Download.com infuses program installers with opt-out bloatware

By on August 23, 2011, 6:22 PM

If you're among the countless Web-goers who rely CNET's Download.com to acquire new software, you might want to tread carefully on your next visit. According to scattered complaints this week, the site has begun infusing many of its hosted program installers with opt-out bloatware. The popular software portal has gradually implemented various monetization schemes over the years, but this is undoubtedly the least kosher method we've seen.

Instead of providing the plain, unadulterated installation file, Download.com now wraps the program in a proprietary installer that by default installs bloatware such as toolbars along with changing your browser's default search engine and homepage. It's only after you uncheck those options (or fall prey to the trap by rapidly clicking "next") that the true program installer launches. Few users would consciously agree to install unknown junkware.

Developers commonly use this approach to drive revenue and freeware is often bundled with opt-outs. However, there's a difference between a developer injecting its own program with adware and a third-party file host using said program as a vehicle to serve its own adware. ExtremeTech notes that such actions likely violate the distribution terms of many programs, but Download.com has surely tweaked its terms of service to cover its backside.

We haven't seen an official comment by CNET yet, but Upload.com's FAQ simply says the proprietary installer will benefit users because it's an additional step toward providing "safe, secure and spyware-free" downloads. From our understanding, the wrapper exists on much of CNET's catalog and will be added to any newly uploaded or updated software. You'll know if a download contains the installer because its filename will begin with "cnet_".

Call it a shameless plug, but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that TechSpot offers a download section and we don't impregnate the files with any such nonsense. In fact, we'd sooner close the section than resort to such shenanigans, and that's straight from the boss man himself. Other download sites include Softpedia, MajorGeeks, FileHippo and FilesCrunch (a TechSpot-owned portal). Feel free to share your favorite alternatives in the comments.




User Comments: 30

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NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

So in short this is bad for the average person clicking next right? Or just bad in general...

Guest said:

I downloaded an antivirus software from Cnet very recently. I ran the "Trial" AV and it found malware from Cnet attached to my download. Adious CNET!

Felix

Sanibel, FL

RH00D RH00D said:

I hate when things like this are done. When I download VLC, I want *only* VLC. If I wanted 15 junk-bars on my browser, I'd go looking for them.

RandyN said:

This is why I've stopped using CNET for downloads.

TekGun TekGun said:

What a unpleasant website.

Breech said:

This is yet another reason why I appreciate TechSpot so much. Thank you guys for staying true to us PC folk.

R3DP3NGUIN R3DP3NGUIN said:

God I hate this new CNET download crap, I want a simple download no farking about.

supertech supertech said:

I attempted to download SpyBot today and as soon as I noticed this I was very disappointed as download.com has always pushed the fact that they were bloatware/spyware free.

I quickly went directly to safe-networking to download SpyBot and will stay clear of download.com from now on.

Mudvayne819 said:

http://virusscan.jotti.org/en just download anything you want as long its not too huge of a file and scan it with this use multi anti virus programs which is better then only one

aj_the_kidd said:

I will still use cnet but this is pretty disappointing, not the fact that i will have to uncheck the boxes every time, but the simple fact that they thought this would be OK, particularly when i thought this was something they were against.

Makes you wonder what other improvements they have planned in the future

WinXPert WinXPert said:

I still have softpedia as my first choice when downloading. I'll take a look at these bloatware later

Cota Cota said:

softpedia.com also does the same, recently i looked for Nod32 in spanish to change it from English and bam! had to use a back up to fix it, so so annoying and so so low for a company

Guest said:

"Call it a shameless plug, but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that TechSpot offers a download section and we don't impregnate the files with any such nonsense."

Hear hear!!!

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

We finally get a glimpse into the zaibatsu that is TechSpot and its shadowy network of shenanigan-free file hosting sites.

The 100% impregnation-free guarantee puts my mind at ease and gets rid of that "swimming in the high school pool alone at night when there is a killer on the loose" feeling.

Timonius Timonius said:

I try to download software from the original developers/authors website whenever possible. It seems to be the best 'guarantee' that you are actually getting only what you want and nothing more.

Jibberish18 said:

Funny but I downloaded something last week from download.com (I almost always use filehippo but this time I just googled the name of the program and the search engine came up with download.com). I look at my desktop and notice something funky. An installation file that will allow you to download what you originally meant to. I deleted it and went to filehippo like I should have originally.

Guest said:

I went to download something (CCLeaner mayber) the other day, the official page download link points to CNet/Download.com, I have no problem with this. When I ran the file it downloaded and saw it was some CNET downloader/installer I immediately closed and deleted it and found another source for actual proper installer.

I hate crap like this.

MarkHughes said:

I use Techspot or http://ninite.com/ for downloads, Ninite is well worth a look if you don't use it allready.

fpsgamerJR62 said:

I usually download from Majorgeeks, Techspot and, on occasion, Filehippo although download speeds at Filehippo are usually slower than the other two sites. I've known Download.com since the dial-up days and have downloaded quite a number of files from that site including one which had the new download wrapper. Quite a bit of hassle considering one has to uncheck the opt-out items, rename the file if necessary and that the wrapper doesn't give you a choice on where to save the downloaded file. To be fair, the site does say that availing of its free membership will allow users to download files without using the download wrapper although I have yet to try it out.

wardogz said:

RandyN said:

This is why I've stopped using CNET for downloads.

Same here, noticed it a couple of weeks back, I NEVER bother with anything that asks me to install 'downloading software' first.

Guest said:

Back in the day, I use to use download.com all the time. Now I try to go straight to the source which is much easier these days.

Guest said:

i'll never download from them again.

unforgivable

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I noticed that the other day when installing VLC for a friend. Just googled it - first hit was download.com. When I started install all this opt-out crap was coming up. I ditched that installer and went to find the real one.

Very unhappy with download.com. In the past when looking for software on google if I landed on download.com I knew I was getting good clean software. Not anymore.

DeliciousPie said:

Guest said:

"Call it a shameless plug, but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that TechSpot offers a download section and we don't impregnate the files with any such nonsense."

Hear hear!!!

+1 for Techspot.

tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

All free software has bloatware, you have to read before you click to download. Also too install too. They can stick adverts and links to other vendors to get your info so everyone can make extra money off of you. Shoot the USPS does this too when you go online to their site to do a change of address. So much vendors want to get a piece of your move process and the money you're going to spend on their extra services. So this is now how marketing is being pushed.

Cnet is looking to make extra money so why not bloat your system with bloatware..

Guest said:

I've stopped using CNET long time ago. Now officialy dropped it's class. Became like some other crappy DL sites: software informer, softonic, brothersoft etc

Well done. Still though, they gonna make a lot of money from this. They will loose a few well informed people but still... Dodgers.

Guest said:

FileHippo is fast and easy !!!

;)

Zilpha Zilpha said:

Cnet has been like this for a while. I downloaded a PDF converter - something seemingly innocuous, right? Keylogger - stole my gaming accounts.

Never again for me and Cnet.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Haven't downloaded from them in ages after getting some crapware on my system from them. Looks like I made the right call.

Gars Gars said:

Guest said:

FileHippo is fast and easy !!!

+1

the easiest way for the all free software

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