Recently I had cause to install some free video conversion software and was amazed to find so many attempts to fool me into installing additional software, not to mention attempts to upsell at the end of the installation wizard. It’s getting to be beyond a joke now, with every other free (and sometimes trial) app or utility having these irritating options built in.
But what is worse is the presumption that I want to install these options by default. I’m a busy man, and no doubt you are too. The publishers of these applications typically set the installation of bloatware – often pointless toolbar enhancements that no doubt track your movements online and sell the results to the highest bidder – to default, forcing you to click back and forth through the installation wizard to make sure you set the right options and avoid having your home page set to www.wesellyoursearchresults.com.
It’s simply not good enough, and it’s time to fight back.
Making Money Is Hard to Do
Now, I’m all for developers being paid for their efforts, but distributing an application as free and then trying to gain profit from it via bloatware and upsells is just ridiculous.
If you want to sell it, then do so. No one will feel bad about it. In fact, if the distributors of these applications (and we’re talking about some large, well-respected sites here, often with “net” in the title) would like to strip the bloatware from them and add a low fee based on the average of what they were making from the upsold software (not much, one expects) then we can ensure that the developers can be well paid.
However as things stand, the preferred option (certainly in my case) is to look elsewhere, specifically to open source developers. There I can download an app, try it out and if it meets my needs I can donate.
Making money online is tough – but bloatware is an insult, particularly when you find it attached to software that is supposed to make your PC run faster.
A Vicious Circle
Now, I’m not certain of the specifics (and you can correct me if I’m wrong) but I suspect that developers of these bloatware-carrying apps are either paid up-front by the publishing website or are on a per-signup bonus. Some might even be directly employed.
In an age where online advertising is said to be at its lowest it seems obvious that websites would look at ancillary products and sales to make money and cover costs. But every time I see the opportunity to install a toolbar I don’t need, I disable it.
While it is great to be afforded the option not to install, one has to wonder how many people are not aware of the bloatware and therefore not denying its installation requests.
The majority of people that I associate with will probably be aware of these things and avoid installing them. But that doesn’t cover the vast number of people out there for whom using a computer is a new experience, a novelty, or simply trust their operating systems and the software installed upon them to work without any issues.
Sadly and cynically, these are the people being targeted by the toolbar bloatware, and we – as seasoned, experienced and aware users – have a responsibility to help them.
Start The Fight-Back!
Bloatware helps nobody. Sure, it might line a few pockets, but this is money taken with cynicism, something that always leaves a bad taste. All it does is make the installation of a relatively small piece of software take longer, adds needless desktop shortcuts and toolbar extensions to your already full-to-the-brim browser and if you’re lucky it won’t slow down your computer.
Bloatware might not be a malware or a Trojan but it has similar properties. Often it is a legitimate version of these things (slowing down our systems, recording websites visited, etc.), which is why those of us with understanding of these matters should be making a stand.
We can start the fight back using many methods, such as social networking and Twitter. We can leave comments/reviews on the download pages, letting other users know what will happen. We can fight for a better way of monetising useful software, one that doesn’t rely on inexperience and ignorance of bloatware.
Let us know in the comments what you think of this issue, and what ideas you have to stop this kind of unethical practice dead in its tracks.