The Perfect Software Download Portal

Martin Brinkmann
May 9, 2012
Updated • Dec 22, 2012

When I'm thinking of download portals, I'm usually thinking of big sites like Softpedia or Major Geeks, that host millions of applications and other computer related downloads on their servers. There are specialized portals, smaller in size, like Betanews for instance, or the excellent Freeware BB.

I'm currently considering creating a software portal of my own, as I feel that many portals have gone a way that I do not like a lot as a user. Besides wrapping downloads into installers to make an extra buck, some software portals have also started plastering their pages with ads, and forcing the user to click through to the download page multiple times, to artificially increase page views and ad impressions.

I'm not a fan of these practices, and think that a clean portal could carve out a niche for itself quite easily.

Since I'm just getting started, I would like to use this ask the reader post to ask you what you would like to see in a download portal. While I can't guarantee you that I will create the download portal after all, or manage to please all of you and your demands, I'm determined to make this the perfect software download portal when I make the decision to go ahead with it.

Here are requirements and features that I have thought of so far:

  • Only free software, at least in the beginning, each program with extensive reviews and tests. This means that the portal won't list software that has not been tested. While this improves the quality by a lot, it also means that it won't cover as much software as the other portals out there.
  • Virus check, all software will be checked extensively with multiple scanners before it is uploaded and served.
  • Links to developer site placed prominently on page
  • Lite advertisement, placed discreetly on site, no popups, no download wrappers, no doorway pages, or having to load five pages before a file can be downloaded. The main goal with the advertisement is to cover the running costs, which is hosting and bandwidth, as well as site administration and management (reviews and such).
  • User interaction. I would like to see comments and a rating system at the very least.
  • Clean design, easy to navigate. Make it easy for the user to find software.

Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments. Feel free to post suggestions, comments, or criticism. If you think this is a terrible idea, let me know why, I'd love to know.


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  1. Rahul said on November 12, 2012 at 4:23 am

    How to get website’s source code ?

  2. marko said on June 18, 2012 at 1:58 am

    Hey Martin, it’s marko from over at FreewareBB – would just like to say thanks a million for the mention and it’s a great compliment to be considered “excellent” from you guys :)
    All the best

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 18, 2012 at 8:05 am

      My pleasure Marco ;)

  3. Flick said on May 14, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Great idea! :) I really trust the recommendations by Martin and would love to see a download site, especially as nowadays, apart from the developer’s own site and say Cnet and sourceforge, sometimes its hard to tell if another site is valid (oh and FileHippo)

    I quite like the format used by ‘alternativeto’ where alternatives are shown below the one in mind (a tag system) although I find it is not always clear how popular or well-liked an alternative program really is until you click through to it.

    So a tag system (maybe user-suggestible tags) would be really useful, although as others have pointed out, though I love reading reviews before downloading (and checking user rating: perhaps each rating should have a mini review) it can be open for manipulation by spammers so I guess Martin (and his team :P) will have to think of a way to get round this without causing too much work for themselves.

    Others have mentioned version numbers; its always nice to know which version a review to refers to (an optional dropdown as not everyone knows or has the time to list it) in case something is already fixed.

    Thanks :)

  4. Wired Buddha said on May 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Take a look at FileHippo.
    This is my “go-to” site for software.

    1. SubgeniusD said on May 12, 2012 at 8:03 pm

      Cool handle Wired Buddha but b4 commenting why not read previous comments. Filehippo has already been mentioned numerous times.

  5. X said on May 12, 2012 at 4:43 am

    No offence, but before putting any effort into a new venture, why don’t you try first to ameliorate this site?
    Like putting a bloody date right after the article’s title? Or after, ask your readers :-)
    Thank you.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 12, 2012 at 9:17 am

      The date is in the address, and further down.

  6. Tom said on May 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Good idea in general. If the search engine optimizations are as good as for, it doesn’t mean how many sites already out there. A few more recommended features :
    – Indicate that the free program has (or at least once had at in the version available at the review time) bundles (wonder that *you* Martin forgot about this :)
    – As it’s been said above, multi language interface, at least for the site structure, categories, short descriptions, links etc… This would be a huge boost as there’s a lot of people surfing the net from monolingual countries (Russia, China, France, Spain etc…) Those visitors are often download from links given by their localized search engine thus they end up in their own localized download sites. You can use/set up automatized translating systems to make your site’s contents translateable for the community.
    Maybe I can think about more features if you decide to make it.

  7. diyfan said on May 10, 2012 at 5:28 am

    I don’t think that there would be some perfect download portal if you faces million users, and there are already too many huge download sites nowadays.

    Maybe Martin you should do some online survey or vote to target the group and then some business analysis should be done

  8. acr said on May 10, 2012 at 2:04 am

    I kinda like the way filehippo handles things as they have links to older versions as well as the most recent release. What filehippo lacks is an area for up to date, multiple screenshots. Not to sound trivial but maybe a “like” and “dislike” (non tracking) button would be nice and a comments section for short user reviews. I am sure that many sites have their user review sites are manipulated by spammers so there would need to be some qualifications in place in order to leave a like/dislike/review. I understand that some freeware include toolbars, which is understandable to a degree. But I would hope that a new download portal had little toleration for software companies that abused users with spam or toolbars that installed despite the user requesting to opt out. I would also hope that certain companies that have questionable spyware/adware/ethical ties not be allowed for download – such as Iobit, etc.

    A clean site with objective reviews, up to date screenshots, links for older releases, no spam, ads or bogus “promos” would be a welcome addition to the internet. I would not be against there being legit promos (ie. longer trial periods for payware or giveaways for up to date software) or even links to payware that is being put on sale. I would just like there to be a download portal site that is believable. Cnet and downloadcrew are far from that. But some hybrid of filehippo, majorgeeks and softpedia would be good.

  9. otojunk said on May 10, 2012 at 1:48 am

    I like many of the ideas posted above –

    …A forum for discussions and problems solving;

    …Voting for applications (Numerically, 1 – 5, or, “Like” – “Dislike” buttons with running counts);

    …Show the number of downloads;

    …Comments by users, users to have user name (duh!) and passwords so flaming can be restricted;

    …If a Captcha Box is used, please please make it easily readable;

    Other ideas –

    …Be sure to show the revision, the date added, and a link to the developer’s website;

    …Have the landing page contain the new program(s) being listed/reviewed, then, after some period of time (a day? a week?) move them to categorized pages;

    …At the bottom of the landing page, have links to similar programs hosted by Ghacks (maybe with the voting results?);

    …Have separate landing and categorized pages for desktop/laptop apps and internet phones, pads, readers, etc.;

    …Keep the pages uncluttered. Personally, I feel that the present Ghacks landing page is way too cluttered — but I drop by everyday :>) ;

    …Have a link (not advertising!) to a site that would help pay the bills. For example, “What’s on my PC” has an unobtrusive link to the Amazon Gold Box of the Day (I check it out every day);

    …I think you mentioned listing only freeware. However, if you were to occasionally have a commercial program to give away, make it available to all readers. NO CONTESTS. NO FACEBOOK. NO TWITTER.

    …And, of course, a daily update by newsletter.

    Go for it! and thanks for the website you have now!

  10. getzi said on May 9, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    I would like to see something that combines Gizmo’s Freeware with Alternative To is fiiling a big gap. What I don’t like at Softpedia is that you cannot search either by GPL or Freeware.

  11. Toto said on May 9, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    Hi Martin,
    That’s a nice thought of you. I’m trying to put my two cents into this, and will be happy to bring my help to the project.
    To my opinion there is a lot of download portal out there which are from complete crap to very good, so if the little extra that you might have would be to back your portal by the ghacks blog, which means high quality standards, and definitely leave the idea of having exhaustive portal even on niche application.

    In term of function I would like to have:

    _ Strict submission process, to be sure that no develloper will be able to artificially increase polling rating on any specific application.

    _ Maintain together a file repository together with links to developper website. If the portal targets primarly free software, we should encourage people to visit develloper website. But it’s also a safety if the developper goes unknown.

    _ Have robust and nice categories. Maybe combine different systems so we can have so service like alternativeto (which is quite useful).

    _ plus some participating features. I like the user list to be shared.

    _ I would definitely enjoy a list of php scripts that you can use on shared hosting or vps etc…

    Let us know what are your plan.

  12. doe said on May 9, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    I use softpedia, majorgeeks, frewarefiles and snapfiles…I would love to see the type site you have indicated to be developed…softpedia, in particular, seems to have more demos and trials…and sorting through their daily offerings can be a real paiin…

    God luck on your venture!

  13. jasray said on May 9, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Forgot to mention AllMyApps which I like; however, the updates need to be installed individually and many times they install with all of the adware and toolbars.

  14. jasray said on May 9, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    I glanced through the offerings, and now I remember a site named Radar Sync. When it first came out, I could package all the apps it had, e-mail the techs and they would add an app, and I would have my own Ninite service. The programs were always updated on their server, so all I had to do was download my entire package. I checked the page just now, but I don’t know if it’s free anymore.

    A biggie for me is provide the number of downloads, but not just downloads–the number of days the user who downloaded kept and used the app. I find many programs on CNET that have been downloaded millions of times only to find comments listed that say, “Do NOT download.”

  15. MeHere said on May 9, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    I use and a lot. Subscribe the rss and download what interests me.
    One more is always good for competition.

  16. Steve said on May 9, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Some free software is not redistributable (like RMPrepUSB). You can always give a link to the download page on the original site.
    Would you also have a Captcha box (if so please make it an easily readable one – I can never read those things!)

  17. Alex said on May 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Maybe a specialized subsection of apps. For example, as a Tech Support agent, I tend to use certain applications in my everyday work, so we could create a special group of applications for certain tasks. Tech Support apps, Graphics apps, Data Base Admin apps, Hacking apps (maybe?), Gamer apps (Fraps, Game Booster apps, Team Speak), Server Administration apps, etc.

    Voting for applications and small reviews would be cool too. For this reviews, having our own user name and passwords would be nice, to leave our own reviews.

  18. lucia said on May 9, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Malavida’s design is pretty.

  19. Roman ShaRP said on May 9, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    ) Good categorization/classification. CNET or Snapfiles Freeware are among the best on this, I think.

    ) Screenshots.

    ) Not to mention great Ghacks and partner sites like Freewaregenius reviews :), tt could link somehow mentioned above Gizmo freeware reviews with “Top five” in the category, also it could have links to for those looking for alternative to some program.

    ) A forum for discussions and problems solving :) Also a place for software stories to be told. :)

    ) Polls/votings for user interaction and engaging (“What video editor do you use?”)

    ) “Approve votings”/polls: sometimes is hard to decide on if new version is worth upgrading or it has more issues than benefits.

    ) “Crowdsoursing”: a gear for users to participate, coin in proposals for reviewing and vote for them :)

    ) Ability to build list of software user “likes”, personal software profile user can share or access to get software he/she is used to.

    ) Freeware games section. Why not? :)

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 9, 2012 at 4:35 pm

      I like the idea of maintaining a list of free software that you are using, or would recommend. Lots of great stuff suggested here actually, especially the partner site bit. Would be cool if some of us would band together to create it.

  20. Miki Sever said on May 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Hello Martin,

    Your intentions are blessed.
    My opinion is that when you build the site a possibility to charge for certain software is needed.
    (I mean small ampunts).

    In addition,
    I would love to build a miror site in Hebrew and a site in Arabic for the Israelies and Arabic publics. This requires your permission.
    I would love to heare your reaction.

    Miki Sever

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 9, 2012 at 4:36 pm

      Miki, I would not have a problem with it, even thought I’m not sure how this would be handled script wise and all.

      1. Miki Sever said on May 9, 2012 at 6:15 pm

        Many thanks.

        I am waiting to your new site.

        Will it be also possible to translate articles from the wonderfull GHACKS?


  21. KRS said on May 9, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    While it’s no substitute for thinking, I’d like automatic un-checking of tag-along software boxes.

  22. W.A.Wyatt said on May 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    I think it is a great idea.
    I agree with most of the previous comments.
    the only thought I have is I hate the masquerade software that is really not free only a free download
    that turns out to be a free trial.
    if you would unmask those they could still be posted as what they truly are.

    Thank you

  23. RG said on May 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Martin, I have been trying to create one myself but have settled for my own reviews for a long time because of various reasons.
    There are good to excellent ones out there but that doesn’t mean there is no room for another.

  24. pd said on May 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    I agree with what you’re saying completely though the Ad Block saves me a lot of advert pain. One policy you might find hard to balance is whether to host adware programs. You know the sort, those where the default checked option in an installer page is “install our useless piece of crap toolbar”. Those are just as bad as the software that wraps itself in crapware like softonic shite.

    There may however already be a portal in existence that you don’t know about: filhippo. Look it up, it’s very good IMHO though I’ve tried several times to tolerate the compromised and fugly UI of it’s companion updater and can’t, the actual site itself it very clean and doesn’t bump users off to vendor download pages every third time you use it.

    Filehippo has three great features: you can easily filter out beta ware and payware, plus you can easily download old versions as they are listed in the sidebar against everyt product which is extremely helpful in situations like I have now where the flipping Catalyst 12.4 drivers have corrupted my ability to play anything and hear it through HDMI.

  25. fokka said on May 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    i think its a great idea and don’t really have anything to add! ghacks would be my goto site for downloads if you realize this idea!

  26. lookmann said on May 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    except the download button, everything is here,though not organised categorically.
    a logical way -forward, i think.

    what ‘ll happen to Ghacks, then?

  27. Nebulus said on May 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    This is actually a great idea, but the extensive reviews might require a lot of effort after the number of programs/developers will increase :)

  28. ódio said on May 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    great one….go for it!

  29. Siroz said on May 9, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Maybe an updater like filehippo or ninite or (even better) a mash-up between the ninite updater and the filehippo updater.

    1. LogicDaemon said on May 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      I second this.

      It should be like a linux software repository of scripts (not wrappers) which will automatically download and silenty install or update software.

      With ability to do unattended upgrades.

      So I install something once, and it’s automatically and silently updated afterwards.

  30. Peter (NL) said on May 9, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Thanks for the tip about Freeware BB. This looks good to me, and also FileHippo seems useful to me. In Holland there is a site like where I can read IT news and find the latest software- and drivers updates.
    Readers can leave comments as well. It is in Dutch language :) but just to give an idea of format.

  31. SubgeniusD said on May 9, 2012 at 10:35 am

    With all the many and various types of software packages reviewed here it would be convenient linking them to a Ghacks software portal.

    A standard presentation and download interface would be nice to replace the endless variations linked to in the articles.

  32. ilev said on May 9, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Ninite as an example.

  33. Peter said on May 9, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Why reinventing the wheel?
    I think Gizmo’s Freeware ( applies to those criteria also.
    Maybe you can volunteer over there?

    1. Alex said on May 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      Tech Support Alert is indeed a great site, you can find the best application for certain tasks in seconds. been visiting the site for years.

    2. MountainKing said on May 9, 2012 at 11:19 am


  34. Mystique said on May 9, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Local mirrors would be great, thats one of the things I enjoy about softpedia as sometimes the developers pack up shop and disappear almost over night and although the application may no longer be in development it still may be good.
    Another good thing would be to group things in a manner in which users may be able to find an alternative to said application, even just reading your blog there are times when one application supersedes another. (which is why I often use

  35. mark said on May 9, 2012 at 10:03 am
    Reply ticks all those boxes already.

    1. krisu said on May 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      There’s no virus check information, so actually no it doesn’t. And no extensive reviews and tests, no from actually FileHippo’s side at least.

      I support your idea, there’s lot of potential in this.

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm

        Thanks, I also think that it has potention, a portal for users by users, so to speak, but with high quality standards. I just have to check the updating process, I hope that I can use or create a notification system that informs me about updates. Would not want to host outdated software on the servers.

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