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2023-06-14 19:16:18

LGR Tech Tales - Bonzi Buddy - A Spyware's Tale

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The year is 1999 and the internet has just been introduced to Bonzi Buddy .

My name is How are you today before ?

The youtube videos , endless memes and unscrupulous reputation .

It was just a simple freeware program .

One that promised to help users search the web , keep an itinerary and even tell jokes and sing songs to keep you company .

But by 2004 , the jig was up and people wanted nothing to do with Bonzi buddy with its deserved reputation as being a manipulative piece of adware that spied on its users .

And yet even after the public backlash in legal trouble that sank the company , the people behind Bonzi buddy still have an online ad business running to this day .

What happened ?

This is L G R Tech Tales where we take a look at noteworthy stories of technological inspiration , failure and everything in between .

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This episode tells the tale of the internet's favorite hated downloadable assistant Bonzi buddy .

Our story begins in 1997 with the release of Microsoft Agent .

This was a software package distributed through Windows 98 the Microsoft website that allowed for the use of interactive animated characters .

The idea was to make computer interactions easier and more natural by using a conversational system instead of the traditional Windows menus and desktop metaphor interfaces .

While it began as an offshoot of the actors in Microsoft Bob , the high profile failure of a Windows shell released two years prior agent was a separate product entirely .

Each of the four agent characters could communicate with users through interactive speech bubbles , voice recognition and text to speech functionality .

The whole idea was to do what Microsoft Bob failed at and bring virtual assistance to computing .

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And these were included in everything from Microsoft office 97 in the form of clip it , the paper clip A K A clip to Windows xp's search function in the form of rover the dog .

But while Microsoft intended for these freely released agents to be used by everyone to improve the computing experience , others saw the potential for more profit enter the Bonzi family and specifically Joe and Jay Bonzi who started their own company in 1993 Bonzi software .

Since 1995 they'd been selling a $30 piece of software called voice email .

Ambitiously declaring itself the next wave in online communications .

Voice email was a browser software plug in that lets you record and compress short sound recordings and send them through your email provider of choice .

It was successful enough to support the product with multiple updates for years .

But eventually standalone email clients like Eudora started including similar functionality as well .

Taking away some of voice email's thunder .

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It was around this time that Microsoft's agents started gaining traction with the release of Windows 98 in office 97 as well as a sizable number of websites and independent programs built using the technology .

One of these programs was Bonzi Buddy first released by Bonzi software in the latter half of 1999 .

And really , it wasn't anything particularly special for one thing .

There were tons of these agent based desktop assistant applications flooding the internet around the same time , several of which went a step further by using their own custom characters .

By contrast , Bunz Buddy didn't even include its own artwork .

It simply took the files from the existing P D the parrot package from Microsoft and called it a day .

Hello there .

I don't believe we've been properly introduced .

I'm but Bonzi Buddy soon set itself apart in May of the year 2000 .

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The next iteration of Bonzi Buddy was released and featured the titular Bonzi , a pre rendered 3d purple gorilla sporting a globe sunglasses and a goofy grin while it did similar things to other agent applications like keeping you informed of your schedule .

The latest news and popular websites , Bonzi Buddy was free , although Bonzi software stated on its site that it was for a limited time only and would normally cost $40 that however was misleading at best for the entirety of its existence .

Bonzi buddy remained free with the threat of a $40 version looming overhead lest you question its value .

But the bigger thing that made Bonzi buddy so appealing for a time was the fact that it had a personality of sorts along with a text to speech engine from the Microsoft speech API 4.0 package told me she , I talked to her across the , I've never seen my , she's mine .

All right , she'll take my tip and leave .

Just go alone .

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This was somewhat useful as a way to have the text of websites and emails read back to you .

But it was also a source of easy and free amusement for those with less mature inclinations .

However , as enjoyable as Bonzi buddy could be , especially to young Children , there was a dark cloud behind the silver back lining .

The first sign of shadiness came whenever you set up Bonzi buddy for the first time and it required you to enter lots of personal information to register the product .

It may have seemed innocent enough .

After all , Bonzi buddy would use some of this information to react to you personally .

But accusations of this being spyware arose when it was found that this information was being transmitted over the internet in potentially problematic ways .

The next sign of something foul were the questionable pop ups that occurred when Bonzi buddy was running these pop ups looked just like windows system error messages and when clicked , they would refer you to a program called Internet Alert .

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A program that un coincidentally was also made by Bonzi software and cost $49 a year to use and make the fake pop ups go away .

Bonzi software disputed these claims as being overblown .

Stating all we are trying to do is grab your attention .

The same way the employee outside Wal Mart does by telling you what's on sale as you walk in .

But the a continued including an article in consumer reports on October 21st 2002 , which labeled Bonzi Buddy as spyware and specifically a backdoor Santa .

Due to how it serves .

Ads frequently prompts users for personal information , tracks all usage , deposits , icons in the startup folder system tray and on the desktop repeatedly resets the browser home page to Bonzi dot com without asking permission and leaves components behind after users use its uninstalled program .

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There were also accusations of Bonzi buddy being a Trojan horse in some situations due to its backdoor downloading of additional unwanted software such as the infamous click till you win spyware that infected the Windows system folder and registry then came the legal trouble in late 2002 .

A class action lawsuit was brought against Bonzi software for its quote diabolical scheme of displaying 300 million deceptive pop ups in Bonzi buddy .

This was settled the following year and while Bonzi software paid $170,000 in legal fees , they didn't agree to remove the pop ups completely .

Instead they would make them slightly less deceptive by doing things like placing the word advertisement on top of them and making the ok button , say more info .

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But the real trouble was just over the horizon when in early 2004 , the United States Federal Trade Commission found Bonzi software guilty of violating copa the children's online Privacy Protection Act to the way Bonzi buddy required users to enter their personal information and how many of those users were under the age of 13 , they were deemed to have knowingly collected personal information from Children without first obtaining parental consent .

This resulted in a fine of $75,000 for Bonzi software and was another huge stain on the product of Bonzi Buddy .

Combined with the growing accusations of it being malware and appearing as a threat to virus scanner and spyware removal programs .

The writing was on the wall for Bonzi Buddy by August of 2005 , the Bonzi Buddy website and servers were shut down and Joe and J Bonzi had quietly moved on to other ventures , although they didn't go very far .

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In fact , they continued doing business at the same location as Bonzi software had 3000 Broad Street Suite 115 in San Luis Obispo , California and the new business they started there .

Two K direct Incorporated continues to operate to this day .

Their main service is , is I promote which is surprise surprise an advertising platform that specializes in targeted online ads .

Their ad expert engine acts as a middle man to sell and show ads on services like Facebook , linkedin , Amazon , Webmd and youtube .

And amusingly , one of their biggest current clients is Microsoft , whose agent software helped kick off this whole Bonzi Buddy trip in the first place and now relies on the same guys to push ads through Skype , which brings full circle with Bonzi Buddy .

A program that started off as an asset flip turned into a viral hit , earned such a bad reputation that it was canceled .

And then oddly enough became a viral hit .

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Once again , about a decade later , Bonzi Buddy may not have expanded as big as other memes but has certainly had a surreal time in various subculture spotlights over the past several years , there are even fan sites that recreate the original Bonzi software page and provide downloads to the software once again .

And because the ad servers shut down when Bonzi software did Bonzi Buddy itself doesn't really connect to anything at this point and is now considered as benign spyware at worst .

But if you want to experience it again or for the first time by downloading it , do yourself a favor and use a virtual machine .

Some pieces of software truly are better off left in the past or at least a protected virtualized version of it .

And yeah , I do find it strange to consider that theoretically , my channel may have profited in an indirect way as a result of I promotes ad system .

Oh , well , I'm not going to start saying sponsored by Bonzi buddy's corpse or anything .

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So I hope you enjoyed this video and thank you very much for watching .


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