BonziBuddy promotional image
|Developer(s)||Bonzi Software, Inc.|
4.1.2 / 2004
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows|
BonziBuddy, stylized as BonziBUDDY, was a freeware desktop virtual assistant made by Joe and Jay Bonzi. Upon a user's choice, it would share jokes and facts, manage downloading using its download manager, sing songs, talk, among other functions.
The software used Microsoft Agent technology similar to Office Assistant, and originally sported Peedy, a green parrot and one of the characters available with Microsoft Agent. Later versions of BonziBuddy in May 2000 featured its own character: Bonzi, the purple gorilla. The program also used a text to speech voice to interact with the user. The voice was called Sydney and taken from an old Lernout & Hauspie Microsoft Speech API 4.0 package. It is often referred to in some software as Adult Male #2.
Some versions of the software were described as spyware and adware. BonziBuddy was discontinued in 2004 after the company behind it faced lawsuits regarding the software and was ordered to pay fines. Bonzi's website remained open after the discontinuation of BonziBuddy, but was shut down at the end of 2008.
In April 2007, PC World readers voted BonziBuddy the 6th on a list named: "The 20 Most Annoying Tech Products". One reader was quoted as criticizing the program because it "kept popping up and obscuring things you needed to see".
One of the last newspapers to write about BonziBuddy while it was still in distribution described it as spyware and a "scourge of the Internet". Another article found in 2006 on the BusinessWeek website described BonziBuddy as "the unbelievably annoying spyware trojan horse".
Adware or spyware
A number of sources identify BonziBuddy as spyware, a claim the company disputes. In 2002 an article in Consumer Reports Web Watch labelled BonziBuddy as spyware, stating that it contains a backdoor trojan that collects information from users. The activities the program is said to engage in include constantly resetting the user's web browser homepage to bonzi.com without the user's permission, prompting and tracking various information about the user, and serving advertisements.
Internetnews.com reported the settlement of a class action suit on 27 May 2003. Originally brought against Bonzi Software on 4 December 2002, the suit accused Bonzi of using its banner advertisements to deceptively imitate Windows computer alerts, alerting the user that their IP address is being broadcast. In the settlement, Bonzi agreed to modify their ads so that they looked less like Windows dialog boxes and more like advertisements.
On 18 February 2004, the Federal Trade Commission released a statement indicating that Bonzi Software, Inc. was ordered to pay $75,000 in fees, among other aspects, for violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 with BonziBuddy.
Status as an internet meme
In recent years, and almost a decade after the lawsuit concluded in 2004, the BonziBuddy program and its associated character have become the subject of an internet meme. The program re-entered popularity as a meme on February 1st, 2014, when it was featured by video game streamer Joel from Vinesauce as part of a 'Windows XP Destruction' stream. In the stream, Joel installed the program alongside a host of other early-2000's programs and malware, and viewers quickly garnered popularity for Bonzi.
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Hotbar, Bonzi Buddy, Gator eWallet and Comet Cursors ... are all spyware-laden programs that I have encountered far too often in the field on my users' machine
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- Schwartzman, Jen (18 February 2004). "UMG Recordings, Inc. to Pay $400,000, Bonzi Software, Inc. To Pay $75,000 to Settle COPPA Civil Penalty Charges". ftc.gov. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
- "BonziBuddy". Know Your Meme.