Claria Puts Its Adware Products Up for Sale

Claria plans on being out of the adware business officially by the end of this year’s second quarter, and it’s trying to sell its ad-supported software assets as part of the move. The decision affirms the company’s ongoing shift away from its adware offerings towards the behaviorally-targeted content and advertising business.

Claria has hired investment bank Deutsche Bank Securities to shop around the assets and is currently in active discussions with potential buyers. Up for sale are the software tools whose free download was supported by the GAIN ad network, including the ScreenScenes screensaver software and the DashBar search toolbar.

Claria will not be selling the technology or engine that drives the GAIN system, nor the user data affiliated with the GAIN product. The company will also hold onto its digital wallet product, Gator eWallet.

In April, the company plans to unveil names of media partners that will provide content for distribution through its upcoming PersonalWeb system, which will serve up personalized content and advertising to opt-in users. Claria plans on building up its PersonalWeb user base from scratch, and will not be using data from its GAIN system for the new platform.

As of July 1, the GAIN network will cease to exist and no ads will be served through the system. User data once gathered through that system to target ads in Claria’s GAIN and behaviorally-targeted BehaviorLink networks will no longer be used. At that time, people currently using any GAIN-related software products will be offered the chance to uninstall them, or continue using them through the new purchaser, if there is one.

PersonalWeb, to be launched in beta form in April, is a personalized homepage product that will deliver content and advertising that is customized based on Web interactions of users who opt-in to use the system. Claria’s publishing partners will provide targeted content for PersonalWeb homepages, as well as on their own sites. Customized content experiences on partner sites will be made available only when requested by users. Claria will be promoting PersonalWeb through its publisher partners as well as Web advertising.

In the past, the firm raised the ire of several large publishers including The New York Times and Dow Jones, which sued Claria for serving pop-up ads that blocked those publishers’ pages. Considering Claria’s historically rocky relationship with online publishers, any announcement regarding partnerships with big-name publishers is bound to spur interest.

Claria’s decision to unload its adware assets marks another phase in its ongoing transformation from its days as controversial pop-up ad network, Gator, to a firm that hopes to gain more respect among advertisers as well as publishers. In addition to taking on the Claria moniker in 2003, the company has also terminated relationships with third party distributors of its adware, including music, movie and software download site, Kazaa.

Adware has been connected to its malign cousin, spyware, and companies in the adware space increasingly have come under fire by consumer watchdogs for allegedly violating privacy and generally inconveniencing users. In November, nonprofit privacy guardian, Truste launched its Trusted Download Program which will evaluate downloadable adware and trackware applications for certification. More recently, in January, The Center for Democracy and Technology filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that 180Solutions engaged in unfair and deceptive trade activities by fooling users into downloading adware.

In a press release, Claria stated that any sale of its ad supported software would be contingent upon the purchaser agreeing to “adhere to emerging industry standards outlined by TRUSTe and other industry coalitions.”

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