Can Gator pass the Mom Test?

Gator Threatening Those Who Call Their Application Spyware. Many people have pretty strong negative opinions about Gator’s adware application (it watches what you surf and pops up its own ads). Gator, like most companies that have strong critics, has decided that they need something of a PR campaign to improve their image – specifically trying to overcome the impression that they’re placing spyware on people’s computers. So, what do they do? They decide to sue anyone who calls their application spyware. It seems like a debate on semantics, but Gator insists their product is not spyware at all. They claim that spyware is installed surreptiously, whereas their software requires someone to agree to install it. Others disagree with that definition, saying spyware includes any software that is constantly “phoning home” with your information, or which does things (such as pop up ads) without the user understanding why – in which case, Gator would qualify as spyware. However, so far, Gator’s “PR” campaign has been winning, and sites are changing how they refer to Gator. This is, most likely, a short term strategy – because of articles like the one linked here, that make Gator look even worse by using threatening lawsuits to quiet anyone critical of their software. Instead of pulling out the big legal stick, wouldn’t it have made more sense to make the program less problematic? [Techdirt]

What you call it isn’t the issue. Trying to build businesses that appear to depend on keeping users uninformed of what software applications are doing to their systems is.

Here’s a gedanken experiment for you. How many of the staff at Gator would be comfortable running the software on their machines (or their mother’s)? Alternatively, how many people would install and run the software if all of its activities were fully disclosed in something other than an EULA that almost nobody reads?

This is fundamentally a cluetrain argument. Do youhave a business model that is potentially transparent to all parties. Or does the model depend on the laziness or ignorance of one of the parties. Classic mass media strategies (TV, Radio, Magazines) are built around sponsors who will foot the bill in exchange for the chance to present ads to viewers. An acceptable tradeoff and one that is generally transparent. Product placement starts to move into a grayer world. The more I think about it, the more the Mom test seems pertinent.