When you search for software downloads currently on Google, for instance for Firefox, VLC or Google Chrome, then ads may be displayed to you before the organic search results.
The problem with this is that advertisers were free to buy spots regardless of their relation with the software.
This led to situations where users were redirected to third-party sites that had nothing to do with the original project.
Some may have sold the free software to those users, others may have pushed malware or adware on user systems instead, and a third group may have asked for information before redirecting users to the right download.
Advertisement may not be displayed at all times depending on various factors including your location in the world but at this point in time, it is still happening on Google and other major search engines.
Note: The examples below show how third-party ads look like. They make no claim that the linked pages are serving adware or malicious software to users.
While experienced users know how to distinguish ads from real content, the similarity between ads and contents, and the fact that ads are displayed at the top of the results, makes it difficult for less tech-savvy users to make that distinction.
It needs to be noted that Google is not the only company that is serving third-party download ads currently.
Search engines like Startpage, Bing or Yahoo all display third-party download ads on their properties.
As you can see on the screenshots above, all ads link to third-party sites.
The two most important changes are that ads need to include the name of the promoted software and may only link to the official landing page of the software's "primary distribution source".
This means that ads have to link to the project website, set by the company, organization or individual responsible for the program, and no other destination on the Internet.
It is not clear what is going to happen if a destination has not been set by default.
The policy change goes live at the end of April at which time you should see a sharp drop of desktop software download ads on Google.
It is unclear currently if the change affects ads on third-party sites using Adsense as well. Considering that this is an Adwords policy, it is likely that it will affect ads on third-party sites as well.
Since Google is the largest adverting company, download ads will drop like a stone once the change goes live.
You will still encounter these ads on other search engines though.
It is about time that company's do something about deceiving download ads on their sites and third-party sites using their advertising system.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.