CNET Installer - Facts, Benefits, Detrements, and Discussion
by John.Wilkinson - 8/28/11 1:07 PM
There has been quite a bit of press and controversy regarding July 2011's launch of the CNET 'secure installer,' and as the questions continue I decided to create my own summary for interested parties.
1.) What is the change?
By default, the 'Download Now' link for most on CNET's download.com now downloads a small installer instead of the download you requested. This installer will download and install the desired program after prompting you to install third-party software (usually a toolbar), which is installed unless you specifically uncheck the option. The installer itself does not need installed.
2.) Are all downloads affected by this change?
No. The change only affects Windows downloads, and has not been rolled out to all software that CNET offers. In addition, software from developers who subscribe to a Premium listing package or a Pay-Per-Download program is automatically excluded. Finally, developers can ask that their software be excluded by emailing a request to cnet-installer(at)cbsinteractive[dot]com.
3.) Was a notification of this change sent out?
Yes. There was a notification in the July 26th issue of the Upload.com newsletter, as well as a public blog post on July 28th.
4.) Can I avoid this CNET installer?
UPDATE: You no longer need to be logged in to use the Direct Download Link. You will see the link underneath the green "Download Now" button for all CNET Installer Enabled products on the site, whether or not you are logged in.
If you are a registered CNET member, you do also have the option to turn off the Installer for the whole site. To do so, login to the site, mouse over your username in the top right corner of the page and click the "My profile" link, then click the "Update my Download.com Preferences" link, select the "Off" option and click the "Save Changes" button.
5.) Why was this change made?
CNET states they made the change for the user, to improve security and reliability of downloads. In addition, it provides additional information regarding download experience to CNET, which it and developers can use to improve their products.
6.) Where can I read the latest FAQs from CNET?
The full CNET Installer FAQ is here.
7.) Does the installer honor my opt-out?
Yes. There have been a few reports that third-party software was installed by the CNET installer despite user opt-out, but in those cases it was either third-party software from the developer, not CNET, or unreproducible by myself and/or other users.
8.) Does the installer spy on my computer?
No. The installer only reports basic information specific to the download/installation process. It does not report on other installed software, user activities, et cetera. It is also a stand-alone application; deleting the executable completely removes the installer from the computer.
Disclaimer: Please note that this is not an official FAQ - it was written by myself as a knowledgeable user, and will be updated to correct any errors it may contain. CNET/CBS Interactive is not responsible for its content.
Note: This post was edited by a forum moderator to update info and links on 12/05/2013 at 2:07 PM PT