I have wondered for a long while what might be a site without forced
bundling of crapware with my downloads. Jim Hillier suggests that
>> has no such crapware bundles.
Name: Jim Hillier
Date registered: August 9, 2011
Freeware and the bundling of extras
by Jim Hillier
As more and more developers turn to the bundling of extras as a source
of additional income, it is becoming ever more apparent that the days
of downloading freeware and only getting what one ordered may be
nearing an end.
The most prevalent bundled extra over the past few years has
definitely been the Ask Toolbar, which has been marketed very
aggressively. Some larger publishing houses have also chosen to bundle
the Ask Toolbar with their reputable software; one of the most notable
being Foxit, who began bundling it with their free PDF Reader about 3
years ago. At first they utilized a simple opt-out/opt-in system
where, if the end user declined, the main program would just install
as per normal anyway. Later on however, in an obvious attempt to lure
more people into accepting the bundled offering, if the user declined
to install the Ask Toolbar, several native features were then
automatically disabled. It was at that time I decided to drop the free
Foxit PDF Reader altogether and look elsewhere.
Reports are now circulating that the upcoming new version of the very
well regarded AntiVir Free Anti-virus from Avira will also come down
with the Ask Toolbar bundled. Apparently, an option to decline will be
included but if one decides against installing the toolbar, access to
the native Webguard component will then be disabled. So, in order to
take advantage of the extra protection afforded by Webguard, one must
install the toolbar. This excerpt from an article dated 28th June:
German security specialist Avira today announced that its WebGuard
browsing protection tool will now be available to all AntiVir Personal
Free Antivirus users, as a part of its Service Pack 2 Upgrade.
Good news, then. Or at least it should be – but the full story is
a little more complicated.
Install the optional WebGuard and you’ll also get the Avira
SearchFree toolbar, which is essentially the Ask toolbar with Avira-
related status information. You can uninstall this from Control Panel
like any other application, but that will disable WebGuard, too: you
need to keep the toolbar if you want the browsing protection.
In my opinion, this ‘install it or else’ approach is rather heavy-
handed, and a somewhat worrying manifestation.
Now we have the latest bundling phenomenon, OpenCandy, infiltrating
the freeware ranks at a truly alarming rate. I guess one can’t really
blame those freeware developers, who are struggling to make ends meet,
for adopting a platform which has the potential to afford some
financial relief. In the end, if that is what it takes to maintain the
freeware status, then it has to be a better option than no free
product at all.
There are a few misconceptions pertaining to OpenCandy, here are some
facts which, hopefully, will help clarify the situation and make for a
better understanding of exactly what it is and what it does:
OpenCandy is an advertising platform.
OpenCandy will scan the host machine to identify existing programs
and then make recommendations for additional software installations
based on those findings. The end user then has the option to either
accept or decline those recommendations.
Unlike many bundled extras (such as Toolbars), OpenCandy itself is
not installed permanently on the host machine. In fact, if one
declines the ‘recommendations’ put forward, then absolutely nothing
extra is installed.
Although OpenCandy is not actually permanently installed it does
scan the host computer, gathering information to help decide which
recommendations would be most suitable.
Because of its nature, that unsolicited scan will take place
regardless of whether you accept the recommendations or decline them.
The OpenCandy people have stated publicly that the scan does not
gather any personal data or identifying information.
Just one example I have come across recently is a freeware program
named Driver Sweeper. Here is the part in their EULA which covers
This is the ‘recommendations’ screen during install – note how it is
made to appear as though the recommendation is coming from Driver
Sweeper, no mention of OpenCandy at all:
The way I see it: OpenCandy itself, in its current form, is quite
harmless but there should be a distinct onus on the developers who
utilise the OpenCandy platform to do so in a completely overt and
It is my understanding that OpenCandy’s current minimum requirements,
for developers who adopt the platform, is they must include notice of
the bundling in their end-user license agreement. In my humble
opinion, that just isn’t good enough. Let’s face it, who actually
reads right through each EULA?
I believe everyone would be better served all round if the bundling of
OpenCandy were to be clearly identified on the product home page and
on the download page…in addition to including that information in the
Bear in mind too that although the OpenCandy people are asking
developers to include the information in their UELA, there is no
guarantee all will necessarily comply. If you really want to be
certain your freeware download does not include OpenCandy here are a
couple of suggestions:
Download all your freeware from FreewareBB exclusively. FreewareBB
is the one and only freeware download site where administrators and a
large member community actively monitor for malware, site security and
the presence of OpenCandy. If OpenCandy is bundled in freeware, that
information is clearly noted on the FreewareBB product download page.
Prior to installation; use software to unpack the setup/execute
file and then search through the results for any mention of OpenCandy.
It’s actually a very quick and simple process. I use X-UniExtract
which is a portable version of Universal Extractor.
Transparency and clear-cut options to decline, they are key. As long
as developers stick to those two principles I cannot see any real harm
in the bundling of extras, especially if it all helps keep our
favorite titles available for free.
One thing is for certain, bundling is now a fact of freeware life and
looks certain to continue proliferating. Regardless of how much you
may detest the practice, at the end of the day it is you, the
consumer, who holds the ultimate choice; to avoid those freeware
products altogether. However, my guess would be, if you choose that
path, your options are eventually going to be severely limited.