February 14, 2005 9:00 PM PST

Firm formerly known as Gator looks for credibility

Claria, aka Gator, an adware maker that online publishers once called a "parasite," is now seeking their favor to build a massive Web advertising network to display ads based on Web surfers' behaviors.

The privately held company, which postponed its public offering last year, is launching a new marketing division and advertising service to migrate from hawking its signature pop-up advertisements to selling behaviorally targeted display ads. If it has its way, the ads will appear on publisher pages across the Web, reaching as many as 200 million people.

To address the privacy implications of such an ambitious service, Claria has also hired a team of experts to ensure it meets industry and consumer clearances. Claria plans to announce partners and introduce the service, called Behaviorlink, in April.

"Behavioral advertising is the next big thing after search," company CEO Jeff McFadden said in a recent interview, referring to the booming, multibillion-dollar ad business connected to Web search properties like Google.

The desired shift would fulfill a vision McFadden has had for Web advertising since he started Claria six years ago, but which was derailed in the dot-com bust. He foresaw an ad network that could monitor Web surfing behavior and then deliver ads based on people's interests--much the way early DoubleClick and Engage ad networks proposed to but failed to deliver on because of privacy concerns and technology limitations. Claria, which turned itself into a pop-up adware purveyor, was similarly foiled, but with a host of lawsuits.

More than three years ago, Claria (then known as Gator) sparked a furor among online publishers with its practice of covering up their ad banners with its own. The Washington Post, The New York Times and Dow Jones, among others, sued Gator for covering their Web pages with its own ads, claiming the company violated copyrights and stole revenue in doing so. The suit settled out of court, but Claria has fought to clean up its image since, even by changing its name.

Claria now essentially wants to do the same ad swapping, but with publishers' permission. The selling point: Behaviorlink would allow Web site owners to share in the profits of Claria's targeted ads.

Claria develops advertising software that's bundled with and supports free software such as peer-to-peer application Kazaa. (Roughly 40 million people have installed the software.) Because Claria tracks people from an omniscient point on the desktop without recording personally identifiable data, it can make note of Web preferences and shopping habits, and send timely pop-ups ads. For example, it will send a pop-up coupon from 1-800-Flowers.com while a consumer is preparing to buy a bouquet from FTD.com.

The company wants to expand on this model by first growing its audience. Its new division, Vista Marketing Services, will be charged with forming relationships with application makers (i.e., toolbars, media

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My dilemma...
So I'm the CEO of a privately held company which happens to be the *devil*. What should I do next? I know, throw more marketing into it. Yes, 200 million souls I shall bring to my dark place filled with behavioral ads. I'll start them with questions about sexual performance, but promise to keep everything hush hush. Except of course I'll tell the advertisers who to target. I just hope this FireFox thing with AdBlocker doesn't get popular because I'll be back to brewing newt-eye soup all day again.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
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Gator & company
Having been born and raised in Florida all my life, I know for a fact that no matter how you try and tame a gator... they'll still snap at anything that comes there way.

Credibility my gator... (* LOL *)

What credibility?
Posted by wbenton (522 comments )
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Still parasitic
Their consumer monitoring is still based on running software on their victims computers, consuming the victims bandwidth and disk storage. That's parasitic behaviour and as long as nearly every web site out there is already selling all the advertising their own site can support any additional advertisements shown by this software are just a nuisance to the user and even parasitical to the web site being visited.

Nothing they've done changes these basic facts.
Posted by Not Bugged (195 comments )
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just a nuisance
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/subaru_legacy_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/subaru_legacy_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Ubber geek (325 comments )
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Once trash...
Once trash always trash. I would trust them as far as I could throw them. They can keep their cr*p away from me and my computer.

Frankly, I think it is funny that after being one of the top evil ad pushers that they think they can get people to believe that they are now saints.

That is like Microsoft trying to convince the world that the next version of Windows is going to be 100% secure and 100% bug free.

What a joke.

Posted by (336 comments )
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Who cares?
I don't use thid party tool bars or freeware that isn't certified adware free and I regularly scan my system for adware. Clarion will never be on my system and I'll never see their tailored ads; so let the corporations waste all the money they like on this nonsense! I'll just wait for the fun of seeing clarion being sued again : )
Posted by Michael Grogan (308 comments )
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