Coalition To Fight Spyware Falling Apart

It’s anything but smooth sailing for COAST these days. Members of the Consortium of Anti-Spyware Technology Vendors are dropping like flies. Analysts said a factor in the controversy could be Microsoft’s entrance into the multi-million-dollar market.

On Friday, Computer Associates International, which owns Pest Patrol anti-spyware software, resigned from the non-profit group whose mission is “to create a forum in which members can collaborate on a wide range of products designed to increase awareness of spyware.”

“We are withdrawing from COAST because we believe the organization no longer has the ability to create a consensus for effective anti-spyware standards,” Sam Curry, Computer Associates vice president of eTrust security management, said.

Beginning of the End?

Webroot Software also resigned from COAST on Friday, for similar reasons.

“Of late, we have become concerned that COAST is moving in a direction with which we cannot agree,” the company said in a statement. “We have long championed an open dialog among anti-spyware solutions on standards criteria for defining spyware. However, we are not comfortable with the idea of COAST as a certification body or as a marketing tool for member companies.”

Alluria Software also withdrew from COAST on Friday. Alluria CEO Jamie Garrison said the company has consistently tried to move the organization into the direction of defining a clear and comprehensive set of spyware standards and code of ethics by which all software developers should abide.

“Despite our best efforts, however, COAST was slow moving in setting standards,” Garrison said. “We have tried, but COAST is no longer a viable organization that fits with our commitment of protecting computer users and developing a high quality response system to the threat of spyware.”

Computer Associates, Webroot and Alluria all said they would continue to play an active part in public dialogs about these issues. COAST officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Reading Between the Lines

Some are speculating that COAST’s decision to allow 180solutions, a provider of search marketing solutions, to the consortium has caused the mass exodus. The companies did not comment on the new member in their respective statements.

As for other possible reasons for the demise of COAST, Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox told the E-Commerce Times that the defections could be related to Microsoft’s entrance into the anti-spyware software market.

“Microsoft’s play in the anti-spyware market is going to cause some reverberations among other vendors,” Wilcox said. “When a major player like Microsoft moves into a market, then other vendors may reevaluate their position and their marketing relationships. That could be a factor in this situation.”

There is plenty of room for competition. The need to identify and eradicate spyware programs will drive anti-spyware software revenues from US$12 million in 2003 to $305 million in 2008, according to an IDC research report.

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