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« Skype, IM and VoIP Ignite- The Enterprise Will Embrace | Main | Official: 180Solutions and Hotbar Merge Become Zango »

  • More Speculation Hotbar & 180Solutions in Talks at 52 Million

For several weeks speculation has been moving fast and furious inside security research circles that "adware" maker 180Solutions Inc. has been courting Hotbar, another company that traffics in adware. Naturally this deal would catch the eyes and probing minds of security researchers given 180Solution's checkered past and Hotbar has had it is own fair share of controversy. The most notable when Symantec sued Hotbar for the right to classify Hotbar's products as adware. (The suit was settled out of court.)

Now there are articles hitting mainstream press covering the proposed deal, and we can point readers to a rough translation of an article that Google News snagged out of Israel: Hotbar in talks for sale to 180Solutions at Globes.co.il

The article says :

Israeli dot.com company Hotbar Inc. is negotiating its sale at a company value of $52 million. The probably buyer is Internet company 180Solutions Inc.. Sources inform ''Globes'' that Hotbar is also negotiating with other companies, including ICQ. Hotbar develops software that sits on the browser, enabling users to change their toolbar to include links to services the company offers. Founded in 1999 by CEO Oren Dobronsky and president Gabriella Karni, the company has raised $15 million to date. Its last financing round was held in 2001. Investors include Eurofund, Tamar technology Ventures, Technorov Holdings, CE Unterberg Towbin, and Deutsche Bank subsidiary ABS Ventures. According to IVC Online, the company had $35 million in sales in 2004.

180Solutions develops software solutions for on-line advertising. The company develops adware, otherwise known as spyware, activities hated by surfers and users of computers. Coincidently or not, this activity is connected to a lawsuit anti-virus developer Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq:SYMC) filed a year ago against Hotbar, in which Symantec demanded that some of Hotbar’s activities be classified as adware. the case was settled out of court a few months ago.

Some of this article seems completely off base and some of the connections are a pretty far stretch. For example, it is hard to discern how the Symantec suit had anything to do with a deal like this being brokered- although the article does reference it as a possible "coincidence".

Furthermore, it would be surprising if ICQ were a buyer- ICQ is merely an instant messaging service. Mirabilis was the name of the Israeli company that produced ICQ. Mirabilis was formed in 1996 by four Israelis Arik Vardi, Yair Goldfinger, Sefi Vigiser and Amnon Amir, and was purchased by AOL in 1998 for over 200 hundred million U.S. (Note our recent walk down IM memory lane with ICQ.)

In 2001, a new company called AOL Time Warner was created when AOL purchased Time Warner forming the world's largest media company . The deal, announced in 2000, employed an atypical merger structure in which each original company merged into a newly created entity. We have documented Time Warner engaged in distribution deals with 180Solutions for some of their online soap operas. A distribution deal that was ill-timed given the highly problematic YapBrowser fiasco where the browser product, sponsored by Zango (the same adware product sponsoring Time Warner's content), displayed UA pornography after making it through 180Solution's "stringent" approval process. [Reference background on YapBrowser and links to our interview.] 180Solutions did end the relationship after the activities came to public light.

At this stage it all remains speculative, however information from many credible sources has been flowing into researchers for weeks now and coupled with coverage in Israel- Hotbar's hometown- this researcher is inclined to believe the deal is more than likely going down.

The looming question will be if 180Solutions will continue with what many call irresponsible and poorly controlled distribution practices. A good researcher relies on intuition and what he/she sees in the field. At the same time a good researcher doesn't ignore history and its lessons either.

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» 180Solutions Inc. merges with Hotbar and Rebrands from ReveNews - Wayne Porter: Greynets, Malware, Adware & Spyware Research- E-commerce
I noted the rumors at the end of May, although the talk had actually been swirling around inner circles for weeks. For the win... (Mandatory to use a tired, blogging-centric, text-based meme.) Last but not least- rumors are swirling hard and fast in th... [Read More]

  • Comments

"Coincidently or not, this activity is connected to a lawsuit anti-virus developer Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq:SYMC) filed a year ago against Hotbar, in which Symantec demanded that some of Hotbars activities be classified as adware. the case was settled out of court a few months ago."

So Symantec came to a settlement with Hotbar? I wonder what kind of settlement that can be. Hotbar and 180Solutions seem to be conected with childporn activities (through the infamous "Yap-browser" and a creditcard-scheme. They are the scumm of the earth, you don't deal with these people. If one of the major antivirus and antimalware detection programmes in the world doesn't classify this product as absolutely untrustable, without any reservations, because they made a deal, I find that very disturbing news.


Symantec actually sued Hotbar over the right to legally classify their application as adware. This is ongoing battle of semantics. What the settlement amounted too- I have no idea. I doubt money changed hands or Symantec pulled them from defs.. Symantec, I believe, did a good thing by going on the offensive. It wasn't long ago that anti-spyware companies (long before the big players woke up to the problem) were under constant siege.

That said Hotbar was not tied to YapBrowser at the time of the fiasco. It was under 180's watch. However, the fact they would merge with a company with such dubious practices- all well documented by many security guns is questionable indeed. Desperation perhaps? We can only speculate. Hotbar has now inherited all of 180's baggage.

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