Monday, August 06, 2007

Free Stuff Better Be Free!

Whatever happened to just giving free things freely without arm-twisting and manipulation? I'm hating website that purport to give free services and products at the expense of your time, personal information, and headache! This is nothing new on the web, but I think websites should be more honest about a simple matter like this.

Case in point: I needed a download of RadView's WebLOAD web application test and performance suite. On their website, they advertise both a free (open source) and a professional ($) version. All over their main website, there's download links for the professional version, but none for the free version - not even on the downloads page. To get to this, you have to browse via product overviews, where you discover that there is another website dedicated to the open-source community version. Cool beans - so I follow the links to get the latest stable version, and it mentions I need to be a member to download. So I register, of course, and then it takes me to SourceForge! Wtf?? You don't need registration to download software from SF.

At that point, you know you just got swung: they collected your information, wasted your time (20 min), and generated some traffic for their websites (page views). Fortunately, I've been here before, so I can waste their resources in "revenge" - I give them bogus email and contact information. Here's what sucks even more - required fields for registration include a phone number and address - like I need them to call about this free thing? Why do they need this? Most people visit this category of website exactly once and may end up re-registering when they return next time. Well, they won't use what I gave them ... it's an airport address, and the phone number is a Hawaii area code with a California city code. Their databases will fill up with unusable information - payback.

See the point? I think if something is free, just provide a link, perhaps with a disclaimer, and let people get it as anonymously as can be. It's almost as if there's mouseprint all over the web that says: if you want free things, be prepared to lose something personal. How free does that sound?
Despite this vent, I'll still review their application with all fairness, including this story. Sorry folks.

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