Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Halloween Treat: OpenCandy

Despite rumors to the contrary, venture investors are still funding innovative and disruptive startups. My latest Series A investment, announced today, is OpenCandy, which I co-funded with Tim O'Reilly and Reid Hoffman.

Not every (any?) great software application comes from Redmond. Today more than ever individuals and small teams of programmers in every country of the world develop great applications that wither on the vine for lack of visibility and a business model. OpenCandy's technology promises revenue, cheap distribution and free analytics to programmers who may not have their own big marketing departments.

OpenCandy's first product is a recommendations engine that operates in the install wizard of downloaded software. While working for their prior employer DivX, the OpenCandy team discovered that users are far more likely to consider downloading new software while they're in the middle of downloading something else. This observation led them to embed software offers in DivX downloads that now generate $20 million annually for their former employer.

"OpenCandy is taking a proven Web 2.0 model--the ad network--and applying it to software installation. It's very clever. And it will probably work." -- CNET

OpenCandy's recommendations include a mix of free and paid recommendations, depending upon the preferences of the publisher. They do not interfere with the original download, commencing only after the current installation has completed. Here's an example of OpenCandy at work for Miro (a BitTorrent player for RSS video) and Audacity (by far the the best sound recording/mixing tool I've ever used):

Software developers who wish to participate as either a recommender or recommendee should contact co-founder Chester Ng at OpenCandy. He and OpenCandy CEO Darrius Thompson started the company earlier this year. They run a talented but scrappy team in the true tradition of Get Big Cheap. And I'm betting they'll prove that great software is like Halloween candy: you can't eat just one!

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  1. Anonymous7:24 PM

    No matter how you "sugar coat" it OpenCandy IS adware and spyware. First off aren't the recommend programs a type of ad? Personally I think so. Also anything that sends info back from my registry is considered spying. "Anonymous" or not. Besides how can it be anonymous when you get my IP and other info unique to only my machine?

    Dr Apps made a claim that it sends data back when a OpenCandy app is uninstalled, so if the OC dll can be removed at ANY TIME how does this function still work then say the dll is removed? Also if users are running firewalls and BLOCK OpenCandy/ app installer from accessing the internet how will OpenCandy still function and what use will it have? I think the ONLY REAL thing it will succeed in doing is ruin peoples trust in otherwise good software.

    Software developers PLEASE dont bundle this with your software. Nobody likes being forced into installing unwanted third party apps especially adware and spyware. This concept DOES NOT work, its been proven with Gain (Gator Advertising and Information Network), Cydoor as well as numerous IE toolbars.

    Oh and one last note OpenCandy if you claim your program is so legit how come you dont release the source code to your engine and tell us the REAL facts as opposed to being so vague on your privacy statement?

    This will only make people lose faith in FOSS! Besides I for one DO NOT like or want to see ads or install OTHER software when I'm installing something. Divx sucks I use Xvid. ;)

    The Internet Unibomber

  2. I’ll start by introducing myself to the readers of David’s blog; I’m Dr. Apps, OpenCandy’s Software Community Guru. A big part of my role at OpenCandy is listening to the developer and user communities, answering questions and prioritizing requests from the community regarding how our recommendation network operates.

    Here are some links where you can find out more about me (if you want to). My bio: How I discovered OpenCandy and why I joined the team: And, of course, you can find me talking about great software on Twitter:

    The majority of what is written below is redundant for anyone who has read my response to a similar post on another forum’s thread.

    On OpenCandy Recommendations

    Actually I don't disagree that an OpenCandy-powered recommendation is an ad. But OpenCandy isn't adware (, adware is: a program that once installed shows ads on your desktop or in your browser or a whole slew of other crap we WOULD NEVER do. And we are certainly not spyware ( We don't collect ANY personally identifiable information, and the NON-personally identifiable information we collect is very limited and not unique at all (see below).

    TCP Connections, Anonymity and Privacy

    Every website you visit knows your IP and the vast majority of them also log it. Yes, establishing a (legit) TCP connection means the return address is known (yes I'm way oversimplifying TCP :) ) –The only thing we do with an IP is figure out the country it originates from. We do NOT STORE ANY IPs in any shape or form.

    Our system is based on a smart plug-in / dumb server approach so WE DON'T NEED to collect all sorts of other information about a computer (or "person" if you will). The fact that someone uses Microsoft Windows Vista and their OS language is English and they're located in the United States is NOT UNIQUE information at all.

    Removing Our Dll / Blocking Internet Connectivity

    If you remove the OpenCandy dll (OCSetupHlp.dll), OpenCandy CAN'T/DOESN'T provide any functionality during un-install (btw, I should mention that when you remove the dll yourself, you may receive an error during un-install since the file is missing; but if you click 'Ok' or 'Continue' the uninstall will complete successfully. See the end of this post for changes we're making regarding leaving files behind). The same goes for blocking an OpenCandy-powered installer from accessing the Internet during install; we obviously can't provide a recommendation or installer analytics in that case. The reason why I provided that information in the first place was for people who either: don't want to see a recommendation or don’t want to help provide anonymous analytics to the publisher of the software they're installing; or that want to remove our dll.
    OPT-IN because Opt-Out Sucks

    I'm not sure how a software recommendation you have to consciously choose to install could be considered forced upon anyone. Of course I'd never argue against the fact that concepts like GAIN or Cydoor DON'T work... they don't, I loath(ed) them and I've spent a considerable portion of my life cleaning up machines infected with that crap and other things.

    Copyleft, nor Copyright Determines Legitimacy

    The reason why our platform isn’t open source is because part of it deals with money, which means we have to deal with the potential of gaming/fraud. That said, the legitimacy of a platform, product or service is NOT determined by whether it's copyleft or copyright.

    Our Privacy Policy

    As far as our privacy policy ( is concerned, we are currently in the process of re-drafting our policy so that it’s more detailed and descriptive about what kind of NON-personally identifiable information is collected.

    (continued in next comment)

  3. continued from my other comment

    Benefiting FOSS

    Some of our publishers exclusively use OpenCandy to recommend other open source apps they love – for free. This is awesome because it helps people discover more open source apps. The beauty of open source is that people are free to compile the source themselves if they wish. In addition some of our open source publishers provide builds that don’t have OpenCandy functionality. Publishers are free to do what makes sense for them and their users.

    I think, and many others agree, that OpenCandy is a good thing for the open source community. For that to be true, proper disclosure, followed by knowing the facts about OpenCandy are the most important things for people to be able to A) have choices and B) make an educated decision about OpenCandy for themselves.

    Some Changes We’re Making

    Now is as good a time as any to let everyone know about some changes we are making due to requests from the user community. We are currently wrapping up the latest version of our Publisher’s Kit which changes the way our recommendation process works. Going forward our files (OpenCandy_Why_Is_This_Here.txt and our dll, OCSetupHlp.dll) will ONLY be TEMPORARILY copied to a folder within the publisher's program installation folder – IF – a recommendation is accepted. Once the recommendation (again, IF it was ACCEPTED) is downloaded and installed, the OpenCandy folder, dll and text file will be removed automatically.

    Wrapping Up :) (I promise!)

    I always say I’m happy to have these discussions and I truly am. It’s what allows us to shape the way the OpenCandy network works for everyone's benefit. Of course we’re always on the lookout for ways we can do things even better. I hope this info is helpful.

    Thanks. :)

    Dr. Apps
    drapps [AT] opencandy [D0T] com