet, and wants to have things personalized, these are some of the things you deal with. As long as you understand that everything is fair and equitable. The problem for me comes when people start trying to put stuff on my computer without my okay, or without my knowing.
Banner-Ad Supported Software
There are some wonderful software programs that are supported, in part, through the use of advertising. Opera and Eudora are two such products. Both are excellent pieces of software from reputable companies. These programs, and a few others, use what I call "banner ad supported software." No tracking is done, no keystrokes are monitored, you simply get banner ads, normally at the top of the program. You can pay for these programs and the ads will just disappear instantly. I tried Opera for awhile, I didn't care to see advertising, so I paid for it. No problem.
Summing It Up
One of the biggest commodities for sale in this, the first part of the twenty-first century, is information. So, some companies will go to any means to gather and utilize that information to make money. If a company knows what you like, they know what to tempt you with. If they know I play guitar, they know that new model Gibson might be of interest to me. And, sadly, some companies have resorted to sleight-of-hand tricks and deception to find out what you and I like. Tucows has had a policy of absolute zero tolerance for spyware and adware since these concepts emerged on the scene. Only programs that utilize the "banner ad supported software" model, like those I mentioned, have ever been allowed on Tucows.
Most of the effective anti-spyware programs will effectively remove and monitor your computer for both adware and spyware. I will only list the ones that I myself have actually evaluated and these include, in no particular order, the following programs you can find right here on Tucows.
In closing, remember to read what you agree to, only deal with well-known, reputable sites, like Tucows and others, as well as the sites of the software authors themselves, and read before you click. Protect yourself and don't engage in unsafe surfing -- use protection. That means a good anti-virus program that you keep up-to-date and an anti-spyware product that is recommended by a reputable site. Yes, there are even many bogus spyware programs that will give you false positives, but that's another story. Take the necessary precautions, know what you agree to, and enjoy your Internet experience.
Read about Spyware.
Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.