First, a few examples of how to do it right.
The Spiceworks card has been played before, but I'll play it again. I knew it was a free product, and I knew I would see ads from the beginning. I found the value of the product to well worth the slight annoyance of the ads, so I keep using it.
I had used Pandora for a long time, very very heavily. They started injecting ads, which were annoying at first, but the value of the product was such that I was ok with it. With my amount of usage, I would then hit their hourly limit, but they offered a quality product at a very reasonable price that would remove all limits and the annoying ads. More importantly, they let people know about it. I was sent an email outlining the reasoning behind the process, and the details of the upgrade choices. I could easily make an informed decision.
This is much better than how I found out about Untangle showing ads. While I'm trying to convince my Manager to buy some new computers, we link to a site that is blocked for possible Spyware. We then see some previously unknown "Sponsored Listings" appear, and both think that Untangle has been compromised by a a virus. There was not even a small part of us which thought this might be working as intended. Luckily I found a few posts in the forums regarding this "feature", but nothing official.
I received no email from Untangle. There was no announcement (that I saw) on Ungangle's home page. There was no message that appeared in my Rack that alerted me that such a key function of of the Untangle product was being altered. How about a quick note..."hey, we'd like to make some actual money off of this useful, free product. We are going to start to show ads, but if you pay for even the cheapest addition, we'll remove them." That would have been perfectly acceptable and much appreciated.
That is what frustrated me the most, and me start looking for alternatives.
What continues to frustrate me is the poor implementation of the ads, and sincere confusion how anyone it would be a good idea to place ads (which, in turn, lead to possible malware) inside a product which, in essence, we use to block other types of ads and malware.
I will leave you with my example.
Twitter blocked web filter page --> "Sponsored Listing" --> Blocked Vacation listing page --> Possible Spyware --> Possible Spyware
Now obviously, this is an extreme example. I can't expect a typical user to follow this chain of links. But the fact that this can happens disappoints me greatly.
Instead of being notified ahead of time, and simply purchasing the AD Connector or Policy manager before the ads were implemented, I am now exploring other options, even if they cost more money. My boss, who was right there with me when we noticed the ads the first time, feels the same way.
I understand the desire/eventual necessity to make money of such a high-quality, free product. This is not the way to do it. Although it's not really a loss to lose a non-paying customer, you most likely did lose a future customer, and any referrals I might have sent your way.
I did not want to add to the flame wars in the other threads, I simply wanted to offer my Feedback.