According to the EFF, CNET has not been living up to its standards with regard to bundled ware:

The blogosphere has been buzzing about revelations that CNET’s site has been embedding adware into the install process for all kinds of software, including open source software like NMAP. For the unwary, some of the ads could have been read to suggest accepting the advertised service (e.g., the Babylon translation tool bar) was part of the installation process. Users who weren’t paying attention may also have clicked “accept” simply by accident. In either event, after their next restart, they would have been surprised to find their settings had been changed, new tool bars installed, etc. Gordon Lyon, the developer who first called public attention to’s practices, found a particularly egregious example last night: a bundled ad for “Drop Down Deals,” an app that, once installed, spies on your web traffic and pops up ads when you visit some sites. It’s hard to imagine that many users would choose that app on purpose.

This practice is not only deceptive, it directly contradicts’s stated policy, which promises users that it has “zero tolerance” for bundled adware and that “when it comes to fighting unwanted adware . . . has always been in your corner.” Indeed, that promise was one reason users and developers had come to trust as a reliable source.

CNet was really a pioneer in anti-bundling efforts. I remember when they first announced that they were no longer going to be accepting anything that relied on adware being bundled in. It was a questionable decision because some people (like me) wondered how these freeware providers were going to be able to make money. But it worked out splendidly because the freeware kept on coming and they either made money by having a beefier version that you had to pay for or they didn’t care that they weren’t making money.

I am increasingly loathed to pay for software. It’s not that I can’t afford it. It’s not just that there are free alternatives most of the time (this is necessary, but not sufficient – sometimes the paid stuff is really better). Rather, it’s because I don’t want to have to buy the product several times over. I keep a fleet of four operational desktops and regularly use about four laptops. I seek for a degree of consistency for what’s installed on them. I never really know, when I purchase software, whether I can install it on all my computers or only a limited number. Even when it starts off the first way, sometimes it converts to the latter. Then, further, I don’t know if when I upgrade to Windows Vista or Windows 7 whether it will continue to work or if I will have to buy it all over again.

With free software, I don’t have to worry about it. I can install my free version of TeraCopy anywhere I choose. Or OpenOffice/LibreOffice.

The major exception to all of this is Windows itself. If I ever make the transition to Linux, it’s not because I can’t stand spending $150 on an operating system. Rather, it’s because I can’t stand it when I want to do an F&R, can’t, and have to go to the illegitimate well I should be able to avoid buy paying for the license in the first place.

To bring this back to the subject at hand, what CNet’s policy normalized was making free software less hassletastic than the paid alternative. Even though they seem to be ignoring their policy, they normalized it so that I don’t have to just assume that any free software I get has something bad bundled in with it.

Category: Server Room

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