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Claria Corporation (formerly Gator Corporation) was a software company based in Redwood City, California with products many considered spyware. It was established in 1998 by Denis Coleman. Its name was often used interchangeably with its Gain advertising network, which it claimed serviced over 40 million users. Claria exited the adware business at the end of second quarter 2006., and eventually shut down completely in October 2008. However, its software still remains installed on millions of PCs.
The "Gator" (also known as Gain AdServer) products collected personal information from its unknowing users, including all websites visited and portions of credit card numbers to target and display ads on the computers of web surfers. It billed itself as the "leader in online behavioral marketing". The company changed its name to Claria Corporation on October 30, 2003 in an effort to "better communicate the expanding breadth of offerings that [they] provide to consumers and advertisers", according to CEO and President Jeff McFadden.
Originally released in 1999, Gator was most frequently installed together with programs being offered free of charge, such as Go!Zilla, or Kazaa. The development of these programs was partially funded by revenue from advertising displayed by Gator. By mid-2003 Gator was installed on an estimated 35 million PCs.
Even though Gator was installed with an uninstall available via Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel on Microsoft Windows, many spyware removal tools can also detect and remove it. Gator's end user license agreement attempts to disallow its manual removal by prohibiting "unauthorized means" of uninstallation.
The Gator software undercut the fundamental ad-supported nature of many Internet publishers by replacing banner ads on web sites with its own, thereby depriving the content provider of the revenue necessary to continue providing that content. In June 2002 a number of large publishers, including the New York Post, The New York Times, and Dow Jones & Company, sued Gator Software for its practice of replacing ads. Most of the lawsuits were settled out of court in February 2003.
Other defunct applications
Gator corporation released a suite of "free" Internet applications that performed various tasks. However, after installing the applications, a user would continually be shown ads from the Gain network, even when the programs were not running in the foreground. This suite included:
- eWallet - a program that will automatically fill in personal information on webpages from a stored set of data entered by the user.
- Dashbar - an advertisement supported search toolbar by Claria. Intrusive in that it displays pop up ads during an Internet browsing session.
- Date Manager
- Precision Time
While using the software, a user was shown advertisements. According to Computer Associates' spyware information center, all applications in the suite are classified as both adware and spyware, as they both display ads unrelated to the product while the primary user interface is not visible. These programs all employ the user's Internet connection to report behavior information back to Claria. Although the user's explicit consent is always required to install these applications, Claria took advantage of the fact that most users choose not bothering to educate themselves about what they are installing. In most cases, during the install process, users must choose whether to install the "free" version (which serves lots of ads as described above) or to pay the $30 for a version that serves no ads. Since the announcement to shut the ad network down, Claria has stopped accepting payment for "ad free" versions.
Despite their unpopular reputation, Claria Corporation had received backing from major venture capital firms, including Greylock, Technology Crossover Ventures, and U.S. Venture Partners. Andy Bechtolsheim was an early investor. They filed for a $150 million IPO in April 2004, stating income of $35 million on revenues of $90 million in 2003. Investors were concerned that its practices might be illegal, at least in Utah at the time. Another concern was that most revenue came from one partner: Yahoo Overture. Claria withdrew the filing in August 2004.
In July 2005, Microsoft Corporation came under fire when it revealed that their anti-spyware product would no longer quarantine Claria software as "spyware" (though it still offered users the option to remove the software). Microsoft was reportedly contemplating the purchase of Claria, which many consumers felt to be a conflict of interest. Other spyware-reporting agencies, such as Computer Associates and Panda Software's TruPrevent Technologies, still label Claria products as both adware and spyware.
In March 2006, Claria claimed that it would be exiting the adware business and focusing on personalized search technology. On July 1, 2006, Claria ceased displaying pop-up ads. Around this time, a new company NebuAd was formed with some former Claria employees with another approach to targeted advertisements. On April 21, 2008, Claria sold the gator.com domain.
Today, Claria's former senior management team occupy a variety of leadership roles throughout the online marketing industry. Scott VanDeVelde, Claria's last CEO and former Chief Revenue Officer, is now Chief Revenue Officer at Dotomi, an online advertising firm specializing in personalized media. Scott Eagle, Claria's former Chief Operating Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, joined eHarmony, an online dating company, as Chief Marketing Officer. Former CEO Jeff McFadden is now a VP of Business Development at Zen Marketing. The former VP of Business Development Mitchell Weisman is now part of the leadership team at LifeStreet Corporation, the largest ad network on Facebook. Tony Martin, Claria's former VP of Engineering, ran engineering and operations at Playlist. Claria's former VP Engineering and Analytics, Dominic Bennett, and Claria's Senior Director of Finance Dennis Jang, are now part of the leadership team at Turn, a leading online advertising DSP, as VP Engineering and VP Finance respectively. Former Claria CTO, Mark Pennell, is now a senior software engineer at Demand Media.
- Claria exiting adware business from Claria. Accessed April 30, 2006 from http://www.claria.com/companyinfo/press/releases/pr060321.html
- A New Battleground In Web Privacy War: Ads That Can Snoop
- The home of Spybot-S&D!
- Adware.GAIN - Symantec.com
- Stefanie Olsen (June 27, 2002). "Publishers sue Gator over pop-ups". cNET.com. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
- Paul Festa (October 22, 2003). "See you later, anti-Gators?". cNET.com. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
- Vincentas (16 July 2013). "Claria Corporation in SpyWareLoop.com". Spyware Loop. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
- Center for Democracy & Technology (2003), "Ghosts in our Machines: Background and Policy Proposals on the 'Spyware' Problem". Footnote 3.
- eTrust Spyware Encyclopedia - claria.ewallet from Computer Associates. Accessed from http://www3.ca.com/securityadvisor/pest/pest.aspx?id=453094092.
- Timothy L. O'Brien and Saul Hansell (September 20, 2004). "Barbarians at the Digital Gate". New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
- Stefanie Olsen (April 8, 2004). "Gator mutation Claria files for IPO". cNET.com. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
- "Claria: The Napster Of Pop-Up Advertising". Bloomberg Businessweek. June 28, 2004. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
- Stefanie Olsen (August 12, 2004). "Adware anxiety gives Claria cold feet". cNET.com. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
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- Candace Lombardi (March 22, 2006). "Claria to exit adware business". cNET.com. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
- Cade Metz (June 20, 2008). "NebuAd looks to 'spyware' firm for recruits: 'Typical of the Valley'". The Register. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
- Matt Marshall (October 6, 2008). "Controversial ad company Jellycloud shuts down". Venture Beat. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
- David Kaplan (October 6, 2008). "Name Change Didn't Help: Jellycloud Defunct; $50M In Funding Down The Drain, 36 Staffers". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 12, 2011.