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 eWEEK.com 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.
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.