Yahoo Targets More than Spyware in Toolbar Release

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-08-04 Print this article Print

Criticized during the beta for the Anti-Spy tool's scanning methods, the company announces with the tool's full release that it will automatically search for adware as well as spyware.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Yahoo, which had faced criticism for the way its anti-spyware toolbar scans for software, has decided to alter the toolbar so it treats adware the same as other nefarious software. The Sunnyvale, Calif., company on Wednesday took the beta tag off the Yahoo Toolbar with Anti-Spy and changed its default scanning settings to detect both spyware and adware by default, Yahoo officials told during the Search Engines Strategies conference here. As reported after Anti-Spy went into beta in May, Yahoo Inc. received criticism from anti-spyware advocates for differentiating between spyware and adware by automatically checking for spyware programs but requiring users to select a box to also scan for adware.
Though definitions are fluid, spyware is typically software downloaded without consent that tracks users behavior and keystrokes, while adware is often bundled with other software and delivers advertising through pop-up ads and other forms.
Critics say the distinction between the two is often a false one since many adware providers use sneaky methods for enticing users to download software. Yahoo also had been criticized for having a financial relationship through its Overture division with Claria Corp., whose Gator eWallet application was classified as adware. Yahoo decided to change the default setting to scan for both types of software after receiving user feedback during the beta of Anti-Spy, said Kenneth Norton, Yahoos senior director of product management for search. Most users, he said, care little about the distinctions between downloads and instead want options for getting rid of software. "They dont care what its called or what is legal or illegal [software], but they want to know whats on their PCs," Norton said. Yahoo also wanted to balance the automated scanning with letting users decide which software to delete, Norton said. For insights on security coverage around the Web, check out Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog. In the full release, Anti-Spy also displays scanned software into various categories such as spyware and adware, and users can click a button to read more information about the categories before deciding whether to delete a program. "Theres obviously debate and activity in the [spyware] space, and we dont want to be in the business of defining the space," Norton said. Yahoo, which partnered with PestPatrol Inc. to build the Anti-Spy tool, is one of the first portals or search providers to fight spyware in a Web browser toolbar. The beta version of Anti-Spy exceeded Yahoos expectations. Though he wouldnt disclose numbers, Norton said that in the first four days of the beta, Yahoo reached its three-week download target. Among other features, the Yahoo Toolbar includes a box for conducting a Web Search through Yahoo, a pop-up window blocker and shortcuts to services such as Yahoo Mail. The Yahoo Toolbar with Anti-Spy is available as a free download. It runs on Windows and requires Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher. Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center at for the latest security news, reviews and analysis.

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Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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