Zango, formerly known as 180solutions, recently agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it used unfair and deceptive methods to distribute adware. Founder and CEO Keith Smith stopped by InformationWeek to talk about his reformed company and to address charges that bad advertising practices continue at Zango despite the agreement with the FTC.
InformationWeek: Tell me about what's been going on with the FTC.
Smith: It's a great thing for us. It's a great thing for the industry. For the first time, we have the federal government coming out and saying specifically yes, we do think that in order to install software on a user's computer you should use plain language, notice, and consent, and there are the rules around that. So this is something that we've been doing since the beginning of the year, and it's been a long process to get to the point where we could do that consistently in every single case. So we think it's a good thing.
InformationWeek: How is the company doing overall?
Smith: The business itself is just great. I think that's the big story. Since January of this year, when we got rid of all our third-party distribution and we released our technology that enables us to ensure that we have control over user notice and consent—what we call our Closed Loop System and our S3 technology—our business has more than doubled. While there continues to be some perception that consumers don't like this software installed on their computers, we call it the perception of a public perception problem, because the actual public likes the quid pro quo. They go through our plain language notice and consent. They understand that they're going to get all kinds of good content in exchange for viewing some targeted ads and personally relevant ads, and they like that. And for those users who decide not to keep the software on their computers, it's very easy to uninstall. But consumers are keeping it on their computers longer, and they're installing it more often.
InformationWeek: What percentage of consumers ends up keeping your software?
Smith: We track all of that. While we don't disclose those numbers because we're a privately held company, let's say that the trend is getting significantly better in terms of consumers keeping the software longer and longer. There are 20 million consumers that have our software actively installed.
InformationWeek: What forms of advertising are you working with now? The pop-up ad has been much reviled. Is that something you or your advertisers still believe in?
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