June 15, 2024

Adware, should I be afraid?

Developers offering downloads are paying the price for the malformed truths that have been put forward regarding downloads. Although it is not a political campaign, smears are always present in the field of adware.

Years ago, developers saw that they could monetize free software that was getting expensive to host. The developers began working with ad networks like the former Aureate and Conducent, which embedded ads into the software. The software in many cases called home retrieving ads. In other cases, the ads were embedded directly into the download and were only removed when the software was registered. Many well-known software companies, including Netscape, distributed ad-supported versions, allowing users to use the software for free. The developers were compensated per install or for the number of ads posted. Advertisers welcomed new revenue streams to reach potential customers.

Adware or advertising-supported software is any software application that displays advertisements while the program is running. These apps include additional code that displays the ads in pop-up windows or as a bar that appears on a computer screen. Adware helps recoup program development costs and helps keep the cost of creating the user application low, often for free. As a result of AdWare revenue, developers were motivated to write, maintain, and update valuable ad-enabled software. The adware was a huge payoff for the consumer, so did it all go wrong?

Unbeknownst to the developers, a handful of ad serving companies were recording and profiling the browsing habits of those who had downloaded the ad-enabled software. After downloading freeware, new adware companies delivered pop-up and pop-up ads based on consumers’ browsing interests. The adware has been criticized for including code that tracks a user’s browsing habits, email address, and personal information, which is transmitted to third parties, without the user’s authorization or knowledge. This was the fall of ad serving technology and ad-enabled software.

In many cases, consumers rightly believe they have been and are being spied on, prompting an outcry from privacy advocates. Adware is not a virus and may not be detected by antivirus programs. It does not spread in the same way as most viruses. Many users are unaware that they are downloading a free program together with adware on their computer. The lack of disclosure tarnished the reputation of many well-known but unfortunate software developers and companies. The collapse of a number of corporate-backed advertising service companies, including Aureate and Conducent.

Fast forward to today. Few apps are now ad-enabled. Those who generally follow strict disclosure guidelines. Some developers choose to insert static (unchanging) ads for other apps in their product line, in free versions, but these ads don’t change and there is no record of which ads are clicked. Therefore, freeware can be used for free and there is no evaluation time period like with shareware. Freeware is also usually a basic or stripped down version of the shareware version. Developers make money from ads or those who want to upgrade from the free version. There are also developers who offer free software on principle, and occasionally ask for a donation. Most freeware that employs the use of embedded ads is provided in the true spirit of adware with no intention of tracking users, but just to be safe, consumers should read the fine print.

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