Adware service won't track users, says founder

A local 'adware' company, offering free software to people prepared to view banner ads while they work or play, officially launches today.

A local "adware" company, offering free software to people prepared to view banner ads while they work or play, officially launches today.

Although there isn't yet any software to try at the Mambezi.com site, Mambezi founder Mark Stuart says the company is in "the final stages of negotiation" with developers in New Zealand and overseas to bring applications into the scheme.

He says local developers have been contacted via the Yippee shareware site, which is owned by the same company as Mambezi.

"We basically set up Yippee to help us find what's cool and what's new, and also to give us a distribution network," says Stuart. "It's being mirrored all around the world now."

Stuart also says two large advertising agencies are keen to take on the Mambezi scheme exclusively, "which is a very nice situation to be in."

Stuart says that initially the ads will be based on the Internet banner ad model, with a similar size and layout.

"We can do anything, but advertising companies understand the banner model and they've all got banner ad stock."

Stuart's company has built the "Infoware" system that manages the advertising.

"There are ads stored as gifs on people's hard drives, at about 10 to 12Kb each. We imagine there might be eight to 10 on a hard drive at any one time. Whenever one of our software applications is open, our little app will rotate the ads through the interface every minute or so and record which ones were shown.

"When someone goes online our program will detect the live Internet connection and will wait until they're not using the bandwidth to shoot up information about which ads have been shown to our server, which will send down new ads."

Stuart is keen to emphasise that his company is having no truck with tracking customers' Internet use. Breach of privacy has been the nasty little surprise lurking in some adware schemes in the US.

"We're really upfront about it. What we say is that there's a value exchange - you get free software but you're going to get ads - just like TV. When people install the program the first screen tells them that that's what it's about.

"We will monitor which ads people view - but that's all we track. We could easily have built in functions that monitored Web surfing but we deliberately made sure we didn't go that way at all. We don't want to know."

Stuart says customers using the software will have control of all information held against their names.

" Everything's optional, they can opt in or opt out and can change that information at any time. We want to push the value exchange thing, where the more you tell us about your interests and what you want to see, the more we can send you only what you want to see. It's not just ads - if someone's interested in surfing we'll send them surf reports."

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