Get Zwinky! (Or not)

I can’t help but remark on this recent massive television advertising campaign for Zwinky. At first I just saw the Zwinky ads on the G4 Network, a gaming network targeted heavily at male nerds. The ad campaign on that network seemed to be a bit of a misfire, because the ad itself is targeted almost exclusively at young girls. But then I saw the ad run on a major network, and realized this wasn’t just one of those weird, very niche commercials that are frequently seen on G4. This is a massive, million dollar, cross-spectrum television advertising campaign. I guess the company behind Zwinky got a nice chunk of change from venture capitalists and got on the express track to seeing their service widely used. But what is Zwinky?

Zwinky is an incentive thrown on top of the MyWebSearch browser toolbar, available for both Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer. Zwinky itself is pretty benign: it appears to be an avatar-based chat client (as if that was original). It’s a combination browser plugin and desktop application (the instant messenging part). To get Zwinky working, you need this MyWebSearch toolbar. And that’s where things get hairy.

The MyWebSearch toolbar is exactly what you think an annoying search toolbar would be. It has a search box for, and which makes the company a nice amount of affiliate search revenue. It has a “search assistant” that “provides relevant links and results when you make a search request in your browser address bar or if your browser address (DNS) request is invalid, misspelled or incorrectly formatted.” In other words, it does exactly what VeriSign did that got it into a whole heap of trouble: it puts ads on domain names that can’t be found in place of the standard error message.

The Zwinky client has ads in it too, just in case everything else wasn’t already advertising-filled. The toolbar suffers from a glut of unnecessary tacked-on features that clearly didn’t take much effort to implement but are being advertised as big features. These include: screensavers, desktop backgrounds, custom cursors, smiley emoticons, e-cards, pop-up blocker, history zapper, photo archive, and more. In other words, it tries to do everything (though not very well), and then it puts advertising on everything as its revenue stream.

So, my final take on Zwinky is: don’t bother. It’s just yet another poorly put together browser toolbar full of advertising. I don’t know if it could really be called spyware or malware, but it’s not bonware, that’s for sure. If all you want is instant messaging capability, stick with something like Pidgin, which works with all of the existing major IM networks (AOL, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, Jabber, etc.). It’s really annoying having to bug your friends to go download and install yet another annoying program just so they can chat with you. And if it’s the virtual chat aspect that you like, you’d be much better served by going with Second Life, which is superior in every regard. A large advertising budget can’t salvage crappy, unnecessary software like Zwinky and its tag-along MyWebSearch toolbar. And honestly, if that incredibly juvenile and annoying ad they’re running attracts you, you deserve what you’re getting.

Update December 3, 2007: See my more recent post on Zwinky.

208 Responses to “Get Zwinky! (Or not)”

  1. Nakiea Says:


  2. The Grim Squeaker Says:

    Stop spamming, you pathetic vermin!

    I have only to say something about eyes and some spambot swoops in and copies the title and links to a plausible threat site. Grrr! This thread is starting to grow a bunch of offal!
    Oh my, now there will be a vermin removal advertisement… M. Weys, you may wish to monitor these possible risks.

  3. Hmm Says:

    I feel like I’m not as intelligent as I used to be, and I’ve been using the internet for quite some time now. Looking at this page, it’s now clear to me what has slowly drained me of my IQ.

    Quite a mind-numbing display you have here. I long to return to the days when every child and their grandma didn’t have internet access and it wasn’t such a clusterfuck of nonsense and sites designed for the sole purpose of making money.

    Anytime I share my opinion on how I feel the internet used to be good, the reactions I get tend to be “What? Frames and bad GIFs?”. Those people are either idiots that don’t deserve a good internet (and likely have contributed to the internet turning into the trash it is now) or kids too young to remember the good ‘ol days.

    I’d love to leave a page long rant about the moronic youth of today and how bad the internet has become, but reading through this idiocy has left me mentally exhausted.

    Looking back, I wonder why I even felt the need to make this post (which ended up longer than intended). But since I spent a fair amount of time typing it up (something most kids who type incoherent babble know nothing of), it’d be a waste to just delete it. Oh well.

  4. European Input Says:

    In Europe we have the same development: Kids and idiots are flooding the internet, and the best is to let them just bitch at each other.

    I suggest to give up the web dot 2 idea. It has been hijacked by 80:20, the internet morons.

  5. Rob Says:

    Here’s how I found your site. It’s a great story. You’ll love it.

    So, I googled “The internet is full of idiots.” I mean, after reading Yahoo Answers (Especially the medical section) and Youtube comments (Especially…. well, anything really) and then googling any medical issue I could think of just to read the awesome (in all senses of the word) answers, I was pretty convinced that the internet was full of either intelligent people pretending to be unintelligent or just the worst kinds of people in existence.

    So after I googled my desperate statement, your blog came up (somewhere on page two) with your post related to internet-idiocy. After that post, I HAD to read this one, and here I am.

    These comments are magical.

  6. Saurian Says:

    Cyde Weys, thank you so much for a brilliant (yet depressing) read.

    I stumbled across this page after my usual despairing at the stupidity of people on Youtube. I did a search on “internet idiots” and read your post “The Internet sucks because idiots are legion and vocal”, which I wholeheartedly agree with.

    I am not the smartest or most highly educated person around but I have always strived to at least try to better myself. It is absolutely shocking the way the vast majority of English speaking young people cannot communicate effectively in their native language. These people can’t even construct a single coherent sentence!

    This was a fantastic experiment, it really hammers home how much of a problem this is.

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