Adware is a type of Advertising Display Software
that delivers advertising content potentially in
a manner or context that may be unexpected and unwanted
Typically, adware components install alongside a
shareware or freeware application. These advertisements
create revenue for the software developer and are
provided with initial consent from the user. Adware
displays Web-based advertisements through pop-up
windows or through an advertising banner that appears
within a program's interface. Getting pop-up advertisements
when you're working on your computer is very annoying.
Adware can slow your PC by using RAM and
CPU cycles. Adware can also slow your Internet connection
by using bandwidth to retrieve advertisements. In
addition, adware can increase the instability of
your system because many adware applications are
not programmed well.
Adware programs other than spyware do not
invisibly collect and upload this activity record
or personal information when the user of the computer
has not expected or approved of the transfer, but
some vendors of adware maintain that their application
which does this is not also spyware, due to disclosure
of program activities: for example, a product vendor
may indicate that since somewhere in the product's
software will be included that may collect and may
means the product is just adware.
There seems little doubt that the whole idea of ad- and spyware came about as a
legitimate extension of Internet advertising. It didn't take long for the idealistic view
of the Internet and the World Wide Web as being totally non-profit, everything-for-free
venues, to fade away. Hotwired introduced Web advertising on its site in October 1994,
featuring ads from Sprint, Volvo, AT&T MCI, Zima, and others; by the time consumers
began surfing the Web with the brand-new Netscape 1.0 in November of the same year,
Web ads were already a fact of life.
Spam - mass commercial emailings to legitimate
mailing lists - appeared en masse in December (though
the first spam reference I can find is the infamous
April '94 spamming from Canter and Siegel Legal
Services). Affiliate marketing began in the same
year, with PC Flowers and Gifts, Cybererotica, and
others beating out better-known affiliate programs
like Amazon.com to the Internet.
By 1996, tracking methodology had been implemented and was in use by such ad providers as ValueClick,
Alexa, Be Free, LinkShare, and Commission Junction. Refer-it.com was launched in 1997 as an attempt to provide a centralized,
detailed search function for affiliates. The idea was relatively straightforward: to reach out to as many Net consumers as
possible, and somehow track their surfing and buying habits in order to fine-tune
advertising tactics. Of course, the entire idea is predicated on invading Net users'
privacy at least to some degree. "Cookies," designed as part of the original Netscape
protocols, were implemented to store login information, track surfers' visits to commercial
sites, and keep at least some record of personal and demographical information in
order to assist sales and marketing tactics; ad banners were selected to target a site's
demographics; and so forth.
The thinking isn't much different from the ideas driving mass postal mailings, catalog requests
(why do you think they ask you for so much information for a simple catalog mailing?),
telemarketing calls ("We see you're a satisfied customer of Foobar Corporation's
MegaWidget, and as such, we'd like to introduce you to...") -- even television ads
marketed to a channel's prime viewing audience (toys on Cartoon Network, shopping outlets
on Lifetime, computer goodies on TechTV, etc.).
All these advertising and marketing techniques are, by necessity, somewhat scattershot in approach
and effectiveness, and the results bear this out. When a 1% "click-through" rate for banner
ads is considered excellent, that says something. So the advertisers and the software designers decided
to raise the bar a bit.
The idea of specifically targeted "adware" came about when the producers of freebie
product found that they couldn't make money - or enough money to suit their pocketbooks
-- by simply giving their products away, or hoping that folks who signed up for their
services would click on the ads that ran on their sites. Thus they began to bundle
advertising within their wares.
Suddenly Websites and software developers that prided themselves on being aggressively non-profit
found themselves forced to accept advertising to stay afloat. Developers found themselves embracing,
or at least accepting, the idea of modifying their programs with commercial content, requiring users
to either accept ads along with the freebies or register the programs, usually for a fee, to obtain
the ad-free versions. Of course it didn't end there. As Internet advertising showed itself to be
a dicey-at-best proposition, the software used to promulgate advertising and encourage ecommerce on
the Net became more and more sophisticated and, unfortunately, more intrusive.