I recently downloaded some installers from download.com, only to find to my surprise that they have adopted a “web-installer” style “download manager” that offers to install random crapware before downloading the actual installer, such as the Bing or Babylon toolbars.
This sort of thing is not atypical, of course; we’re all quite accustomed to authors trying to cash in on the popularity of their free software, which we at Freewaregenius can completely understand, as long as it’s possible to opt out of this in the installation process.
The difference in this case is that Download.com is circumventing software authors altogether, not asking permission before adding this (unnecessary) monetizing component, and certainly not sharing the revenue.
Thus, for example, the author of the prominent image editing freeware Paint.NET, Rick Brewster, surprised to see the component added onto the Paint.NET download has gone on record in asking that they remove the download wrapper from his program, calling it a violation of the license and and asking them to either stop the practice or remove the software from the download.com website.
What they should have done: I am no idealist; I know that people need to make money somehow, so here’s what the MBA types over at CNet should have done instead.
- They should have asked software authors whether they wanted to opt in or out of this, and offered them at least half the revenue to induce them to opt in.
- They should offered the little ‘direct download’ link to all users, not just those who are logged into CNet. This would have given sophisticated users a way out without annoying them and without forcing users to put download.com on their s***list.
Personally, I find this practice especially annoying because I frequently download programs for later, offline testing (for example, on the bus on my way to or back from work).
Have thoughts or reactions? Share them in the comments section.