If you're in the habit of downloading software installers from CNET's Download.com, you may want to reconsider: The popular download site now wraps most of the software installers it hosts with opt-out bloatware.
A developer on Hacker News first noticed that Download.com had started wrapping his application installer in their own installer — one with a required opt-out that, if missed, installs a "StartNow" toolbar, sets Bing as your default search engine, and sets MSN as your browser homepage. As ExtremeTech's Lee Matthews points out, you can tell in advance if an installer includes Download.com's crappy wrapper by looking at the installer's name — if the file starts with
cnet_, it includes their bloatware installer.
Like most Lifehacker readers, we're not keen on applications that try installing opt-out-required toolbars or those that hijack your browser's defaults. The somewhat forgivable aspect: Developers like to make money, and in a world with so much great freeware, those tricky toolbars can be an effective option. But it only seems appropriate for it to be the developer's choice, and if the developer so chooses, that she reaps the financial benefits.
So keep your eyes open, and if you do commonly grab apps from Download.com, you might want to consider a new destination.