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Download.com wrapping downloads
174 points by forgotAgain on Aug 21, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 32 comments
Download.com is now wrapping downloads with their own installer.

I just tried a download of my product and I find it really sleazy the way they wrapped it. By default they install a toolbar, change the user's default search engine to Bing, and change the user's home page to MSN.

I wonder how Microsoft feels about being associated with such a sleazy activity which acts directly against the interests of developers.

They have a FAQ page here: http://cnet-upload.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2064

If you want to opt out they will "carefully consider your request on a case-by case basis" sent here cnet-installer@cbsinteractive.com

My guess: Microsoft was probably ecstatic about this. Until it becomes a PR headache (it's just about to start). At that point, Microsoft will probably condemn this as misleading and something they don't endorse. They'll probably cut them off from whatever referral program they are currently on.

I think the toolbar war is one of the most significant yet under reported stories involving the battle for search engine market share.

Where as Google has let third parties distribute their own toolbars and funnel the traffic back via paid search feeds, Microsoft has taken the approach to just changing the default search provider to Bing. When someone downloads an ugly toolbar, its Microsoft's brand that takes a hit, where as no one is associating IAC's toolbars with Google (even though Google is paying them somewhere around $1 billion a year, maybe 70% of that is from toolbars.)

I doubt Microsoft is ecstatic about this, partnerships with other major players such as conduit most likely blow download.com's measly traffic numbers out of the water. Heck I would expect conduit is sending more installs per day than download.com will send a month.

There'll be a backlash. Microsoft will kill the program and claim that "Microsoft relies on a number of 3rd parties for its marketing. In this case, the 3rd party acted without consulting Microsoft and as soon as Microsoft was made aware of the issue, they cancelled the program"

A claim that may actually be true in this case.

Sure, but as Mark Twain once said, one of the best ways to lie is to tell just part of the truth.

Things I'd like to know: When did they find out? Why didn't they detect this before the general public? Are they clawing back every dollar they ever paid this and all intermediate vendors? Will they sue for reputational damage and the penalties allowed under their affiliate program terms?

If they didn't know about this, they certainly should have expected it.

This really does seem like a violation. We develop enterprise help desk software and also offer it via Download.com and didn't receive a notification of this change.

It doesn't exactly look great on our software that a toolbar is installed alongside it -- especially for a professional business product.

Maybe you can answer this question. Why would any developer use download.com instead of just self-hosting on something like S3? I've always found "download sites" to be nothing but trouble and do everything I can to avoid them.

When I see someone's official site being at a place like that, it feels kind of like your office would be in your mom's basement and your business cards were chosen from a template at Kinko's.

Our product was placed there several years ago. It hasn't been obvious how to get it removed. We are actively trying to do so now.

It's not our official site but it was a one time a legitimate place to distribute software from. They just killed that of course.

S3 is really expensive bandwidth if you expect to serve up tens of thousands of downloads of any considerable size. Take the average game demo which these days is measured in hundreds of megabytes to gigabytes. If 1000 download that kind of file per day it starts adding up.

More importantly, how do you market your software? Many people go to download sites to browse what's available, so being listed is a form of advertising. If you don't expect a hefty bandwidth bill by offering it directly on your site, why not do both?

Sites like Download.com and Sourceforge.net will get you many more users, as these sites have a much broader user base. You can always decide to host the software yourself, and have a download functionality, however, you would be responsible to drive traffic yourself. Marketing a site can take a lot of effort, energy and maybe even money.

The upsell is here! They'll expose your direct download link to people who are registered. Who registers for download.com?!?!

And, if you pay them for the privilege of hosting your content with them, they'll let you opt out of it. This is how they try and make money.

Take your software down: its 2011, you can distribute yourself, cut out the middle man, and (unless you're getting 20000 downloads a day) still not pay very much for it.

> Who registers for download.com?!?!

I did. 10 years ago.

That's what I had experienced - the Babylon toolbar, another one in a long line of annoying crapware.

My girlfriend accidentally installed it when downloading a PDF printer or similar.

They have a search page that looks just like Google's (maybe to minimize the need to switch back).

I didn't get the Microsoft toolbar version, I guess the Babylon one was bad enough.

I used to like C-net, now it's definitely going downhill.

I wonder if you could bundle an uninstaller into your package - just for them. They install some adware, you uninstall it right after.

What if that was the whole app? There is a recursion joke in here somewhere...

I'm surprised this doesn't violate the license of many of the applications available on Download.com. Time to abandon ship?

Here's to hoping Apple and Microsoft's respective App Stores will help kill parasitic download sites (CNET and MacUpdate especially).

What is the problem of macupdate?

They used to:

    * list alpha/beta software as new releases, even without the dev's consent
    * re-list software as updated, even when no updates have occurred
    * the owner has on several occasions rewritten various app descriptions
    * re-wrote and misspelled one of my company names and ignored requests to change it 
    * ban any form of in-app mature content based on "religious principles" IIRC
    * refused to list one of my apps because the owner didn't see the "utility" in in it, 
    even though Apple and VersionTracker both happily hosted 500K D/Ls..
That comes from the corrospondence I've had with the owner over the years. He's generally been a giant asshole and we finally quit updating to them several years ago.

It's always possible things have changed.

edit: format

It's called "OpenInstall", see openinstall.com - after looking up the domain owner, old owners, servers and registration of the company as well as multiple addresses, I found it is the same company responsible for this: https://plus.google.com/109412257237874861202/posts/FXL1y8qG...

"Viveli" or "GameTheory" are the company names, see comments on Cutts page. According to the posting, they even lost ties to their former toolbar partners Zugo.com because Bing.com shut them down for forced installs (like on Bright.com or on CNET).

http://www.openinstall.com/aboutus.html - seems like most of them are former founders of "FreeCause", a toolbar company that hides installs under the false impression of charitable donations.

The person behind it is Eduardo Vivas, who just opened up his new startup Bright.com, which is Co-Reg scam, if you look at the getsatisfaction.com support requests this becomes very clear. Sign up people, send them to education affiliate offers, cold call them from a call-center and have them download a toolbar to get access to job postings.


I can see in the plus article that you usually do pretty thorough research, but this time you're wrong. OpenInstall didn't do the CNET deal. Try checking out installcore.com

I have the openinstall toolbar path install wizard, linked to a bunch of silent installers and originally found on download.com and a couple other smaller "game" sites, in our malware database. The database is collected by a robot that scans the net for such "non typical" installers. Maybe CBS changed it or was just trying them out. Either way, they are scammers.

Public entries are available:




Concerning are the MC alerts:




The external reference links to avast, bitdefender, etc. are all broken and "OpenInstall" can't be found in their databases. I assume openinstall payed them off to remove the entries.

(1) I really appreciate this post & discussion. It has been clear for a long time that lots of website owners pay little or no attention to the experiences customers have with fulfillment providers (and Download.com is fulfillment, in the larger sense). It's time to hold people accountable for this kind of thing.

(2) Microsoft has been associated with sleazy stuff for years. I'm thinking of the installation of all kinds of nonsense software when you buy "Microsoft Windows" pre-installed. I doubt this issue is the kind of thing they consider a problem. Sad, but true.

I believe horrible pre-installed software is the responsibility of the hardware manufacturers. If it were Microsoft doing it, they'd also do it for purchased copies.

It's entirely a hardware manufacturer thing, just as Android "customizations" are a hardware/carrier thing. Microsoft doesn't make an extra dime when HP/Dell/Asus/etc. bundles that crap. In fact that stuff probably hurts MS significantly. Lack of system-slowing crap is a big benefit for Apple.

Microsoft never made money of those value-added things. The trouble is that PC hardware is such a low margin business that the companies can double their income by putting that crap on.

Is this even legal? Did you give them permission to distribute your software?

I cant find this issue with any of the software the company I work for sells via download.com, it looks like people who pay CNET millions of dollars per year are not affected.

For once I'd like to see a little more honesty... you know: "we did it for the money" rather than "we did it for the users". Liars.


2. Why is CNET Download.com making this change?

The same reason you have your applications on Download.com – for the users. The CNET Download.com Installer ensures a safe and improved download experience by making it easier for Download.com users to complete downloads and launch the software’s installer.


Assuming you have a piece of software which is supported by bundled toolbar installation, does this mean that Download.com effectively steals your slice of the pie?

(not that I advocate toolbar bundling, but it is one way that some apps make money)

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