NetZero logo used since 2013
|Industry||Internet service provider|
|Headquarters||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|United States, Europe, India, Canada (Partial)|
|Rusty Taragan, President|
NetZero launched in October 1998, founded by Ronald T. Burr (original CEO), Stacy Haitsuka, Marwan Zebian and Harold MacKenzie. The first national free Internet service provider, NetZero grew to 1,000,000 users in six months. NetZero's model was free Internet access to attract an audience for highly targeted advertising. The ad serving technology has over 9 patents and NetZero was the first company to invent real-time URL targeted advertising based on surfing patterns under US patent 6,366,298  Monitoring of Individual Internet Usage. The founders raised $60 Million in venture capital in four separate equity financings. Venture investors included idealab, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Foundation Capital, Clearstone Venture Partners and Compaq. NetZero signed a distribution deal with Compaq and was the only ISP to be included in the out-of-box experience (OOBE). In September 1999 NetZero went public on the NASDAQ exchange with the symbol NZRO. Mark Goldston was hired as CEO, Charles Hilliard was hired as CFO and Ronald Burr took the position of President and Chief Technology Officer. In December 1999, NetZero and NBC Sports agreed to a major deal that would see NetZero replace Prudential Financial as the sponsor for the network's NBA halftime studio show, titled "NetZero @ The Half", which gave NetZero a much larger audience for its product.
In late 1999 several other companies began to copy the NetZero free access model including Juno Online Services (which for years[when?] had offered E-mail but not World Wide Web access for free), Spinway launched with Yahoo! and AltaVista, Freei and BlueLight Internet, which was originally owned by Kmart. They claimed to offer free Internet service forever, in exchange for displaying ads, either on a permanent toolbar or on a "banner" that was shown when online. NetZero sued them for infringing on a banner ad patent. After the dot-com bust in early 2001, NetZero acquired its competitors as each went bankrupt. In addition NetZero acquired AimTV which displayed full video quality 30 second ad spots as well as Simpli and RocketCash. It is possible to use NetZero free access without advertising or additional software by connecting directly to a NetZero access number through the Windows Network Connections wizard. If used this way, however, NetZero will display an error whenever accessing a Web site that isn't a NetZero site. It will say that the person either has an outdated version of the NetZero software or it isn't functioning.
Starting in January 2001, NetZero began charging for access time over 40 hours per month. Users who exceeded 40 hours were directed to the company's "Platinum" service, which provided unlimited access for $9.95 per month. With the income statement reinvigorated through charging heavier users of the system, NetZero merged with its rival Juno Online Services and created a new holding company, United Online which now trades on NASDAQ under the symbol UNTD. NetZero later lowered the threshold for their free service to 10 hours per month.
NetZero has versions of its proprietary dial-up software for computers running Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X. NetZero previously offered a Linux version of the NetZero software advertised as being for Linspire, however the software could be installed on any Debian-based i386 or x86-64 Linux distribution; NetZero can also be installed on any RPM-based Linux distribution as long as Alien is used to convert the NetZero Debian package into an RPM package. In addition, the Linux version requires the Java Runtime Environment to be installed prior to use of the NetZero dialer. However the current Linux version of the dialer no longer functions properly with the service since 2009.
Evolution into Wireless
While continuing to provide nationwide dial-up access service (and DSL broadband service), in March 2012 NetZero launched a mobile broadband service for users who purchase their hardware, using the Clearwire network. It has since expanded the service across the nationwide Sprint 3G network, and also launched a Home Wireless Broadband service which is intended to provide wireless access in the home or office. In 2013, it debuted NetZero DataShield, a personal Virtual private network which encrypts and protects users’ data when they connect to the Internet via any WiFi connection, including public WiFi hubs.
- "URL Tracking Patent".
- Richtel, Matt (December 28, 2000). "NetZero Sues Juno Online in a Patent Dispute Over Advertising". New York Times.
- Free Wireless Broadband The New Republic, March 19, 2012
- Netzero to launch free wireless By Peter Svensson AP Technology Writer