A note about c|net Download.com: Recently, any download now puts a c|net download manger and that program downloads your file (and a toolbar). Hidden
slightly is the direct download, but most people will not find it or even
I’m not seeing a download manager, but your comment raises a very common
and troubling practice: extremely misleading advertising.
And confusingly hidden download links.
It’s a serious problem that at best confuses people and at worst causes
them to download and install junk.
Junk that they didn’t want in the first place.
Here’s a screen shot of c|net Download.com’s page for a popular anti-virus program:
Notice how many different places say “Download” – “Download Now”, “Start Download”, “Free Download” … even “Buy Now”.
Do you know which one is the one (and the only one) to get the download that this page is about?
Every other clickable instance of the word “download” on that page is an advertisement for something else.
Here’s the kicker – c|net and Download.com are actually reputable sites and relatively tame when it comes to this type of practice.
Download links that don’t say download
I’m a big fan of the CD/DVD burning tool ImgBurn. However their download page could use some work:
Can you locate the actual links to download ImgBurn on this page? Yes, there are more then one. One hint – they don’t say download:
The links are there in the center, labeled “mirror,” because the download is hosted on several different sites, each of which hosts a copy or mirror of the download file.
All of those big things that talk about “Download” on the page?
Advertisements. For other, albeit it often similar, products.
The admonitions that you should check for outdated drivers first?
Advertisements, nothing more.
It happens here, too…
Here’s an image of my own page which recommends ImgBurn:
Google’s AdSense service chooses which ads are shown. That big Download button? That’s an ad for a similar product which is not ImgBurn.
It’s actually gotten somewhat better in recent months. Ads used to appear that said in big, bold letters “RECOMMENDED DOWNLOAD” for products that not only had I not recommended, but in many cases, never even heard of.
Advertising is the cost of free
Advertising is what keeps Ask Leo! and many services on the web free. I try to keep it respectful of your time and attention, but even then, I don’t have total control over every nuance of every ad.
More often than not, the ads are very well targeted and offer very reputable and appropriate products and services – I’ve occasionally joked that sometimes the ads displayed are so well targeted that they are the answer.
And yet sometimes, ads can be misleading.
Sometimes sites can be even more underhanded with many misleading advertisements around the content or download link that you’re actually looking for.
One mistake and you might be downloading something that you didn’t expect.
Awareness keeps you safe
The solution is relatively simple: approach the internet with skepticism.
Understand what is, and is not, an advertisement.
Read carefully the information on the page where you’re expecting a download to make sure that what you click on is indeed the download that you want.
And if you’re not sure – don’t click. Maybe ask a friend for their opinion of what is, and is not, the download link that you’re looking for.