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OpenCandy - Bad or Good??

#1 User is offline James (Jim) Hillier

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    Posted 07 April 2011 - 10:51 PM

    I must admit to only having come across the term 'OpenCandy' quite recently, after a comment from member Bala7 letting us know this relatively new advertising medium was bundled with one of the freeware products listed here on FreewareBB.

    It seems OpenCandy is proliferating quite rapidly with more and more software developers bundling it with their products. So, I have been spending some time researching this issue. The OpenCandy platform utilises controversial techniques which have been the cause of heated debate across forums and blogs. Many are saying OpenCandy is adware or spyware while others say it is merely a legitimate instrument for advertising.

    When you install a program that comes bundled with OpenCandy; during the installation process OpenCandy will surreptitiously scan the host computer and then make software recommendations based on the findings. The user will then be given the choice of installing the additional software [or not] via an opt-in/opt-out system. Hopefully most [distributors] will stick with the preferred opt-in selection process rather than the very much sneakier opt-out option.

    Here are a few points to bear in mind:

    *The recommendations OpenCandy makes are largely based on the products already installed on your computer. OpenCandy gathers this information by covertly scanning the computer without asking for nor gaining your permission.

    *If you agree to install any of the software recommended by OpenCandy: not only will that software then be downloaded and installed but OpenCandy itself will also be permanently installed on the computer.

    *Even if you choose not to install any of the additional software recommended by OpenCandy, your computer will still be secretly scanned and that information sent to the OpenCandy people.

    The defenders of this system, including the makers of OpenCandy, make the following observations [claims]:

    *Many programs from known reputable companies scan the computer during the installation process to check for older versions and to confirm the existence of mandatory components, etc.

    *If you choose not to accept any of OpenCandy's recommendations, then no 'extras' are permanently installed on the computer.

    *OpenCandy states that any data sent back to them is simply general information of the type normally collected by a website whenever you visit, and contains no personal details.

    There are indeed 'two sides to the story'. On the face of it, OpenCandy seems harmless enough but there are certainly some serious reservations:

    *Will all software distributors who utilise OpenCandy make full disclosure; on their home page, as part of the download details, in the EULA.

    *If an opt-out system is employed for the OpenCandy software recommendations; how many people are going to inadvertently install unwanted extras on their machines.

    *There is currently little or no evidence that suggests OpenCandy is spyware BUT the potential is certainly there.

    Consider this; As the use of OpenCandy expands and it is installed on more and more computers, how tempting would it be for the owners to utilise that massive data base more aggressively.

    What do I think: I believe OpenCandy, as it now stands, is relatively harmless adware; on the proviso that the software distributors who bundle it with their products stick to a regimen of full disclosure and employ an opt-out system. However, the potential for abuse is somewhat disturbing and I would like to see some more concrete assurances/guarantees in place.

    What do you think?
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    #2 User is offline marko

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      Posted 08 April 2011 - 02:58 PM

      Problem as I see it Jim is this, even if it's 100% harmless, there is always an air of doubt about it, simply because someone else before them has done something similar and hammered the users. People's perception of this kind of stuff is usually negative, that's because they install toolbars by the dozen, annoying popups, other bits and pieces that nobody even wants, and other garbage. Now that's obviously not to say OpenCandy is anything like that, and from my own experiences and your description is would certainly appear not to be the case, however anything that can be installed on the sly (even with a disclaimer but without an opt out) is, in my opinion, not on.

      In an ideal world, addon software would be opt-in, that is we would be asked if we wanted to install it with the tick-box already NOT ticked which means it wouldn't be installed if we missed the option and just pressed 'next', 'next', 'next'. We know this will never happen because simply put there is too much money involved. Everytime someone installs something like OpenCandy there is money to be made from recommendations, referrals and other options - when this happens the person who agreed to bundle OpenCandy will no doubt receive some commission from this and so on and so on. Money talks and makes people do things they wouldn't normally do like agree to bundle stuff with their otherwise fine product. Trouble is, if this third party (the "adware") decides to go nuts and sell everything down the river, the developers reputation goes with it!.

      Personally speaking, and as the owner of FreewareBB, users have to put up with enough surprises these days, without software developers including all manner of useless addon software in their installers which is nothing at all to do with the software itself, but more to do with making money.

      Of course no-one objects to anyone making a little extra cash, but I really do think it does nothing for the developers reputation when they include certain third party addons.

      Talking specifically now about OpenCandy, checking WOT the first thing I see is the reputable "hpHosts" noting that OpenCandy is "Engaged in the distribution of malware". Now this is most certainly not something I would want my software to be associated with, no matter what the interpretation is of "malware", "adware" or anything close to it, people see this and run a mile and therefore it's no surprise that FreewareBB have also in the past removed software containing things like this. Reading on in WOT there appears to be more than one complaint about OpenCandy although I would be inclined to trust the comments of hpHosts as do WOT. At the end of the day, it really is about individual choices, do you take the chance or not? Is the software really of that much importance to you that you would take a risk? Isn't there an alternative that doesn't include a third party addon?.

      More specifically for us freeware users is the fact that in all probability most of the "recommendations" from OpenCandy WILL NOT be freeware - there is basically no money to be made in that, so instead most recommendations will come from shareware, trialware or commercial software, the developers of which will probably pay a commission for the recommendation and pass a small percentage of this payout to the person who agreed to bundle Open Candy in their software. In a commercial environment, there isn't anything wrong with this, but for us freeware lovers it's not what we want so becomes a complete waste of time in my opinion.
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      #3 User is offline James (Jim) Hillier

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        Posted 08 April 2011 - 09:21 PM

        Hey Marko - I do agree with you in principle mate. However, I am inclined to cut a little more slack than your good self.

        In many cases keeping Freeware free is of some import, particularly the good [popular] Freeware. If something like OpenCandy helps developers maintain that free status then I believe it is, overall, doing more good than harm for end users.

        As I said in my original post: providing those developers who utilize OpenCandy are completely up front about it and employ an opt-out system I can't really see any harm. The essential element, I believe, is 'full disclosure'.

        I would tend to discount the negative comments via WOT; there is no evidence at all to suggest OpenCandy is [or contains] spyware/malware. In my opinion, any negative comments would be derived from ignorance or inexperience. I believe those who argue that OpenCandy is spyware are predicating their claims on what could possibly happen rather than what is actually happening.

        When I asked my friend and renowned security expert Ken (The Geek) Harthun about OpenCandy, he agreed that in its current form OC was totally benign [his word]. And that seems to be the general consensus among the security fraternity.

        That said; all of that is fine provided OpenCandy continues to maintain a strict privacy policy, and therein lies the rub - there is no doubt the OpenCandy medium has the 'potential' to become a platform for more sinister purposes.

        Definitely one to keep tabs on!!

        Cheers mate....Jim

        UPDATE:

        Marko - Co-incidentally I just visited the PeaZip download page to check out the latest version and there is a fine example of how developers can utilize OpenCandy in a sensible and responsible way. Downloads are clearly labeled, from top to bottom: installer - with OpenCandy bundled, installer - without any 3rd party bundle, portable - without any 3rd party bundle.
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        #4 User is offline marko

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          Posted 09 April 2011 - 07:47 AM

          I think the negative comments may not be coming directly about OpenCandy Jim, but may be as a result of their recommendations. I wonder if OpenCandy actually check every download they recommend?, their ratings in WOT would suggest to me they obviously don't, or at least didn't at one point. If that is/was the case, they are potentially pushing recommendations out to thousands or even millions of people who will swallow what they "recommend".

          To me OpenCandy is like those "recommendation" sites which are set up just to take the highest bidder and write favourable reviews about them, OpenCandy will only recommend those programs which make them money, there could be another 10 programs out there which will do something a great deal better although they will never be recommended by OpenCandy because the developers haven't signed up to their advertising network and so we get a biased and income generating based review from OpenCandy - sure, I could do that on FreewareBB and nobody would probably know any different, would help pay the hosting costs as well but at the end of the day if someone exposed me for doing something like that our rep would be in tatters, yet OpenCandy make a living from it :huh: :unsure:
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