Thundercloud and Eightball RANT - Cloudeight Internet LLC

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The Zango Tango

Most of us would say that in the real world the old adage: "What goes around, comes around" is, for the most part true. But, on the Internet, that old and trusted adage is as outdated as a Commodore 64 (never mind!). How about "as outdated as a monochrome monitor" (remember those)?

Recently, Hotbar merged with PUSware/adware giant, 180solutions and became "Zango". (This just goes to prove another old adage: "Birds of a feather, flock together".) So before we really get rolling here, let's get it straight that this concatenation is: Hotbar+180solutions=Zango. "Zango" sounds innocent enough. Kind of hip - no doubt geared to the younger crowd.

And speaking of birds of a feather, it looks like these two birds were really happy to be flocking together. According to this June 7, 2006 press release both companies were ecstatic:

"...Hotbar and 180solutions today announced an agreement to merge, effective immediately. The merged company will be known as Zango...."

"...This merger will benefit each of the constituents in the Zango Content Economy vision," said Keith Smith, CEO of the newly formed Zango. "The vision is to deliver consumers free, online entertainment experiences while automating and monetizing the ecosystem of content creators, publisher and webmaster entrepreneurs and advertisers. This merger is a significant milestone in those efforts...."

"....We have built an extensive user base and effective advertising opportunities through a wide variety of Internet services," said Oren Dobronsky, co-founder and CEO of Hotbar. "The scale of this merger makes possible an array of opportunities to fulfill consumer and advertising demand for the products of the new Zango....." (You can read more of this jubilation here.)


But some of the content on the Zango site is certainly not fit for children. When you think of all the youngsters that have  installed Hotbar and now, therefore, have easy access to and its YAK browser (we'll get to that later) it should give you shudders. has some really nasty stuff on it and if want to see just a little bit of it for yourself, take a quick trip to this page on Zango - and see for yourself (don't click "Watch" though; if you do you'll be installing Zango PUSware). You can tell pretty much by the titles what they're promoting. And, please notice there's no obvious age warning. All they're trying to do is anything they can to get their PUSware installed on your computer. Money, money, money.

If you're shocked easily - do not go. You are warned. But, if you take some outright porn and want to see what your children or grandchildren could easily be exposed to by using Hotbar, then go look: there's no doubt in my mind you'll be outraged. There's no age requirement. They don't ask if you're eighteen or older. It appears they don't care. In my opinion it is as if they've left the doors intentionally open luring young people with sordid material - maybe even using this trash to entice kids to visit there. This is a good example of doing anything just to make a buck.

And good old Hotbar fits right in. Birds of a feather...

Most of you who have been reading our newsletters for the past couple of years, know we've had our difficulty with Hotbar in the past and the programs that Hotbar tended to promote basically to children (physically or mentally :-) ) and to other naive Internet surfers who are easily lured with brightly colored, flashing things. And, if you go back and read what we wrote then (See our Truth Rant and Truth2 Rant) you'll see that we were particularly concerned with and pointed out quite clearly that if Hotbar were ever sold, the information collected by Hotbar would be sold too. And then whatever information was transferred would then be governed by whatever privacy policy (or lack thereof) that the new owning entity had in place. Wouldn't you know? We were right on target again. Gee, we hate to point this out, but darn it: We told you so!

So what is going on now is exactly what we had feared. Here you had a company which produces several very questionable products (Hotbar) which we'll call, for protection from lawsuits, of course, "PUSware". (As you know P.U.S. is an acronym for "Potentially Unwanted Software". We would leave out the word "potentially" but we can't because apparently millions actually wanted Hotbar, or were/are lured into thinking they did. Hey free is free, right?) going into cahoots with one of the pinnacles of PUSware: 180solutions. To give you the mathematical formula: HB+180=Zango. 

Zango (the concatenation of Hotbar+180solutions) has only been an "entity" for about two months. You probably all know about Hotbar by now, but let's explore the other half of 180solutions. The best way to do this is to read any of the several exposés that Ben Edelman, the spyware/adware expert, has written about them. You'll probably agree after reading some of his articles, that indeed, 180solutions is certainly at or near the top of the PUSware food chain. And, Zango might even climb higher!

Zango, still in its infancy, has already stirred up a lot of people. We hope you'll all the kind of people who like to dig and get the "rest of the story". If you want to learn what people are already saying about Zango, which is now only about two months old here are some excellent resources for you:

180solutions and the kidporn (YAP) browser
.. Type a URL into the address bar at the top—any URL, or anything at all, or nothing—and the browser sends you straight to an advert page. An advert page for hardcore child porn sites. You 'eard. Software downloaded from 180's servers promoting kidporn. Keepin' the internet free, there. ..." (Read the rest of this incredible article about Zango/180solutions here.)

Kids Thank Warner Brothers for the Ads and Porn
"...A page that is “Just for Kids”, shows pictures of the Flintstones, scooby-doo and other cartoons sure seems like it would be targeted towards kids. Outside of chat rooms, just for kids normally means just for kids… On Warner Brother’s Website, it has all of this and a little something more, something very much not just for kids..... ( You have to read the rest of this, it's truly unbelievable - but it's true. )

Yapbrowser: serves up Zango and...child porn?
"...Type a URL into the address bar at the top- any URL, or anything at all, or nothing - and the browser sends you straight to an advert page. An advert page for hardcore child porn sites. Whoops. Yapbrowser comes in two different flavours - Adult (complete with the Latin text left over from whatever template they used), and Regular. Regardless of which one you download, they both seem to (not) work equally badly. In fact, the "adult" version doesn't actually work at all, because the download link is bogus. And don't add in what you would imagine the download url to be - you'll be redirected to the UA porn site in the screenshot. Minus the blanked out images...." You will be shocked - but please do read this. It's amazing and will give you a good taste of what kind of company Zango is .)

So, this partnership called "Zango" is a collaboration between two companies who have climbed to the top on a tenuous legal stairway strewn with battered, broken computers and frustrated, irate, computer owners. They've left behind computers crumpled, crippled and clogged with adware and who knows what else? And, instead of getting what "comes around" they got something else altogether. They got richer and richer. And richer. And, I don't know about you, but to me something seems wrong with that picture. Ah, yes. The Internet. There's no place like it!

According to a very good PC tech that I know, over 90% of his service calls come from poor souls whose computers have become infested with PUSware, to use the nicer term. And, as astounding as it sounds, guess how all that PUSware got installed in the first place. Internet Explorer "flaws"? Nope. "Drive by downloads"? Nope. Some little gremlin skulking around inside their computer did it? Nope. A great majority of the time these computers were inflicted with PUSware voluntarily, by their owners or by their owner's family. Lured and enchanted by the promise of that elusive free lunch, these people installed PUSware on their own computers. Just not good thinking.

Well, PUSware is like a  slow-growing bacteria. A speck can grow and grow into huge gelatinous mass. And slither out of its containment and into the environs. But, the people who install this type of software don't ever put two and two together because it usually takes several days - maybe longer - for the PUSware to start slowing it down. It might take weeks or even months to  bring down the current high-powered computers - or just a week or two to bring down an older computer. In any case these PUSware programs will most likely make your computer as slow as an overweight, three-legged, aged buffalo mired in a ten-foot-deep goo pond (can you hear the bellows?). And after some time has passed, and your computer has been converted into goopy buffalo mass, you're transformed into a raging, blithering, angry computer owner.  When the time comes that your computer gasps "uncle" you've long forgotten about the PUSware you installed and unleashed upon your own computer.

But - the PUSware will not forget you. Oh no! Like a indefinable but ornery jellyfish, it slinks its venomous tentacles deep into your computer's innards. Through a charade euphemistically and misleadingly called "updating", these little PUSwares are busy as beavers in forest of saplings. Every time Mr. PUSware developer throws together another program you can bet it will be automatically installed on your poor computer (without your knowledge) as an "update". Permission? Permission? They don't care about no stinkin' permission! You already gave these PUSware makers your permission to install whatever they want on your computer whenever they want. And, guess what? You're not allowed to boo-hoo about it either. So take your lumps and grimace. You wanted that free lunch. Now eat it!

We're kidding right? Nope. We're not. Consider this little gem from Hotbar: "...Furthermore, by installing the Software on Your computer, You understand that: (i) certain system non-personally identifiable information, including Statistical Data, stored on Your computer will be made available and transmittable to Hotbar servers; (ii) other information available now or in the future on the Service including links, services, messages advertisements, cookies and the like may be installed on Your computer and; (iii) Hotbar may automatically transmit to and install on Your computer, Software improvements, corrections, adaptations, conversions to more recent Software versions or any other changes to update the Software...."

"What do all that mean, boss?" It means in plain English: "We can do whatever we want to your computer; we can scrape whatever we want from your hard drive, bring it home for dinner, eat it up, store it and/or use it for whatever tickles our fancy (and lines our pockets). And you cant stop us. LOL!" We can install whatever we want whenever we want on your computer and you can't make us stop and you can't say a word about it - because you agree to all this crazy stuff and acknowledge that you've read this by installing this software you ninny, now live with it!"

But, wait there's more. Hotbar says this: "...You shall receive, and desire to so receive, various products/services, marketing ads, and campaigns of third parties through the appearance of links, menus, pop-ups, and other methods on and/or in connection with the Service and the Software (all of the foregoing "Third Party Promotions")...."

That's pretty clear. It means: "by installing this software you're actually telling us that you want to receive more advertising, more popups, more advertising links, more advertising buttons, more advertising of any sundry kind and buddy we're prepared to give you what your little heart desires - advertising, advertising, advertising - from buttons, to banners, to popups and pop-unders, to crawlers to floaters and every imaginable type of advertising in between. And whenever anyone dreams up more ways to bombard you with ads, we'll use that too. Your desires both subtle and ravenous will be satisfied. We won't let you down! We'll give you ads, my pretty, and your little dog too! And we're going to keep it up and keep it up and use all your computer resources to show you as much advertising as you desire - and you do desire more and more - because you said so. And, we're going to use your computer to plaster you with ads until your poor computer gives up the ghost. We don't care about your stinkin' computer. We just want to give you what you desire. Ads, ads, ads and more ads. Got it? Good!"

Like porn? You're going love the marriage between 180solutions and Hotbar! You're gonna kiss Zango! And all the little kiddies that downloaded Hotbar and just had their information transferred to Zango an may now have access to porn. Hey! When I was 13 I only had National Geographic! I feel deprived!

Why do the little kiddies now have to deal with porn popping up in Hotbar, because, now according to 180solutions, umm I mean "Zango", because of "adult content" you have to be 18 years of age or older to install their PUSware. But, hey guess what? The box that says "I certify that I am 18 years of age or older" is pre-checked for you. Isn't that nice of them? Well, how many kids under 18 do you know that are going to uncheck that box? Ummm, let me see. Close your eyes. What do you see? Nothing? Right! That's how many kids under 13 that download 180solutions/Hotbar, hmm I mean "Zango" are going to uncheck that box.

But, has Hotbar (yeah, its Web site is still purring along) stopped pandering to children? Duh! Look at the picture below. What do you think?

Hey mom, I got Hotbar. It's cool. I love ads!

In case your eyes are bleary, bloodshot and old like mine, click on the picture to see and easy-eye version of this picture. Hotbar asserts you must certify you're over 13 to download their software. How nice!

And, as you can see, the letter starts off "Hi Mom, Check it out, this is the coolest thing to ever happen to email. You can add backgrounds, smiling faces, animations, and eCards to your email- for FREE!!!"

Let us finish this letter... "and guess what else mom, you can get all the advertising buttons, banners, popups, pop-unders, floaters, and all the new types of advertising that mankind can devise. You'll be on the cutting edge, mom!

What's even cooler is that this program will track you as you surf the Web so in case you get lost you can always find your way home. And, they'll always have a line open to you, mom. They'll collect all your information from your computer and use the information to round up more and more advertisers to show you more and more "contextually relevant" ads. DUH! Mom! That means you see more of the stuff you like.

And guess what else, mom. They'll even give you MORE software free. Whatever stuff they come up with, from now till the end of time - you'll get it free! It will get installed on your computer for you! And you won't have to click nuttin' mom.  I know how much you hate all that technical stuff anyway. Installing software is such a pain. Now you got a program that will install it for you! Even when you're not around. No problem. You come back from bridge club with Maxine, Fiona, and Serena, and you got a new free program waiting for you!!! I know you love surprises mom. And the best part is, that whatever program they put on your computer will show you even more ads. I know how much you love shopping mom - now you'll have all the advertising buttons, floaters, banners, popups, pop-unders, links, blinkers, lights, bells, whistles, whatever - to click that you'll ever need. And you won't even have to open your browser to see them all. All these ads will just start popping up all over your computer! How neat, mom.

And now Hotbar is Zango - there's LOTS of really neat stuff there mom. They got some great vids. Oh that means "videos" mom. These are educational ones, they teach you how to do all kinds of neat, cool stuff.

Oops, sorry mom, I have to go now. The computer repair guy's here. I don't know what happened but my computer is running really slow. It takes like four days to boot up. I will email you when if I can. I hope you like the cool new program. Love, Bennie"

Anyway, Hotbar makes it sound like some kid writing his mom. Right. Does he sound like he's 19 or 20? (No not our part...Hotbar's part!)

What happens when all the data collected by Hotbar is transferred to Zango's control (if it has not been already) and all the porn ..excuse me "adult" content starts appearing on all the computers with Hotbar installed? The kids who downloaded Hotbar, when it was bad enough, are going to be exposed to some real nasty stuff. Because now it's part of Zango and it's going to be much worse. Maybe I'm a prude - but if I had children under 18, I wouldn't want them looking at this stuff. Would you?

And do you think little Johnny is going to tell mom? Heck no. He's going to break his neck to tell all his friends about this program. And what he's seen. And that's probably just want Zango is drooling over. Word-of-mouth advertising - from kid to kid. Can't buy better advertising than that.

Now before those pristine folks out there start writing me hate mail; I'm just telling you how things really are. Kids (speaking for boys only now, I've never been a girl, honest! I swear!) aren't going to tell their moms and dads about porn popping up on their computer. They're going to giggle; they're going to tell their friends; they're going to think it's really cool, they're going to spread the word among their peers; they're likely to do many things. But most of them are not going to report this to mom and dad or grandma or grandpa.

We told you in our rants about a year ago that one of the many things we didn't like about Hotbar's Privacy Policy was it didn't protect its users' information from being transferred if Hotbar was sold. Now Hotbar has merged with 180solutions and is part of Zango? What happens to all that information now?  All the information collected and stored by Hotbar is now part of Zango and is subject to Zango's privacy policies and Terms of Use.

Here's part of the Hotbar privacy policy from the Hotbar site which is still in full vigor:

"Children 13 and Under.
If you are thirteen years old or younger, we will not collect, store or use your personally identifiable information. In addition, parents or guardians of children at any age should be aware that the Service is designed to appeal to a broad audience. Accordingly, it is your responsibility to determine whether any portion of the Service is inappropriate for your child. "

(Hmmm what are they saying here? If you're over thirteen - look out? And hey, mom, are you going to determine if Wanda is right for your child?)

Or, this one from Zango's (180solutions) Privacy Policy:

"No Information from Minors. You must be at least 18 years of age to use the Zango Software."

Or, this one from Zango's Terms of Use:

"Please be aware that certain areas on or in the Services contain adult or mature content. You must be at least 18 years of age to access and view such areas."

(For more legal entertainment, read the entire 5000 (approx) word Zango "Terms of Use" available for your perusal here.) WARNING: DO NOT DRIVE OR OPERATE MACHINERY WHILE READING THIS DOCUMENT. THIS DOCUMENT MAY CAUSE DROWSINESS IN ADULTS AND CHILDREN.

By the way, if you're in for some really dry reading but for some twisted reason have some weird desire to view convoluted, legal-speak, take a gander at "Zango's Privacy Policy".  It's sixteen hundred words of eye-opening gobbledygook. Brings out the lawyer in you. It brings out the exasperation in me .I'm scratching my head. Now if my child were, lets say 14, he'd be too young to use "Zango" but old enough for Hotbar to be leaching info from him/her. But Hotbar is Zango and Zango is Hotbar. I'm in a quandary. I'm confused. Are you? It's what we call the Zango Tango. It's the dance you don't want to do.

But see, when we examined Hotbar's policies more than a year ago, we told you something like this was bound to happen. It was only a matter of time. What happened was something called "Zango", but it's really just more of the same old thing - only much, much worse. It's PUSware on steroids. And, see we tried to warn everyone a year ago. Now all those kids with Hotbar are subject to Zango's so-called "Adult Content". And, adult content is the politically correct term for things you wouldn't want your children or grandchildren to see. See, we  told you so! Again!

We hope you don't have kids doing the Zango Tango. Keep your eyes and ears open and look out for them.

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