BonziBUDDY, sometimes spelled Bonzi Buddy, BonziBuddy, or BONZIBuddy, (misspelled Bonzai Buddy) was an on-screen "intelligent software agent" from BONZI Software, released in 1999 and discontinued in 2005. The official website stated it would help a person explore the Internet through various functions along with their own sidekick. It first surfaced as a green talking parrot, before taking the form of an animated purple gorilla that resided on a user's desktop and communicated through the employment of Microsoft Agent technology. Although BonziBUDDY seems innocent and doesn't have much noticable effect overall, it's still harmful. It asks for sensitive personal info, plants advertising and tampers with settings.
The software used Microsoft Agent technology similar to Office Assistant, and originally sported Peedy, a green parrot character, before it became the purple ape. The software "interacts with users while they are online, providing shopping advice, jokes, and trivia."
At one point, the official website for the application said this about it:
- He will explore the Internet with you as your very own friend and sidekick! He can talk, walk, joke, browse, search, e-mail, and download like no other friend you've ever had! He even has the ability to compare prices on the products you love and help you save money! Best of all, he's FREE!
The initial program was free. But most functions in the free version were only samples or demos that would urge people to pay for modules to extend the functionality. For example Bonzi told jokes and sang songs, but to go beyond a few jokes and songs (about half a dozen) users were urged to purchase joke or song modules. In addition, there was a constant message saying that BonziBuddy usually retails for $40, but it is free for a limited time. However, it was always a piece of freeware throughout it's lifespan.
In April 2007, PCWorld readers voted Bonzi Buddy 6th on a list of "the top 10 most annoying tech products". One reader is quoted as criticizing the program because it "kept popping up and obscuring things you needed to see."
One of the last newspapers to write about BonziBUDDY while it was still in distribution described it as spyware and a "scourge of the Internet". Another article found in 2006 on the BusinessWeek website described BonziBUDDY as "the unbelievably annoying spyware trojan horse".
Adware or spywareEdit
A number of sources identify BonziBUDDY as spyware, a claim the company disputes. In 2002 an article in Consumer Reports Web Watch labelled BonziBUDDY as spyware, stating that it is a Backdoor Santa in that it collects information from users. Among the activities the program is said to engage in include constantly resetting the user's web browser homepage to bonzi.com without the user's permission, prompting and tracking various information about the user, and serving advertisements.
The Spyware Removal Database at Safer Networking (makers of Spybot - Search & Destroy) states "BonziBuddy is an Internet Explorer toolbar that may change your web browser settings, change your home page, and launch pop-up advertisements while tracking your web browsing habits."
Spyware Guide's entry on the program states that it is adware.
Anti-virus company Symantec states that BonziBUDDY may collect usage statistics when certain keywords are typed in the browser. Although Symantec refers to Bonzi as Adware, such behaviour is typical for spyware.
There were two legal cases about the software.
- Internetnews.com reported the settlement of a class action suit on May 27, 2003. Originally brought against Bonzi Software on December 4, 2002, the suit accused Bonzi of using its banner advertisements to deceptively imitate Windows computer alerts, alerting the user that their IP Address is being broadcast. In the settlement, Bonzi agreed to modify their ads so that they looked less like a Windows dialogue box and to make them appear more like advertisements.
- On February 18, 2004, the Federal Trade Commission released a statement indicating that Bonzi Software, Inc. was ordered to pay $75,000 in fees, among other aspects, for violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 with BonziBUDDY.
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