Headlight Software, Inc. aquired the Go!Zilla download manager name, gozilla.com domain, and other assets in January 2008. (We also make the GetRight download manager, and have since 1997.) Go!Zilla had quite a bit of history before we aquired it. And as a competitor, I would often check their website or download a new version to see what they're doing.
This history is from my memory of reading about a competitor, viewing old pages via archive.org, using Google, etc.
Gizmo.net & Aaron Ostler
The first gozilla.com website in archive.org is from December 1998. At that point it was already at version 3.2. As I remember, thats about when I first heard of it as a competitor. I don't know when it was first released. I haven't seen anything older than 3.3 in various "Old Version" websites.
GetRight came out in Febuary 1997--if the timing had been slightly different, I might just have used Go!Zilla for that download that inspired GetRight. If so, my own personal history would be very different!
Go!Zilla was originally written by Aaron Ostler and was released by his(?) company Gizmo.net
I know from some long-ago email conversations with him that he was one of the first programs to do the ad banners in software. And as a program that could run for a long time, downloading big files over a modem, it could show a lot of ads. At the height of the Dot Com bubble, you could make a lot of money showing ads. (GetRight did show ads back then too, but we removed the ads from it years and years ago.)
Way back in 1998, it won a Shareware Industry People's Choice award. (Here, GetRight did too!)
In the middle of 1999, Aureate Media appears to have become the owner of Go!Zilla...not sure if it was a sale, merger, or what. (Between the April and October snapshots on archive.org is when the name changes.)
Go!Zilla got pretty huge, the appeal of "Free Software" was big.
But several programs that used the Aureate Media ad-plugin both didn't do much (if any) disclosure about the ads, and didn't cleanup well so could leave the ad files around (still downloading ads!) Suddenly, people wondered: "What is this thing on my computer downloading ads? What else could it be doing?" I believe this was the start of the "Spyware" term for many people. An already planned, but unfortunatly timed, change of the company name to Radiate didn't help--made it look like they were trying to hide. Plus the whole "Radiation" sounding name probably wasn't the best choice in hindsight!
From all the research I did at the time, and all the history I've read in the years since, the Aureate Media/Radiate never did any sort of real spying...but the label stuck. And the spyware term and concern blew up (spurred by real spying programs.) Dubious credit goes to Radiate for helping to create the whole category of anti-spyware programs.
I know from posts I read from Google-ing that Aaron Ostler didn't leave Radiate on good terms. Sounds like when they realized that the bubble had burst, and the biggest asset they had was Go!Zilla, they took it over and forced him out. (Here.) He really wasn't happy with the direction Go!Zilla was being taken. Sounds like he hated the fact that it was being so bundled with other stuff, and I don't blame him.
The bursting Dot Com bubble along with the Spyware label, I think is what ended Radiate/Aureate Media. This was also about the last time, in late 2001, that anybody did any programming work on Go!Zilla.
The last real version had a crazy "make it look like WinAmp" look.
(It's actually in the old 4.x planning documents we got with the DVD of source code and things,
"Winamp look and feel.")
Unfortunately for Go!Zilla, skins like this kinda became a fad.
And as monitors grew bigger and had higher resolution, the tiny buttons became even more microscopic:
A Full Size Picture of Go!Zilla 4.x
In the middle of 2002, Digital Candle aquired the Go!Zilla name, domain name, and assets.
Not really sure about the next 6 years for Go!Zilla. From continuing to look at competitors at the time (and product listings on various sites I'm updating after our aquisition) I believe several updates were done, mainly to change just what other "extras" were bundled within the installer. It's possible 9 different things had been bundled over the years by the various previous owners.
Somewhere in here (I really have no idea when) the original Go!Zilla author Aaron Ostler passed away. We had been in contact a few times over the years. I remember sending a "Hey, it's been awhile, what's up?" email and getting the reply from a relative that he had died. I was really hoping to meet him at some future Shareware Conference or something, buy him a beer, and ask about all just this sort of history.
Digital Candle closed in August 2007.
In January 2008, Headlight Software aquired the Go!Zilla assets. (The Go!Zilla site was dead from August 2007 to January 2008). We're the fourth company to own Go!Zilla.
Go!Zilla Is Back.
The bundling over the years, along with the banners back from the Radiate days, gave Go!Zilla a poor reputation. Installing it would cause most anti-spyware programs to issue a warning because of bundled software. Plus without any new development, it fell behind. But it is still recommended on many websites, and still gets a lot of visitors.
We started from our own code to build and resurrect the new Go!Zilla 5.
No more ads. Period. Never again.
No more "extras" in the installer. Period. Never again.
When you download Go!Zilla, you'll once again get a good, modern download manager.
I hope, somewhere, Aaron is pleased it's back.