Pamela Parker at ClickZ muses about adware:
Let me start by saying I don’t think adware is a bad thing. Definitions differ, but I’ve always used the word adware to mean ad-supported software, which includes things like AOL’s AIM and WeatherBug. As far as I’m concerned, so long as users understand they’re seeing ads in exchange for getting free software, that’s just fine. Transparency is key.
That said, the word adware has long some sinister connotations, and for good reason. Even some of the more upstanding of adware companies have somewhat shady pasts — pasts full of questionable distribution methods, associations with disreputable software providers, a lack of disclosure and much consumer ill-will. A history like that can be very hard to leave behind.
Putting WeatherBug, AIM and (ostensibly) Eudora’s free ad-supported version in the category of adware is actually incorrect. Ad-supported software is different that adware. Adware exists with the primary purpose of providing advertising. Ad-supported software (like Eudora) exists for the purpose of supporting the vendor, but the primary purpose of the application is not advertising. Eudora is an email program. It has banner ads. It is not WhenU SaveNow, 180Solutions Zango, Direct Revenue BestOffersNetwork, etc. (Getting definitions on adware is also interesting).
You can read Pamela’s article here.