Why the Top 3 Software Download Sites Now SUCK!

Nothing related to internet marketing – I can tell you that! Also, it is just a rant, okay? :D

So, all I wanted is: to INSTANTLY turn a 2D image into 3D. This can be done with Photoshop™ too but I did not want to go through all the long and complicated process. I just wanted a ‘point-and-click’ solution. I did not have much time in my hands. The purpose of this article is to warn you against stuff that could get added into your browsers if you don’t keep your eyes open all the times – and I mean that in a figurative sense! ;)

Cnet, Softonic, and Tucows: tree of the top download sites (might I as well add "authority") that a regular, non-techy user would usually visit to download his favorite software. I have never tried Softonic before but CNET and Tucows used to be good (if I remember correctly) until the great recession hit the US (and gradually, even the world) economy hard enough to make them change their policies.  

Introducing: TOOLBARS!

The one thing that is common to all these 3 sites is that: none of them would directly give you the actual installer that would install the software on your system. Instead, all you would get is an "installer-within-an-installer"; in other words, a ‘proprietary’ installer that would install cr*pware and bloatware on your system.

Cnet received some flak after they made this big change and as a result, it now adds a "direct download link" to the softwares hosted on their system – so that users can have the option to choose between downloading the CNET installer and the actual software installer. However, as you can see, the "direct download link" is like a small print (underneath a big download button) that is easy to miss, and that these types of sneaky things can happen even when you are downloading softwares that are not totally free (that is, free trial versions of sharewares):

Click on the image for a larger screenshot


Click on the image for a larger screenshot

Some Cnet users usually end up badmouthing the product creator for adding adware on their system, little knowing that this is actually CNET’s doing! Of course, you can argue that the developer could have opted-out of the program; however, as a software author (well, truth to be told, ‘branded’ plr softwares – I am not a programmer, lol) with two separate accounts on CNET, I can tell you that I received NO notification when CNET made this big change! It was not until I logged into my accounts much later that I realized what they had done to my stuff! I immediately opted out of the CNET program from both of my accounts; however, as of now, while the proprietary installer has been instantly removed from one account, the process is still pending for the other one! I have no idea why!

Back to the original issue. This particular software only had a direct download link. Good for me!

On a whim, I decided to download the same software from the other two sites too, to see what they are up to (Tucows used to be my favorite, until my present experience).


My experience with Tucows was the worst! Here is the first screen of the installer of the Free 3D Photo Maker software that I was trying to install:

Click on the image for a larger screenshot

On the next screen, as you can see, the default settings would install AVG toolbar and also set my browser homepage to the AVG’s website. Not a big deal for you? Fine, go ahead and install all that extra cr*p. For me, it WAS a big deal because I don’t give a sh*t about AVG:

Click on the image for a larger screenshot

But…oh, what is this? Did not I opt out of installing the AVG extras? Why is then the AVG toolbar downloading in spite of that?

Click on the image for a larger screenshot

Is the "opt-out" option a joke then? Needless to say, I immediately headed for the "exit" button!

My Softonic experience:

Softonic is a bit better, as of this writing. While it too has its own version of ‘proprietary installer’, its opt-out program is not a joke like that of Tucows. Here is the first screen of the installation of the same software, downloaded from Softonic:

Click on the image for a larger screenshot

Funny. If I needed Adobe Flash at all would not I just browse to the official site of Adobe and download it from there? Also, what has an image editing software got to do with Adobe™ Flash player? I decided to opt out!

Here is the second screen of the installer:

Click on the image for a larger screenshot

WTF is this? I have never heard of this site before. OPT OUT…again! I hope these guys get a bit more creative with their ads ha ha!

Here is the third screen of the installer. A bit more stealth than the previous one IMO, but as you can see, you can always OPT OUT!

Click on the image for a larger screenshot

Once you got rid of these roadblocks, only then does your actual software download begin!

Click on the image for a larger screenshot

Anyway, I selected to exit from the installer, upon which it popped out this message:

Click on the image for a larger screenshot

I selected the 3rd option, though I don’t think my feedback would really ‘affect’ them in any way.

So, why do these download sites do things such as this that would only serve to hurt their online reputation (IF they care, that is)? If you accept their argument, they would say that their smaller installer is much easier to download without any break, compared to the original installer, whose file size is much bigger. In other words, they are doing it only for dial-up users??!! Hello, how many dial-up users are still there in US in 2011 anyway? But let us just accept their logic, in which case, should not they have provided two types of downloads: one for the dial-up users and other for the broadband users?

Now in reality, they do this to make money by installing garbage on your system. Most of these toolbar makers pay them on a "per-install" basis. These toolbars come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but almost all of them infect your system with sh*tty adware, malware and what not! Eek, even thinking of stuff like that makes me throw up! I too used to be a fool and unwittingly ended up installing the Babylon toolbar once due to being careless about a CNET installer and God, I had to use Revo uninstaller to get rid of that crap completely! Luckily I was using a portable version of Firefox so that toolbar could not do much harm!

Next time you download something from these sites, don’t be too surprised if a toolbar you know nothing about/don’t need ends up being added in your favorite browser! In a very old article I discussed how toolbars can be major ram-hogging demons! Often, these toolbars also intrude upon your privacy (another reason why I hate them) by sending reports about your internet browsing habits back to the toolbar creator, so that s/he could use that information to create more ‘personalized’ ads.

Lesson for you: the next time you install a software, ALWAYS choose the option of CUSTOM installation (of course, it would not do you much good if you don’t know whether it is OK to opt out of something; usually, the answer is YES), and pay very CLOSE attention to EACH and EVERY step you go through during the entire installation process!

I used to recommend CNET and Tucows to my friends, but now I am not so sure! If you had even an iota of doubt about whether the economy is still reeling under recession or not, let these big software download sites offer you the much-needed ‘proof’ (kidding)! :P

Is there still any download site which has managed to stay "clean" in this age of recession? and come to mind. Someone else recommended but I have not tried it yet. Any other good download sites you know of? Would you mind sharing your feedback in the comments section? Thanks for reading and getting bored. :D


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  2. Suzanne Morrison

    I feel your pain Arindam :-(

    This happened to me recently when I installed something, but I didn’t notice the toolbar and it installed anyway.

    Uninstalling the toolbar was easy enough, but it left behind all sorts of horrible things, setting itself as my favorite search engine and as my home page and various other things.I then had to search for hours to find the right steps to get rid of all of it! Grrrr.

  3. Glenn

    Thanks Arindam, great post. I’ve torn my hair out trying to get rid of the crap from these installers. Also thanks for the “safe sites”.

  4. Forest

    That is really crappy, I expect more of big names like these. I’m on a mac so luckily thee toolbars are never for my OS. Well most of the time….