Friday, October 26, 2007

A Company You Never Heard of but Probably Hated Shuts Down

Friday, October 26, 2007 by Wendy Davis

Infamous adware purveyor Direct Revenue appears to have shuttered for good. Visitors to the Web page of its most recent brand,, are now being greeted with the message that Direct Revenue has ceased operations. The page also offers instructions for removing the company's software, which serves pop-up ads to people as they surf the Web.

The news comes several months after the company and its principals settled with the Federal Trade Commission for $1.5 million -- an amount deemed too small by FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz, who filed a written dissent from the agency's decision to accept the agreement.
Direct Revenue was long criticized by consumer advocates, who charged that the company got its software on people's hard drives via drive-by installations and other improper techniques.

Yet, while few companies admitted to using adware in their marketing efforts, Direct Revenue made millions upon millions of dollars while in business. Some of its big brand clients included Cingular Wireless, Travelocity and Priceline -- all named by the New York State Attorney General, who sued Direct Revenue last year. Those three also settled with the New York Attorney General, with Priceline and Cingular paying $35,000 each and Travelocity paying $30,000.

Depositions in the New York case against Direct Revenue also showed that the company's adware model, which relied on serving numerous pop-ups to consumers, troubled even some of the its business partners, including file-sharing service Kazaa. Company officer Daniel Kaufman complained in an August 2005 internal e-mail of having a "difficult call" with Kazaa. "Part of the trouble is that they have been living with our ad client for a while and feeling first-hand the user experience."

Even though Direct Revenue is seemingly out of business, some anti-spyware experts are skeptical that the adware company is gone for good. "With the history of the four principal figures behind Direct Revenue it may be too soon to completely write them off," Eric Howes, director of malware research at software security company Sunbelt, told Mediapost. "It would be wise to keep an eye out."