Bonzi Buddy UI

Weird Internet Things: What is Bonzi Buddy?

Let’s play a guessing game. What’s the purple and friendly gorilla that serves as a virtual desktop assistant and annoying spyware at the same time?

No, we’re not just making random things up. Also, the answer to that question is Bonzi Buddy. Did you get it right?

What was Bonzi Buddy exactly, and how did this purple gorilla end up becoming one of the most annoying software that is difficult to remove and later an internet meme?
Find more answers in this Weird Internet Things series.

History of Bonzi Buddy

Released in 1999, Bonzi Buddy (stylized as BonziBUDDY, sometimes also known as BonziBUDDY, BONZIBuddy, or misspelled as Bonzai Buddy) was a downloadable assistant in Windows platform created by Joe and Jay Bonzi from Bonzi Software, Inc. It was released on their website and developed using Microsoft Agent technology that has been discontinued.

Bonzi Buddy took the form of a purple gorilla and its purpose was to help users navigate through the internet. It would also have interactive speech bubbles like characters in the comic where you can read what it says. Basically very similar functionalities to what Clippy (the Office Assistant created by Microsoft) does in Microsoft Office.

According to Malware History Wiki, Bonzi Buddy was discontinued in 2004 while Know Your Meme mentioned that this happened in 2008.

Features of Bonzi Buddy

Quoted from its now inactive website, Bonzi Buddy was designed to be an “interactive friend and traveling companion on the Internet”. It included typical features of virtual assistants such as searching, browsing the internet, viewing calendars, and managing emails.

As an interactive virtual assistant, it also offered additional features such as speaking, singing, telling jokes and random trivia, playing games, reading stories, and personalization support using text-to-speech sound technology.

Impact on the Internet

During the time Bonzi Buddy was launched in the late 90s, the internet basically was a wild west. The awareness regarding internet safety wasn’t like what we had today. Sure, people were already introduced to the concept of malware and internet viruses, but awareness about potentially unwanted software hasn’t existed back then.

Then came Bonzi Buddy, a new virtual assistant, the friendliest-looking piece of software with an interactive user interface. Internet users quickly embraced it; Bonzi Software then made it possible for users to buy the software for $40 in retail or download it for free online. It quickly became a hit and Bonzi Buddy was downloaded by tons of users.

Unfortunately, this friendly gorilla wasn’t as harmless as it looks. In the late 90s, online advertising just started to take off to answer the dot com bubble burst just a few years earlier. Bonzi Buddy also partook in it but in a gray fashion. This virtual assistant app allegedly turned out to be annoying spyware and a manipulative piece of adware that would prey on its users.


There were controversies and company disputes involving Bonzi Buddy where several security companies included Bonzi Buddy in the list of spyware-laden programs.

In 2002, Consumer Reports Web Watch identified Bonzi Buddy as spyware and a backdoor trojan that collected users’ information. Safer Networking, a company that created Spybot – Search & Destroy identified it as an Internet Explorer toolbar that may change users’ web browser settings, altered their home page, and launched pop-up advertisements while tracking users’ browsing activities.

Spyware Guide identified this software as adware, while anti-virus company Trend Micro classified it as adware in their list of spyware and gray ware, but not malware. Anti-virus company Symantec referred to it as adware but with claims of spyware capabilities.

In 2002, Bonzi Software, Inc was hit by a class action lawsuit because they allegedly manipulated their banner advertisements to mimic Microsoft’s dialog boxes and falsely alerted the users that their IP address was being broadcast. This was settled in 2003, and in the settlement, Bonzi Software agreed to alter their pop-up advertisements to look less like Microsoft’s dialog boxes.

In 2004, The Federal Trade Commission released a statement that indicated that Bonzi Software, Inc was violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and ordered them to pay $75,000 in fees.


Back in the day, Bonzi Buddy was comparable to other Office Assistant software created by Microsoft like the infamous Clippy. These days, there are much safer virtual assistant alternatives with better technology such as Microsoft Cortana, Apple Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Samsung Bixby.

Internet nostalgia

If for some reason you’d like to embark on an internet nostalgia and want to download BonziBUDDY, you still can do so. Unfortunately, its official website, is already inactive and you’re no longer able to download from there. But, you can download it from other alternatives online. Please keep in mind that even though Bonzi Buddy is benign spyware nowadays – thanks to massive improvements in the security technology, it still can potentially spy on you and therefore, it’s better to install this software in your Virtual Machine.

How to remove Bonzi Buddy from your computer

Aside from its reputation as Spyware, Bonzi Buddy is also known to be notoriously difficult to remove. But if for some reason you already installed Bonzi Buddy and want to remove it, you certainly can do so.

Luckily with the right third-party tools such as Uninstalr, you can easily remove Bonzi Buddy from your computer. Here’s how:

  • Run Uninstalr; This will automatically run the scan function
  • Select Bonzi Buddy from the list of software then click the “Uninstall Software” button
  • In the new window, review the data that you’d like to remove. You can also choose your preference during and after the uninstallation, such as whether you want to automatically close all running programs to perform the uninstallation and whether you want to automatically reboot the computer. If everything looks good, you can click the “Start the Uninstallation” button
  • Click “Yes” in the confirmation dialog
  • Wait until the uninstallation process to complete; At this stage, there’s nothing that you need to do from your end. If you choose to automatically restart the computer after uninstalling, Uninstalr will perform this automatically. Otherwise, we recommend you to restart your computer to make sure that the uninstallation process runs perfectly


Bonzi Buddy, albeit started off as a fun and harmless-looking virtual assistant gorilla turned out to be one of the earliest and most famous cases of adware and spyware. Considering the controversies and impact on the internet, it taught all Windows users about the importance of selecting the software you want to install on your computer and data privacies. After all, if something is free then you’re probably the product.

If you enjoy this Weird Internet Things post, you might be interested in another article on this series where we write about peculiar things on the internet such as “What is QWERTYUIOPASDFGHJKLZXCVBNM?”. Do check it out!