Adware maker Claria steps into search

Company seeks to move beyond pop-ups, tests search service that analyzes Web surfers' habits to deliver personalized results.

Claria, formerly Gator, began testing a search service that analyzes Web surfers' habits to deliver personalized results, in a move to branch out from the pop-up advertising business.

The Redwood City, Calif.-based company develops downloadable software, or adware, that tracks people's movement around the Web in order to display pop-up ads or other types of promotions. Its software, which often comes bundled with free third-party downloads like screensavers, is installed on nearly 40 million desktops.

Claria plans to use its intimate knowledge of those users' search behavior--historical interests, number of visits to a destination site, time viewing a site, for instance--to tailor query results on its search engine. For example, a demonstrated business executive might receive vastly different results for a search on the keywords "San Francisco hotels" than would a demonstrated college student.

"Over time and with more users, these types of personalization technologies will allow consumers a richer, more customized online experience," said Claria CEO Jeff McFadden.

For now, the search engine is available only to a handful of testers within its network, but Claria said the site will be open to the public by the end of 2005.

Claria has recently been in the news because Microsoft was in talks to buy the adware company, according to sources. However, the talks are reportedly off because of Claria's tumultuous history being linked to spyware.

Claria's move comes as all the major search providers are developing personalized services. Google, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves and's are all testing search engines that draw on the personal histories of individual visitors who agree to opt into the programs. Personalized search is billed as one of the next major innovations in a multibillion-dollar marketing business.

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