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Microsoft and Claria: together at last?

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Comment I don't get mad too easily, but there's one thing guaranteed to really get me steaming, and that's when someone is lying to me. Right now I'm feeling lied to, and while I could be wrong, I don't think I am. Worse, I don't think I'm the only one who's the victim here. I think virtually all of you are having your chains yanked as well. Let me explain by going back in time about a month or so.

About a month ago, I was teaching a class at Washington University in St. Louis when one of my students asked me during a break about spyware on her computer. Namely, she was having a heck of a time dealing with yet another infestation, and she wanted advice. What anti-spyware should she install on her Windows machine? This is exactly what I told her, almost verbatim

"Go to Google and search for 'microsoft anti-spyware beta' and then go to the first link that comes up. From there you'll be able to download Microsoft's anti-spyware software. Well, it's not really Microsoft's - they bought the company that made it - but it's really good. They bought one of the best, though, so this is definitely one to have.

The nice thing about Microsoft's anti-spyware tool is that it's all automated. It automatically downloads updates, it automatically checks your PC as you use it, and it automatically scans your computer every night. That's good. You just install it, and then every morning it'll tell you if it found anything during the daily scan.

However, you can't rely on just the Microsoft anti-spyware software, since it doesn't catch everything. No spyware software does. Microsoft's does a good job, but you need another one to use in conjunction. I'd look at either Lavasoft's Ad-Aware or Spybot Search & Destroy. Pick one. They're both good, and they're both free, but they're not really automated. You'll need to remember to run the one you select once a week or so, and update it manually before you run it. If you use Microsoft's anti-spyware software along with another one, you'll be protected."

I was talking up Microsoft's software, and I meant it. It's called Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware, and it really is high quality stuff. It's certainly the best software of its type I've ever used. Granted, it somewhat hacks me off that Microsoft has in essence created a huge problem through its own shoddy software programming and practices, and is now buying its way out of the mess, in the process potentially putting a lot of other companies out of business. That's all I'm going to say on the matter, since Kelly Martin has already covered this issue quite well.

But in the last few weeks, I've read some very disturbing news. According to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is thinking about buying Claria Corporation for $500 million.

Who's Claria? Only one of the biggest, most invasive, slimiest spyware and adware companies operating on the Net today. Remember Gator? I guarantee you've had to clean Gator - or its variants GAIN, eWallet, DateManager, WeatherScope, or PrecisionTime - off of someone's Windows box if you've had to waste your time removing spyware. Gator Corp. changed its name to Claria Corp. in October 2003 in an effort to hide its origins, in the same way that Philip Morris, makers of cancer-causing nicotine-delivery devices, changed its name to Altria in January 2003 (boy, 2003 was a good year for companies with bad reputations changing their names, eh?).

And now Microsoft is thinking of buying these guys? What has Claria done to create value, real value, that warrants an estimated $500 million buyout?

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