We’ve been doing a lot of research into crapware and malware lately, and one of the most troubling things we found was that Google was serving up search results for open source software… with crapware-bundling ads at the top. Now it appears they’ve ended this policy and are pointing to the real download at the top.

RELATED: Yes, Every Freeware Download Site is Serving Crapware (Here's the Proof)

Based on a post on Google’s Online Security Blog, they’ve made some new changes to Google Search, Ads, and even Chrome, to make it much more difficult for unwanted software to get onto your PC.

For example, we took this screenshot last month when we told you that all freeware download sites are distributing crapware, and Google was serving up ads for crapware-wrapped fake versions of VLC whenever you searched for “vlc download” or anything similar.

We don’t understand how this nonsense is legal.

But now when you search for “VLC download” or any number of other software packages, Google will show a Onebox result at the top of the screen that points you directly to the actual installer. This is an enormous improvement, and we are really thankful. You should also notice that the ads for fake crapware are completely gone from these pages (we asked on Twitter and it seems like this is still rolling out to people).

Most popular downloads should look like this in Google now

Contrast this with searching for “vlc download” on Yahoo… every single thing you see on the screen is an ad for crapware, some of which is pretty much malware. In fact, you can keep scrolling, because there are even more ads for crapware when you scroll down, and you have to scroll near the bottom to find the real download location. In order to get all the ads in a single screenshot, you have to use a tablet in portrait mode. That’s sad.

Why, oh why, does anybody use this?

Yahoo search is absolutely terrible. Awful. Somebody please tell Marissa Mayer to make this crap stop.

Over on Bing, they’ve got loads of crapware ads, but at least they are clearly marked as ads, with a different color background, and they show a Onebox with the real download.

Bing can’t decide between good and evil so they split the page in half.

We wish that Bing would also stop these terrible ads, but at least they are halfway doing the right thing.

Changes to Search and Ads

According to Google’s blog post, they are not going to allow any ads that don’t meet their unwanted software policy, which includes a lot of guidelines, including language like this, which makes us really happy:

We’ve found that most unwanted software displays one or more of the same basic characteristics:

  • It is deceptive, promising a value proposition that it does not meet.
  • It tries to trick users into installing it or it piggybacks on the installation of another program.
  • It doesn’t tell the user about all of its principal and significant functions.
  • It affects the user’s system in unexpected ways.
  • It is difficult to remove.
  • It collects or transmits private information without the user’s knowledge.
  • It is bundled with other software and its presence is not disclosed.

We’re sure that these sleazy crapware vendors will try to find a way around it, but hopefully Google will continue to fight them.

Changes in Google Chrome

For a while now, Google has been blocking unwanted software or anything that will hijack your browser by simply blocking the download itself. Ironically, this has been a royal pain during our malware research, and we’ve had to switch back to using Internet Explorer while researching malware because Chrome blocks too much of it.

When this message shows up, you’ve made a grave mistake.

But, now, according to their blog post, they will be showing a much stronger warning:

Now, in addition to showing warnings before you download unwanted software, Chrome will show you a new warning, like the one below, before you visit a site that encourages downloads of unwanted software.

This new warning message will look like this:

I’ll take Back to Safety for $500, Alex.

There’s no way that Google can catch every single problem, and they aren’t going to start blocking all unwanted crapware, or blocking Download.com entirely. There’s just no way they can police the entire internet, so don’t assume that because you don’t see a warning message that the software you’re about to install is safe. It’s probably not.

We’re really hoping that Google continues to fight against this type of crapware and malware, and this is an important first step.

Are you seeing the updated changes in Google already? Does the Onebox show for your favorite apps? Let us know in the comments.


Profile Photo for Lowell Heddings Lowell Heddings
Lowell is the founder and CEO of How-To Geek. He’s been running the show since creating the site back in 2006. Over the last decade, Lowell has personally written more than 1000 articles which have been viewed by over 250 million people. Prior to starting How-To Geek, Lowell spent 15 years working in IT doing consulting, cybersecurity, database management, and programming work.
Read Full Bio »