Netzero bought FreeInet around 1998. FreeInet was the very first free national internet service provider. NetZero was introduced in October 1998, founded by Ronald T. Burr (original CEO), Stacy Haitsuka, Marwan Zebian and Harold MacKenzie. NetZero grew to one thousand,000 users in 6 months. NetZero’s design was free Internet access to attract an audience for highly targeted advertising. The ad offering technology has over nine patents and NetZero was the first company to invent real-time URL targeted advertising based on surfing patterns under US patent 6,366,298  Monitoring of Individual Internet Usage. The pioneers raised $60 million in venture capital in four separate equity financings.
Venture investors included idealab, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Foundation Capital, Clearstone Venture Partners and Compaq. NetZero signed a distribution deal with Compaq and was the only real ISP to become contained in the out-of-box experience (OOBE). In September 1999 NetZero went public on the NASDAQ exchange with all the symbol NZRO. Mark Goldston was hired as CEO, Charles Hilliard was hired as CFO and Ronald Burr took the job of President and Chief Technology Officer. In December 1999, NetZero and NBC Sports consented to a major deal that will see NetZero replace Prudential Financial as the sponsor for the network’s NBA halftime studio show, titled “NetZero @ The Half”, which gave NetZero a lot larger audience for the product.
In late 1999 a number of other companies began to copy the netzero com message center free access model including Juno Online Services, (which since August 1996 had offered E-mail although not Internet access for free), Spinway launched with Yahoo! and AltaVista, Freei and BlueLight Internet, which was originally owned by Kmart. They claimed to provide free Internet service forever, to acquire displaying ads, either on a permanent toolbar or over a “banner” which had been shown when online. NetZero sued them for infringing over a banner ad patent. After the dot-com bust in early 2000, NetZero acquired its competitors as each went bankrupt. Additionally NetZero acquired AimTV which displayed full video quality 30 second ad spots in addition to Simpli and RocketCash.
Starting in January 2001, NetZero began charging for access time over 40 hours per month. Users who exceeded 40 hours were directed to the company’s “Platinum” service, which provided unlimited access for $9.95 each month. With all the income statement reinvigorated through charging heavier users in the system, NetZero merged using its rival Juno Online Services and made a new holding company, United Online which traded on NASDAQ beneath the symbol UNTD until Netzero was acquired by B. Riley Financial in July 2016. NetZero later lowered the threshold for free company to 10 hours per month.
NetZero has versions of its proprietary dial-up software for computers running Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X. NetZero previously offered a Linux version in the NetZero software advertised to be for Linspire, however the software might be installed on any Debian-based i386 or x86-64 Linux distribution; NetZero can also be installed on any RPM-based Linux distribution provided that Alien is used to transform the NetZero Debian package into an RPM package. Additionally, the Linux version necessitates the Java Runtime Environment to become installed before use of the NetZero dialer. However the current Linux version in the dialer will no longer functions properly using the service since 2009.