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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

OpenCandy: A New Kind of Adware/Spyware


They claim to be doing something noble, but the only thing sweet about OpenCandy is the sales pitch to naive developers that might just fall for it, tricking them into thinking it is somehow different than the typical common adware/spyware.

A lot of developers do seem to be biting the bait, but no matter how you slice it, it's still adware/spyware, and to me it stinks worse than the old fashioned kind.

In OpenCandy's own words, this is what they do:

Recommendations are made to users during the installation process. Utilizing the install process creates a user-friendly experience and offers optimal engagement for making a software recommendation. The user is presented with a screen that describes the recommendation, at which time they may choose to install the recommended software.
That makes it adware!
We then provide analytics back to the creators, so they can see how their software and recommendations are performing. This way they can better understand how to build and recommend great applications.
That makes it spyware!
We've also provided our technology as a platform to a handful of software creators who are utilizing an offer screen during the install process as an advertising unit. Some creators are already monetizing their distribution by offering apps like browser toolbars, so we're helping them improve their user experience and optimize the effectiveness of their offers.
That makes it your typical spyware/adware we have always known.

Actually, this is much worse, because instead of big companies like Sun & Opera making some software and offering it for free and advertising Yahoo's toolbar in the installer, we have a lazy predator company backed by venture capitalists that doesn't want to bother with or take the risk in developing a ton of software of their own to push toolbars to make their millions. They want to use the software of naive developers to accomplish it.

An ad is an ad, and to me there is no difference.

There is no difference between showing an ad for some other product by some other developer in the installer of my software, no matter how much I might even like that software myself, and popping up an ad for CocaCola or Viagra on a user's screen during the install process.

Do you remember what you parents told you about not taking candy from strangers and why? Well, these guys are not really strangers, they are known preditors. The founders of OpenCandy are the same guys responsible for the inclusion of the spyware/adware in DivX.

Now, before you call me a hypocrite for bashing adware installers while having ads on my blog, let me explain the difference:

Any visitor to my blog can turn off Javascript and not be exposed to ads. Or they can use a noscript plugin, or an ad blocker. They have that choice before they land on my site.

I even offer an ad-free RSS feed.

If I want to recommend software to my users, I put it on a separate page of my site and not in my software or installers.

When the ads are in an installer, the user can't install the software without seeing the ads. They have no real choice. That's the difference. And I seriously doubt that developers are going to offer two different installers and give users the option to see or not see ads or be exposed to spyware.

So now that I have told you what I think, what is your opinion on OpenCandy, as either a software user or developer (or both)?

 UPDATE Saturday, February 19, 2011:
The following applications have been found to install OpenCandy:

  • aMSN
  • Any Video Converter (last freeware, OpenCandy free version 1.21 available here)
  • ApexDC++
  • ATI Tray Tools
  • aTube Catcher 
  • avast! Free Antivirus 
  • AxCrypt
  • CDBurnerXP Pro
  • Cheat Engine
  • CNET TechTracker
  • Connectify
  • CrystalDiskInfo
  • CrystalDiskMark 
  • CutePDF
  • Daemon Tools
  • DarkWave Studio
  • Dexclock
  • Dexpot
  • DoubleTwist
  • Driver Sweeper
  • Duplicate Cleaner
  • DVDStyler
  • DVDVideoSoft products
  • eRightSoft products,including Super
  • ExtractNow
  • Ezvid
  • FL Studio
  • FreeFileSync
  • Free YouTube Downloader
  • Freemake Video Converter
  • Freemake Video Downloader
  • Free Music Zilla
  • Free Video Dub
  • Free Video To Flash Converter
  • Frostwire
  • GameHouse
  • HappyLand Adventures
  • IE7Pro
  • Image Tuner
  • ImgBurn
  • IZArc
  • kantaris
  • KMPlayer
  • Launchy (when not downloaded from SourceForge)
  • Media Info
  • MediaCoder
  • MediaInfo
  • MiPony
  • mIRC
  • Miro
  • MyPhoneExplorer
  • Office 2010 Trial Extender
  • Orbit Downloader
  • PDFCreator
  • PeaZip
  • Photobie
  • PhotoScape
  • Power Plan Assistant for Windows 7
  • PrimoPDF
  • PSP Video
  • RealArcade
  • RedKawa
  • SIW
  • Soldat
  • Soft32 Updater
  • SPlayer
  • Startup Manager
  • StepMania 
  • SUPER
  • Super Mario Bros X (Level Editor)
  • Super Simple Photo Resizer
  • Sweet Home 3D
  • TechTracker
  • Trillian Astra
  • Tubetilla
  • True Burner
  • Unlocker
  • uTorrent
  • Veoh Web Player 
  • Videora
  • Vistaglazz
  • WebShot
  • Winamp
  • WinSCP
  • Xfire 
  • YouTube Downloader HD
This is not an exhaustive all inclusive list. This is just what I have found with a quick Google search. If you know of any other applications that should be added to this list, leave a comment and let me know.

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