Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

I Support A Good Cause

aka “An Open Letter To CNet, et al”

A reader wrote in and voiced a complaint about a Tech Industry “way of things” that they find.. um.. er, well, “not right”. They asked if I could help. Since I find this type of thing as repugnant as I do the ole add-a-toolbar-to-the-installer trick (see, An Open Letter To Sun Microsystems) I will share their letter with you.

“Tech Paul,
I am getting really sick of these download websites that try everything possible to get you to download the wrong file, usually a registry editor, but has pushed my button for the last time…

I’m starting a campaign… personal emails come first. Any help you want to add would be appreciated.

I had advised my brother to download MBAM, and he got on to Cnet. Those shameless money grubbers have no less than 4 links to the wrong file on the page.

Top left: “Recommended Download”,
Top right: Big red “Download Here” button. (Both for Spyware Doctor);
To the right of the MBAM screenshot: A green right-then-down arrow pointing to a big green “Click to Download” button, actually for Advanced Registry Optimizer;
To the left of the screenshot: A green “Special Offer” link to a purchase MBAM page.

My brother clicked all of those before I finally got him straightened out. OK, my brother is not tech savvy, but this is absolutely ridiculous… My mother had 5 of those *darn* registry optimizers last visit.”

It only takes one glance to see why a person might click the wrong download link.

But.. as angry as this type of thing makes me, I have to play fair and point out this is not so much a thing CNet’s is doing — they are just selling advertising spaces — it is the advertisers (who design their ad knowing it will be on a “download site”). In this case, PCTools (of which I am a fan) and a few somebody else’s.

Which is why I run Firefox with the plug ins AdBlock Plus, Flashblock, and NoScript. When I go to the page it looks like this… (Listen up, all you advertisers)

And, advertisers? When I go shopping? I choose the product who doesn’t bombard me with unwanted ads. Guess what else? I am not alone. And I have been that way my whole adult life.

People, you have to slow down, and be super careful what you click. You need to read the words. You have to exercise some attention. Why? Because they only made the Internet “public” so they could show us ads. And the cybercriminals are poisoning websites, posting their own websites, and more, to steal Billions from us each year (often, they need us to click the link to do their evil deeds).

And, yes, CNet.. you can do a better job of ‘regulating’ your advertiser. (Maybe .. redesign things so your [proper] download link is the most prominent.) Maybe say “no” to some? Revenue isn’t everything, you know. You have to be able to sleep at night too.

* Top Tech Tip #2: Leave Registry Cleaners Alone
Good-bye YouTube. Enjoy Your Ads.

* The letter’s writer used stronger words.. (I don’t blame them.)

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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January 7, 2011 - Posted by | computers | , , , , , , ,


  1. Paul,

    Terrific article. It’s time someone took these manipulators to task.

    There’s not much difference between the social engineering tricks used by scammers/spammers, and “so called” legitimate web sites such as CNET.

    Unfortunately, as you know, this type of nonsense is common, and becoming more so.



    Comment by Bill Mullins | January 7, 2011 | Reply

    • Bill,
      It is always a distinct pleasure to see you here, and to receive your support.

      Now.. as to your point..
      I see no difference at all (zero, zip, nada) between what these ads are doing and what the cybercriminals are doing.
      Same tactics.
      Same goal. (To get naive users to install their [unwanted] code. [For money.])

      It reeks.

      Folks, Bill’s website was the first I posted to my Blogroll. I think everyone who surfs the web should be familiar with his writings. Please click here and find out why.


      Comment by techpaul | January 7, 2011 | Reply

      • I agree with you Paul and Bill.

        The tactics are same, just to fool us.
        No only such ads are waste of time, but also bandwidth- which leads to money.

        As the writer mentioned, it’s high time Cnet & others should re-plan their ad-space and COULD highlight the TRUE download link, separating it from these nitwit ads.



        Comment by Grr | January 12, 2011 | Reply

        • Grr,
          I was hoping this article would generate some reader reaction. I appreciate your taking the time to voice your support.


          Comment by techpaul | January 12, 2011 | Reply

  2. That irritates me too. When I see all those ads I go elsewhere to get my applications. Thanks for the great article!


    Comment by Balmy33 | January 7, 2011 | Reply

    • Balmy33,
      I have been a fan and supporter of Ziff-Davis and CNet for years and years. I don’t like calling them onto the carpet, but.. hey.

      Folks, quickly, two other download sites I recommend are MajorGeeks and FileHippo.


      Comment by techpaul | January 7, 2011 | Reply

  3. Paul, he hit the nail square on its head.
    Let me say it again, If It’s Said To Be Free, It Most Likely is Not.. I used to say
    that nothing is free, but that’s not true,
    there are a lot of good free programs for computers, but there are so many ‘slippery marketing’ methods that one has to really look for, kind of like speed-bumps. I assume that the method seen is how the site makes money and this will never go away. This post is a great warning to all, and sometimes I wish my computer had a “tazer” button I could hit when I get stung by one of these gimmicks and Zapp ‘um.

    Have you ever used a sample of a product and it is the best thing since microwave popcorn, and when you purchase it you find it to be only so-so ? Smart “way low” marketing in my opinion. Rest assured that there is a team out there working hard to figure a way to make us all pay for the air we breathe.


    Comment by MikeyK | January 7, 2011 | Reply

    • MikeyK,
      I am grinning..

      Thank you for your support. (Maybe.. we can ‘start something’ here.)


      Comment by techpaul | January 7, 2011 | Reply

  4. Tech Paul,

    Unfortunately I am the brother who downloaded the unwanted programs requiring my brother to help me rid my computer of them.

    I can get around a computer fairly well but going to a site that directs me to 3, 4, or even 5 other downloads more prominently than the one I requested is very discouraging and makes me more leery of any of this business.

    I know, beware and think before you click, but as a business man, I just don”t have the time I should spend to vet sites like this.

    In short, I agree, this practice should be curbed.

    Thanks for your time.


    Comment by BrilloPad | January 7, 2011 | Reply

    • BrilloPad,
      Firstly, let me say “welcome” to you! I hope you’ll look around some.

      Second, your point about people having better things to do than vet every word on every webpage is precisely what these advertisers (and the hackers too) are counting on… a click before you think/read. (I cannot count the number of people who answered my “why did you give them your credit card number and all that personal info?” with “because the page asked me to”.)
      I’m not going to call all advertising/marketing people “sleezeballs”, but several of my friends do, and I never argue.

      Thirdly, (best for last department) thank you for taking the time to write this.


      Comment by techpaul | January 7, 2011 | Reply

  5. Howdy Paul,

    Great article. This has almost become an epidemic (or the norm) among file download websites. I’m glad you posted links to MajorGeeks and FileHippo, which do not have such irritating advertisements. Those are my two favorites when I can’t find the files I want on the manufacturers website. I particularly like the way FileHippo includes links to past versions. I need those at times when troubleshooting over the phone, although I do prefer that they get the latest version. I think sometimes people don’t realize that many of the updates are for security, not just program improvements.

    This is a serious issue that someone needed to address and you have done the job well. I’ve been using since well before CNET ever took over, and I hated to see that happen there. Sure, they need to advertise to pay the bills… but that is taking it a little too far IMHO.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work!


    Comment by KsTinMan | January 7, 2011 | Reply

    • KsTinMan,
      I appreciate the support on this.

      Such behavior – as exemplified in the screenshots here, and the YouTube article – has long been a pet ‘rant’ of mine. I am willing to tolerate modest amounts as, as you point out, some revenue generation is what pays the light bill. But some has grown to shameless.. bordering on the unethical (are “ethics” and “decorum” dead concepts?).

      When it’s a clear case of installing *crud* onto people’s machines (usually unwittingly) – such as the typical toolbar install – I find it criminal. (It’s legal, but it’s wrong.) The author of this letter is more than right, and I am happy to support them.


      Comment by techpaul | January 7, 2011 | Reply

  6. TechPaul,
    In my opinion, you get an attaboy for publishing the letter. I whole-heartedly agree that the publishers of the download sites need to clean up their act. They’ll not lose advertisers if they lay down some rules (the immense traffic to those sites will garner eager advertisers no matter what). But the download sites must exercise the will to control the form and placement of the ads. Let’s see if they do.


    Comment by Paul Lubic, Jr. | January 7, 2011 | Reply

    • Paul,
      I will gladly accept your “attaboy”, and I will also thank you.

      I believe that a “letter writing campaign” can have some effect.
      But I also believe that those who produce, don’t change their ways until those who consume make them (“market forces” I think it’s called)(or.. “voting with your pocketbook”, maybe?) whether that be via a boycott, or simply buying the other guy’s product.
      So it’s on us.. in the end.

      That isn’t to say I don’t think CNet needs to straighten up a bit though. And, I agree with your assessment (ignorant of the specifics though I am) that they could refuse certain “ad copy” with no fiscal loss.

      Paul is a man I admire. He has years of IT experience. He also writes a blog, and he does so for us. Please visit, won’t you?


      Comment by techpaul | January 7, 2011 | Reply

  7. Tech Paul,
    As usual, you’re right on the button with this article. I do understand that these sites need advertising in order to provide the services we need without charging us for them, but they’d do better to be reasonable about it. That said, those Firefox add-ons do simplify my life!


    Comment by Hermit2003 | January 7, 2011 | Reply

    • Hermit2003,
      Thank you for taking the time to weight in.

      And, yes. Were I ever to meet the inventors of the mute button, the VCR, TiVo, and/or any kind of thingamabobsits that allows me to view media sans advertisements, I would not only shake their hand, but would pin a coveted Tech Paul gold star on their lapel.
      Unsung heroes they often be.


      Comment by techpaul | January 7, 2011 | Reply

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Js Opdebeeck. Js Opdebeeck said: RT @ChadChoron: It only takes one glance to see why a person might click the wrong download link […]


    Pingback by Tweets that mention I Support A Good Cause « Tech – for Everyone -- | January 8, 2011 | Reply

  9. Hi Paul
    Boy do I agree on this subject. I too use the same ad on in Firefox. But enough with all the windy roads to get simple download. I occasionally help folks out and doing it over the phone can be very frustrating trying to point someone to the correct download when there are a half dozen or so buttons to click on. Every where we turn things get more complicated than they should be. Myself, I always search first for the manufacturers website and try to get it straight from the horse’s mouth.
    But as we all have mention before and I always try to stress to less techie savvy friends, please read first before clicking.
    Enough with all extra ads, I just want to download the darn file I need!


    Comment by Cappydawg | January 9, 2011 | Reply

    • Cappydawg,
      Maybe… they’re doing us a service by forcing the “average computer user” to slow down a READ what the heck it is they are about to click..?


      They – like the EULA’s – are conditioning to not read. It’s an old lawyer’s trick, modern style.

      Thanks for the support.


      Comment by techpaul | January 9, 2011 | Reply

  10. Nothing but deception… Heck, I’m somewhat Tech Savvy and it throws me for a loop at times. It’s all about money!


    Comment by Ramblinrick | January 11, 2011 | Reply

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