Beware! FileHippo tests adware distributing download manager

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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

filehippo download manager

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.

filehippo download manager-start

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.

filehippo adware

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.

download-and-ad

The software is then downloaded and another ad is shown on the screen.

download-complete

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.

Criticism

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.

Closing Words

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)

Now Read: Download full programs from Softonic, Cnet and other software repositories

Summary
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Beware! FileHippo tests adware distributing download manager
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The software portal FileHippo is currently testing a custom download manager that is offering adware to users. Find out how to bypass that.
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Responses to Beware! FileHippo tests adware distributing download manager

  1. Niks July 8, 2014 at 12:28 am #

    " FileHippoe " typo and "W" in 3rd line is not linked .

  2. intelligencia July 8, 2014 at 12:35 am #

    Mr. Brinkmann.

    I just hope they don't mess with the wonderful Softpedia.com website!
    I feel very good when I go there to get software. I know I will get what I want . . . and NOTHING else.
    ("Clean" software download sites are becoming increasingly harder to find)

    i

    • Manny July 8, 2014 at 3:07 am #

      Finally found a clean Ccleaner download on Softpedia!

  3. Chronnick July 8, 2014 at 12:39 am #

    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    THIS IS WHY YOU NEED TO DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE FROM THE SOURCE ALL THE TIME, EVERY TIME!

    NO EXCUSES! IF YOU'RE LAZY AND WANT TO SAVE TIME THIS IS WHAT YOU GET!

    • Christoph July 8, 2014 at 10:03 am #

      So many sites do not host their own software anymore but link to CNet, Filehippo, etc

      • Chronnick July 8, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

        Well then maybe it's time to find some alternate software?

    • Zsolt July 13, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

      Writing in capitals doesn't make your comment less invalid.

  4. michaelpaul July 8, 2014 at 12:40 am #

    Softpedia.com ONLY
    THE LAST SURVIVOR,ONLY SITE I WILL DOWNLOAD FROM
    AND HAS BEEN FOR YEARS ,JUST HOPE THEY
    CAN KEEP IT TOGETHER

    • Chronnick July 8, 2014 at 12:58 am #

      They won't, start downloading your code from the source

    • Ron July 8, 2014 at 3:57 am #

      majorgeeks.com is still clean.

  5. jamieg July 8, 2014 at 12:52 am #

    Services aren't free. Free doesn't pay the bills.

    • Niks July 8, 2014 at 12:55 am #

      They have ads on their website .

    • michaelpaul July 8, 2014 at 1:18 am #

      Services arent free,Then they should charge a fee instead
      of sneaking in back door sht ...simple as that

    • EM July 8, 2014 at 1:51 am #

      But sneaking things in underhandedly, particularly targeting inexperienced users who don't know better than to accept every program that tries to install itself, isn't exactly ethical.

      I had such an experience with CNet - wasn't quite careful enough and fell for downloading the "download manager", particularly as I wasn't logged into the site. However, I definitely did not give any permission to install any additional program during the install process, as that is something I'm careful about. A short time later, I suddenly got panic-mongering popups that my computer wasn't backed up!!!! (it was, of course), and to "click here" to fix that, leading me to a paid backup software I'd never heard of. It took me a while to get rid of it, as it didn't show up where one would have expected it and didn't have an uninstaller. Once I had verified that I'd caught it from CNet, I looked at their forum, and a number of other, reasonable-sounding people also reported programs installing themselves unannounced without any opt-in or opt-out opportunities.

      I'm quite certain that inexperienced computer users with no self-help skills would have been stuck with that scareware or even would have paid. If a formerly reputable site chooses to smuggle such things in with legitimate downloads, I'm not going to use or recommend it again, and that goes for all of them.

      • jack williamson July 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

        As the propensity of dl sites and even useage on direct dl vendor sites seem to be aproaching a universal commonality, i fear that newbs are going to either have to learn to deal with these predatory practises, or pack thier gear and head for home. i once advised newbs with detailed instructions, now i just tell'em how to google and use wikipedia. and that there are lots of insructional vids on youtube. by the time they're ready to use more advanced information (from sites such as yours) they've already goe itt a little experiance under thier belts. i have to do some things for myself, so i limit myself to 'bout 10% of my online time to instructing newbs. Face it, nobody is born knowing this crap.
        And props to site managerand crew
        !

    • Doc July 8, 2014 at 5:37 am #

      No, but serving ads directly on their pages *does.*

    • anon July 8, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

      Then stop the service instead of doing shady sh** like this.

    • Trebuchette July 12, 2014 at 5:23 am #

      And that's why I use file-sharing instead of those adware crap "services".

  6. Ken Saunders July 8, 2014 at 1:35 am #

    This sucks!

    What happened to your plans or idea to get your own site going?

  7. Boris July 8, 2014 at 1:42 am #

    Actually I do not see adware downloads yet on FileHippo. I personally prefer FileForum at Betanews. It has always been clean.

  8. Michael Odin July 8, 2014 at 1:58 am #

    Never used filehippo or any other download sites, only connect directly to the source developers' web site. If they want to mess me around with Ask toolbar and similar tripe, that's a price I'm not willing to pay. Ironically I would be willing to click a PayPal donate link for the developer, but only on their web site.

  9. dwarf_tossn July 8, 2014 at 2:47 am #

    Any time I see any "download manager" (like CNET tends to have) I just move on to the next hit in the google search. There's no software I want that badly, heh.

    • Dwight Stegall July 8, 2014 at 7:40 am #

      If you have a Cnet account you can disable the download manager in the account manager.

      • insanelyapple July 8, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

        It shouldn't work that way, this should be opt-in not opt-out.

  10. Littlebits July 8, 2014 at 3:36 am #

    I just went to the same TeamViewer link on FileHippo and I don't see any download manager, I also check several other files and no download manager. I would like to know how Ghacks got these images and from where did they get this source.

  11. jonas July 8, 2014 at 4:03 am #

    downloadcrew.com has no such methods of downloading files

  12. Marco July 8, 2014 at 4:28 am #

    Softpedia & MajorGeeks , for real tech guys.

  13. Ron July 8, 2014 at 4:31 am #

    "If you look at the second screenshot, you see that the software name is listed on the page the adware is offered on as well."

    Martin, I think you meant the third screenshot.

  14. Megaman July 8, 2014 at 4:34 am #

    Heck yes!
    I want Yahoo!, babay!
    Installing this when it arrives.
    If I didn't want it, I can always click the "direct" installation.
    Tired of Chrome or Ask Toolbar, and other stuff that is not my desire, but eh.

  15. Oxa July 8, 2014 at 5:39 am #

    Aargh!! FileHippo was one of my last hopes for spam-free downloading. And it has all those earlier versions of software. Major Geeks is still OK, isn't it?

    Thanks for the heads up!

  16. Dwight Stegall July 8, 2014 at 7:38 am #

    I use FileHippo's update manager to tell me when my software needs updating. But I go to the author's site to downlad them.

  17. Tom Hawack July 8, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    Be it Filehippo as other software download sites who still believe that seduction when not rape is the ultimate in communication efficiency, when this practice is spotted (and thanks here for spotting it, or a possible trend), I still visit the pages for software update information then search for the link to the application's homepage to download it from there.

    Was a time when the advice was to beware of hazardous sites for downloading software, with the incentive to call upon reliable well-know software portals. It seems we're leading one step further nowadays as even those trusted portals become -- for some of them, not all at this time -- unreliable.

    When will advertizement, communication as a whole, understand that efficiency is in persuasion, never within rape ?

  18. anohana July 8, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    I love filehippo, I use the update manager too. It's so sad, they're going this way. However, everything is normal for me, there is no download manager for me.

    But I think I should start to find a similar site...

    Thanks for the news!

  19. Bill July 8, 2014 at 10:46 am #

    Sad but true :(

  20. BBB July 8, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    I Find wrappers and Launchers in the same category of useless software only intended to harass users with more adss and I still have to see the first launcher that really adds something usefull.
    There are some kind of pre-launcher, that only check for updates and then send you through to what you want to do.
    All other launchers and wrappers I try to avoid.
    including the sites and companies that use them.

  21. batman July 8, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    This is all due to everyone expecting everything on the internet to be free.

    • Martin Brinkmann July 8, 2014 at 11:35 am #

      And whose fault is that?

    • Tom Hawack July 8, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

      We like free stuff but anger and revolt is not the lot of a cost but of tricky procedures. I think people want honesty, fair & square (commercial) attitudes : if it's free don't find a work-around to hide business, if it's business then say so : no shame to sell work, it's even the basis of humanity, right after religions (and sometimes even before!), but let there be fair attitudes. People don't want to discover hidden aims. I'd dare say an analogy with women: be frank, still not with that exaggeration which in turn hides lack of respect for the effort of being imaginative and kind, but be honest :)

    • anon July 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

      Nice red herring.

  22. kktkkr July 8, 2014 at 11:36 am #

    I first became aware of the dangers of trusting Filehippo and similar sites when my overzealous antivirus caught one of the downloads as a false positive. Just think about it - they easily have the power to sneak in something bad in the download without even telling you, if they wanted to. I'm one of those internet users who clicks first and thinks later, and it scares me.

    Nowadays it's not such a big risk because I tend to read changelogs first before downloading, and Filehippo has gotten more sloppy with the changelogs, driving me to the developer's site to read them, and downloading from the source in the process. The big draw of Filehippo for me is still being able to navigate a simple site design and get all the updates from a single RSS feed, as well as occasionally finding out about new software (helpfully marked as freeware, shareware, commercial etc.)

    However, many people do use it to look for beta versions and old versions of software, and it is this part that gets problematic! There are legitimate reasons to look for software that no longer appears on the developer's site, and there are other sites out there that archive old versions of software, but when packaging adware becomes the norm for download portals which have high search rankings it makes the task more difficult.

  23. Lucky Limat July 8, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    Its bad news. i have been using file hippo for long time

  24. Karthy July 8, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    You might want to update the generic information link to English version from German( http://www.filehippo.com/filehippo_download_manager ).

  25. scylla July 8, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

    Coincidentally I'm in the process of compilng a list of trusted download sites for an "innocent" friend and FileHippo is/was on it. I'm upset for myself too, I use FH to obtain archived versions of software that works how I want it to rather than how the developers think I should want it to.

    Thanks to those above who have recommended download sites that are still to be trusted.

  26. Herman Sherman July 9, 2014 at 3:17 am #

    Haven't seen Snapfiles.com mentioned yet. They're good. Try it.

  27. b003 July 9, 2014 at 3:56 am #

    Yeah, I like Snapfiles also. Too bad about hippo though. I remember when I had win 3.1 or 95 and it had Tucows and Jumbo software links on it. Good old days.

  28. Armond July 9, 2014 at 8:23 am #

    Hi,
    Like some other are saying, I also don't see a download manager when downloading something on FileHippo.com. Example:
    Download Firefox 31.0 Beta 8 - FileHippo.com
    http://filehippo.com/download_firefox
    When clicking on the link that says "download manager enabled" it just downloads Firefox 31 beta 8 full offline installer. So maybe FileHippo shows the download manager in some European countries, not to the users in USA?
    Just a thought.

  29. craig July 9, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    Although filehippo is a top site, there are many others there to take its place such as filehorse or http://orbitaldownloads.com and tons of others with all the same programs.

  30. marius t July 9, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    If Filehippo does that,I will change to Filehorse,it's like the old Filehippo site,only better,it lists only the most recent stable software,not having to dig trough all that beta software like on Filehippo is awesome!

  31. john July 11, 2014 at 7:31 am #

    Here is new growing site which is clean, very simple and free from annoying things. It provides direct downloading links must check this out you will be happy to visit this website like me...!
    http://www.filetoss.com

  32. Mike July 21, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    Another good alternative is FossHub: http://www.fosshub.com

    Works like a charm and they have a single ad compared with the other websites.

  33. Kenes V Thomas August 16, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    Last thing we needed was filehippo selling their customers... :(

  34. scylla August 16, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    I thought I'd already posted this but it seems not.

    CNET.com/DOWNLOAD.com - if you sign up with them you can set your preferences to exclude the downloader - it works for me. In fact, I had stopped downloading from CNet when the downloader was first introduced, but later I noticed that I was offered a direct download link underneath the main download link... and later still I noticed the preferences option.

  35. Jonah August 25, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

    People ..............

    If you are on this site in the first place then you are by definition a power user unlikely to be caught out by a rookie error of allowing download manager and adware into your machines. Like me you go elsewhere, go to the source, find betas, ftp directories - all sorts of tricks to avoid download manager.

    OTOH you make money out of cleaning crudware out of machines for less tech savvy owners (and if you don't you should it's money for old rope) File Hippo, Cnet etc are doing us all a favour.

    So yer know ............ File Hippo make more cash = I make more cash .........ta very much!

    Jonah

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