Distributing adware to computer users is a lucrative business. It is that lucrative that software companies as well as download portals have started to integrate services such as Open Candy into their installers to earn extra money.
When Cnet's Download.com started to offer custom download managers with adware offers, it was heavily criticized for it by part of the Internet community.
It did only make the download manager available first but added a direct download link to software profile pages on its site later on.
I have just received word that FileHippo, a website recommended by quite a few users as one of the remaining "clean" websites, has added a custom download manager to its site which -- who would have guessed that -- includes adware offers as well.
Update: Generic information about the use of a download wrapper are available here on FileHippo.
It is either a test or a roll out of the feature to users. I could not replicate this yet on the site as all downloads offered on FileHippo were served directly and without download manager.
If the download manager is enabled for you, you see "download manager enabled" listed in the green download box. There is a "direct download" link option underneath as well.
Screenshot step by step
When you click on the green download button, and it is likely that most users will as they are used to do so on the site and because it is highlighted while the direct download link is not, you are downloading a small file to the system only.
When you run that file, you see the following screen.
Note that it lists the file that you want to download, and that you need an Internet connection to do so. If you click on next, you come to the adware offer.
In this case it is offering the following:
- Make Yahoo! the default search engine.
- Make Yahoo! the new default homepage.
- Make Speedial the new tab page.
You can skip the offer with a click on skip all.
The software is then downloaded and another ad is shown on the screen.
The fourth and final page displays options to install the downloaded program right away or at a later point in time.
The download manager works exactly like others on sites such as Cnet's Download website.
There are two main areas of criticism.
- Companies: Their programs may be associated with adware, with programs that install toolbars or modify various browser settings. If you look at the third screenshot, you see that the software name is listed on the page the adware is offered on as well.
- Users: Users gain nothing and lose a lot. Instead of downloading the full program right away, they have to click through an installer that requires Internet access, slows down things, and does not offer anything of value to them.
The scope of implementation on the FileHippo website is not clear. It is not clear right now if the company is running a test on the site to see how users react to the download manager, or if it is slowly being rolled out to all users or users of specific regions and countries.
While it seems possible to click on the direct download link to bypass the download manager, it is likely that most users won't notice that option.
What's your take on this? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. (thanks Niks for the tip)