If you have been downloading programs from SourceForge in the last days, you may have noticed that some do not provide you with direct downloads of the programs anymore. Instead, you download something called SourceForge Installer which bundles the software with third party offers used for monetization.
This is in fact similar to how some download portals are offering downloads right now. Programs like FileZilla or Hotspot Shield have joined SourceForge's DevShare program which is currently in beta. It aims to offer a new funding option for Open Source projects.
While that is a legitimate cause, it at the same time puts the site into a shady corner of the Internet right next to other illustrious sites such as Download.com. The core difference here is that on SourceForge, software developers profit from the inclusion, while they do not profit at all from it on third party download sites.
There is no mentioning of the SourceForge Installer when you click on a file to download it to your system. You won't notice any difference if you are download versions for Linux or Mac, as they do not come with the installer included. So, no changes for those operating systems.
Windows users who click on the default download option will however receive the message on the download page that the "SourceForge Installer download will start". It is a small installer that bundles the program with the advertisement. A download wrapper of sorts which means that you do need an Internet connection when you run it.
The offer is displayed on the screen, and below that a gray decline button, a green accept button, and a link to a FAQ page on SourceForge that explains why the offer is displayed. According to that page, it is done exclusively for developers who may opt-in to make their projects sustainable.
Offers include trial of commercial software programs such as WinZip and the Ask Toolbar among other options.
Users may have two issues with the bundled installer.
- Only a small net installer is downloaded by default, which means that an Internet connection is required to complete the download. The installation won't proceed if you do not have an Internet connection.
- Some offers may install toolbars on the system or make modifications to the Internet browser's home page or search provider. This is usually not wanted by users.
How to bypass the SourceForge Installer
If you prefer to install the program without installer included, you can do so at least for some projects. Click on the browse all files link underneath the big green download link on the project's homepage on the SourceForge website.
You need to browse to the folder containing the last version of the application, which can be done with a couple of clicks.
Now, the main Windows download leads to the SourceForge Installer even though it is not displayed here. But there may be another download. For FileZilla, that is a zip download of the application that you can download as well.
I can definitely see the benefit of including an installer with third party offers, especially since the money (all of it?) goes right into the funding of the software projects. There needs to be a better option to download the real setup or program file right away though to provide users with the full download of the software as well.
While you may pay attention to all installers anyway, you should now do so even more for SourceForge downloads.