Netzero bought FreeInet around 1998. FreeInet was the initial free national internet service provider. NetZero was released in October 1998, founded by Ronald T. Burr (original CEO), Stacy Haitsuka, Marwan Zebian and Harold MacKenzie. NetZero grew to 1,000,000 users in six months. NetZero’s design was free Internet connection to bring in an audience for highly targeted advertising. The ad providing 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 4 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 ISP to get within the out-of-box experience (OOBE). In September 1999 NetZero went public on the NASDAQ exchange with the symbol NZRO. Mark Goldston was hired as CEO, Charles Hilliard was hired as CFO and Ronald Burr took the position of President and Chief Technology Officer. In December 1999, NetZero and NBC Sports agreed to an important deal that would see NetZero replace Prudential Financial since the sponsor for the network’s NBA halftime studio show, titled “NetZero @ The Half”, which gave NetZero a significantly larger audience for the product.
At the end of 1999 a few other companies began to copy the netzero message center login free access model including Juno Online Services, (which since August 1996 had offered E-mail although not World Wide Web access at no cost), Spinway launched with Yahoo! and AltaVista, Freei and BlueLight Internet, which was originally belonging to Kmart. They claimed to offer free Internet service forever, in exchange for displaying ads, either on a permanent toolbar or over a “banner” which was shown when online. NetZero sued them for infringing on a banner ad patent. Right after the dot-com bust at the begining of 2000, NetZero acquired its competitors as each went bankrupt. In addition 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 each month. Users who exceeded 40 hours were directed to the company’s “Platinum” service, which provided unlimited access for $9.95 monthly. Using the income statement reinvigorated through charging heavier users from the system, NetZero merged featuring its rival Juno Online Services and developed a new holding company, United Online which traded on NASDAQ under the symbol UNTD until Netzero was acquired by B. Riley Financial in July 2016. NetZero later lowered the threshold for free service to 10 hours monthly.
NetZero has versions of their proprietary dial-up software for computers running Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X. NetZero previously offered a Linux version from the NetZero software advertised as being for Linspire, though the software could be placed on any Debian-based i386 or x86-64 Linux distribution; NetZero can be installed on any RPM-based Linux distribution so long as Alien is utilized to transform the NetZero Debian package into an RPM package. Furthermore, the Linux version demands the Java Runtime Environment to get installed before use of the NetZero dialer. However the current Linux version in the dialer will no longer functions properly with the service since 2009.