There are laws that prevent criminals from profiting off of their crimes. If some high-profile perp decides to write a book, the proceeds are supposed to compensate the victim. But if Microsoft buys the company formerly known as Gator, I somehow dont see the profits going to users terrorized by Gators adware. And since that wont happen, Microsoft should walk away with its reputation still mostly intact.
Heres the lead from a Wall Street Journal story that appeared Thursday:
“Microsoft Corp. has been in talks to buy online marketer Claria Corp., but concerns about public reaction to a deal could scuttle the negotiations, say people familiar with the situation.”
Sign me up to do everything possible to “scuttle the negotiations,” and once thats done, whoever at Microsoft thats responsible for this lunacy should be hauled out to the campus sports field and publicly humiliated—because thats what this is doing to Microsoft. And deservedly so.
Now, I can appreciate that Claria isnt Gator—well, not exactly. These days the company uses slightly less obnoxious online marketing tools than Gators adware, which brought lawsuits from media organizations tired of Gator covering up the paid ads on their Web sites.
Yes, the media organization would make the investment in attracting Web site visitors, but once there, those with Gator on their machines would see ads that Gator sold instead of the legitimate ads from the Web site itself.
Microsoft wants to reward these people? Ive always thought the Gator folks belonged in jail. And I routinely complained to the companies they were affiliated with. I still, for example, want nothing to do with WeatherBug.
Microsoft is looking for new ways to deliver ads via its online services. And no, I dont think Microsoft is going to buy Claria to do evil things. But I do think Microsoft buying Claria will reward evil people.
I said this about Napster and will repeat it in regards to Claria: People who invest in socially irresponsible (or reprehensible) companies should not be rewarded. The people responsible for Gator created a business designed to steal advertising revenue from other peoples Web sites.
It did this by offering people “free” software that also installed its own client, which did the ad replacements. Most users never knew what was going on or even understood that the Gator software had been installed on their systems.
Eventually, the media got wise to Gator, and the company tried to hide its past by changing its name. You can change the name, but not the history.
If Microsoft wants to build software to improve its advertising delivery, thats fine. If Claria goes bankrupt and Microsoft can buy its IP for a song at auction, Ill get over it. But for Microsoft to reward anyone associated with Gator in any manner whatsoever is unacceptable.
Unless, of course, Microsofts next plan is to invest in BackOrifice, Netsky and three Romanian students who right now are concocting the next super-virus. In that group, Claria, the former Gator, fits in perfectly.
But sometimes its necessary to save Microsoft from itself. So, let the scuttling begin!
Contributing editor David Coursey has spent two decades writing about hardware, software and communications for business customers. He can be reached at [email protected]