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Author Topic: Complaint: FeedDemon is now adware, but does not disclose it  (Read 10003 times)
tranglos
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« on: October 01, 2009, 02:21:28 PM »

FeedDemon is now at 3.0, and instead of continuing with the NewsGator subscription service, it now offers syunchronization with Google Reader. I thought it was great, downloaded and installed v3.

Then I saw FeedDemon now displays ads.

I went back to the website looking for some disclosure, but there's nothing (at least nthing I can readily see). I revisited Nick Bradbury's post, Introducing FeedDemon 3.0, thinking that such a change would merit a mention in What's New, but no.

I uninstalled, cleaned every last trace of FeedDemon from under "Documents and Settings", then reinstalled FD 3, expecting to find some big red warning on the license page that I had somehow missed. Turns out I didn't miss anything - the license does not mention the ads, or if it does, it must be in some inscrutable language.

It seems to me that by not disclosing the advertising prior to installation, NewsGator runs afoul of the law in some countries. It used to be the typical evil practice in the early days of adware, but today we expect to be told before we install. This is particularly important because of the following:

When you first launch FeedDemon, before you see the main program window with the ads in the corner, FD asks you if you want to synchronize with Google Reader. This means entering your Google account username and password in the program. I was naive enough to trust Nick Bradbury, and did so. Only then did I see the ads first.

This leads to a number of questions:

Since FeedDemon does not disclose the fact that it has become adware, what else does it not disclose? Are the ads context-sensitive? Does FeedDemon share my subscriptions and the articles I read with NewsGator or with third parties? The license does not say it doesn't, so my assumption is that it may.

Secondly, does FeedDemon share my Google Reader username and password with NewsGator or any third party? Again, the license doesn't say.

NewsGator privacy policy does admit they "collect" (a) subscriptions and (b) "Data from actions you take on posts (for example marking read, saving, forwarding via email, etc)". It is not clear though whether this relates only to the online activities (the NewsGator paid aggregation service, if it still exists), or if it also affects desktop sofware like FeedDemon. FeedDemon itself bears no privacy-related information.

Now, it is entirely possible that I am the last person in the world to find out FeedDemon is now adware. Sure, there are mentions on the support forums. However, users cannot be expected to see the forums before they install the software. This does not count as proper disclosure before the fact.

As if that were not enough, FeedDemon manages to add add insult to injury. After the installation, and after it synchronizes with Google Reader, FeedDemon asks if you want to add its suggested subscriptions. I selected "No, don't subscribe me to anything else right now" and proceeded.

Result: FeedDemon displays my Google Reader subscriptions, as well as a bunch of new junk subscriptions I specifically told it to exclude. What's worse, it pushed those additional subscriptions to the Google Reader account, thereby polluting it with lots of stuff I now have to remove manually. This may be a bug, but you'd think something like that would have been easily caught in beta, so who knows if it really is a bug. (Just to be sure, I repeated the entire uninstal / scrub / reinstall process twice, thiking maybe I did not check the right option the first time. The effect was the same both times.)

You can pay (under $10) for a key to remove the ads, and that's okay, since I first registered FeedDemon in 2004 and would not mind paying for an upgrade. But I cannot with clear conscience support NewsGator's policies. And first I would like to know how much of my Google account data has already been leaked to NewsGator or their advertisers without my permission. Come to think of it, it's quite sickening. A very annoying experience.
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« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2009, 03:40:53 PM »

You post this exact same complaint in my blog, and then you post it here before even giving me a chance to respond?  My response is here, but I'll post it here as well:

"There was absolutely no attempt on our part to hide the fact that FeedDemon 3.0 has ads, as a quick search of this blog will prove. It has been mentioned here - and several other places - many times before, and it seemed pointless to bring it up again since my only goal with this post was to introduce the new features.

FeedDemon doesn't automatically subcribe you to those feeds unless you tell it to, and you explicitly have to click "Yes" for those feeds to be added (the default is "No"). I can only guess that those subscriptions were somehow left over from the previous version, or that you misread the step in the startup wizard which asked whether to subscribe you to anything.

FeedDemon doesn't share your subscriptions, nor does it share your Google login. Your login is stored locally, encrypted in the registry. It's only sent to Google itself, and then only using secure HTTP."
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tranglos
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« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2009, 04:25:27 PM »

You post this exact same complaint in my blog, and then you post it here before even giving me a chance to respond?  

There is nothing wrong with posting the complaint here, nor with you responding here, or me relating your response if you did not. As for the blog, it is yours, you can erase my post if you wish.

"There was absolutely no attempt on our part to hide the fact that FeedDemon 3.0 has ads, as a quick search of this blog will prove. It has been mentioned here - and several other places - many times before, and it seemed pointless to bring it up again since my only goal with this post was to introduce the new features.

Nick, I wrote as much above. I know (I saw later) that this is mentioned in the support forum postings. Please understand that this means exactly zero, because you cannot expact everyone to first read / search your blog or the forum, and only then download and install the software. This may be true for some existing users who follow your blog, but most people first install, and then maybe visit the blog or the support forum if they are interested or need assistance. Myself, I had version 2.7 installed, but never used it much, since most of my reading was through Google, and maintaining two sets of subscriptions wasn't convenient.

An advertising-supported program absolutely must disclose this in the installer. Some vendors place that information only in the license. That is an intentionally underhanded approach, because a lot of users don't read EULAs, or wouldn't understand them if they read it, since English is not their native language. But at least the vendor can claim they do disclose the fact before users commit to installing the software.

Yet FeedDemon does not even do that much. If you go to the website, read the overview and what's new sections, download and proceed to install, at no time during this process are you told you are going to see ads in the program. FeedDemon does not carry any privacy statement, either, while the Privacy Policy at NewsGator is not very clear, as I describe in my post above.

In fact, NewsGator's privacy policy does state that subscriptions and "actions" taken with regard to posts are collected. If that information pertains only to users' online activities through the NewsGator site, then the policy needs to be amended, since it is not relevant to FeedDemon.

FeedDemon doesn't automatically subscribe you to those feeds unless you tell it to, and you explicitly have to click "Yes" for those feeds to be added (the default is "No"). I can only guess that those subscriptions were somehow left over from the previous version, or that you misread the step in the startup wizard which asked whether to subscribe you to anything.

You are right that the default is no, but I am not lying to you, either. I do not think those were leftover subscriptions, because (a) as I have already said, I chose the option to clear the cache and subscription data when uninstalling version 2.7, then went and manually removed any traces of the program left on disk. (I did that to ensure that any old subscriptions would not get merged with my current Google Reader feeds); and (b) though you have to take my word for it, there is nothing in the world more boring to me than sports, and I would never and have never subscribed to any sports feeds. Or, indeed, a Gossip section.

I may be wrong about the bug in the installer, though. I suppose it is possible that (a) the uninstaller for v2.7 did not clear the cache even after I clicked Yes twice, and that subsequently I did not manage to find *all* the remaining traces of those old subscriptions. (I did not check the registry, for example.) In that case the bug may be in the 2.7 uninstaller, rather than the current version.

Again, I repeated the procedure twice with the same effect.

FeedDemon doesn't share your subscriptions, nor does it share your Google login. Your login is stored locally, encrypted in the registry. It's only sent to Google itself, and then only using secure HTTP."

Thank you for the direct reply. My request would be to include that information on the NewsGator's FeedDemon page, as well as on the installer screens. Also, please describe the nature of the advertisements. It is becoming standard practice today to serve contextual ads, in which case the program would have to provide at least some subscription information to the advertisers. Whether or not this is the case for FeedDemon, there should be a statement to that effect in the license or a privacy policy distributed with the program.

Please understand that, while I am not a fan of adware, and would not have installed FeedDemon had I known about the ads, I accept that this practice exists. I am not out to rid the world of advertisers (a nice thought, though). My sole issue is with the lack of clear, accessible, prominent disclosure, because FeedDemon did not give me a fair chance to back off. That's all I'm asking for.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2009, 04:27:45 PM by tranglos » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2009, 04:25:53 PM »

As the Op mentioned the advert discussion in forums (and also blogs as you say) does not constitute full disclosure to the end user. I too am a registered user of 2.# FeedDemon and thought I'd try the new release. I was disappointed on two fronts:

1) The ad support, surely we registered users could at least get a short window in which to evaluate without ads, then either pay an update fee or see the ads.

2) The entire program seems to be running through treacle. The interface seems unresponsive. Perhaps this is a reflection of the synchronisation but that appears to only occur when FD is shut down. It's not something tangible that I could give you examples of but it just seems very different to the feel of previous incarnations.

Whilst I understand that you sold FeedDemon to Newsgator for financial reasons and I certainly wouldn't deny you that right (and am in fact pleased that your work was rewarded in this way), the program has never been the same since. Such a shame.
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tranglos
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« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2009, 04:39:31 PM »

1) The ad support, surely we registered users could at least get a short window in which to evaluate without ads, then either pay an update fee or see the ads.

I think so. Not a free no-ads trial even, but just an upfront choice during installation: enter your reg key now or see ads. This way you could upgrade and never have to see the ads at all. The price is really fair.

2) The entire program seems to be running through treacle. The interface seems unresponsive. Perhaps this is a reflection of the synchronisation

Well, almost every action must now go to Google and back, so that's to be expected. The delays didn't seem bothersome to me. Maybe the requests going out of FeedDemon could be buffered and sent in batches every so often, but then you would run the risk of losing synchronization if something went wrong.

« Last Edit: October 01, 2009, 04:41:24 PM by tranglos » Logged

Lashiec
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« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2009, 05:58:12 PM »

2) The entire program seems to be running through treacle. The interface seems unresponsive. Perhaps this is a reflection of the synchronisation but that appears to only occur when FD is shut down. It's not something tangible that I could give you examples of but it just seems very different to the feel of previous incarnations.

Is that so? It runs significantly faster than 2.7 here, and the feeds are synchronized with Google Reader as well. Maybe it depends of the numbers of feed you're subscribed to.
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2009, 06:37:45 PM »

Can anyone else confirm the Google Reader issue? Is it really slowing down?

I'm worried that every RSS Reader is bound to be abandonware after the downfall of NewsGator Online and it looks like FeedDemon has been one of the few stand-alone RSS Readers that still gets updated regularly.

Problem is, even some other rss readers with support for Google Reader earlier had issues with the sync speed and update. I'm not really sure if FeedDemon has this problem but if this is a majority case, maybe it's time to permanently use Google Reader direct to the browser.
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tranglos
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« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2009, 07:03:24 PM »

Can anyone else confirm the Google Reader issue? Is it really slowing down?

I didn't notice anything to complain about in this respect. If you normally use Google Reader, you have to be used to a bit of lag anyway. And you can still use FeedDemon as a standalone reader, without Google Reader integration, in which case it should be as snappy as it was before.

(I originally wrote "standalone newsreader", then realized a newsreader is something entirely different of course. Does that make me an old-timer?)
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« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2009, 07:37:59 PM »

FeedDemon went to the ad supported model sometime ago.  There were a lot of complaints in their forums and on mr bradbury's as well, I just removed it after spending some time looking for a way to disable the ads, pity we can't charge them for time wasted with their bits of folly.
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« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2009, 07:46:53 PM »

Newsgator have released an ad-free version of FeedDemon for $10 USD. Not too bad - I have no need of it, mind you, because the ads don't bother me. Actually, AdMuncher blocks them anyway, so I never see them!
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« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2009, 07:50:41 PM »

First, just to respond to the initial topic, I don't have an issue with anyone complaining that we should've done more to make it clear that FeedDemon is ad-ware (unless you purchase a serial number).  I thought we'd done quite a bit to make that clear, but Marek is correct - we didn't mention that in the software license, and we don't state that on the download page, and perhaps we should've.  I guess what gets me is the tone of the original complaint, which said that I'd "lied down with dogs," and suggested that we were purposely not disclosing the fact that the unlicensed FeedDemon displays ads, that we may be sharing your Google login (we're not - that would be suicide) and automatically subscribing you to feeds even when you chose not to.  I wouldn't have survived for so long in this business if I didn't treat customers with respect, and I get ruffled when someone suggests otherwise.

Anyway...as to the performance issues, this has been a head-scratcher for me.  Most people say that FeedDemon 3.0 is significantly faster than the previous version - especially when synching, and especially when you're subscribed to a lot of feeds.  But I have heard from some customers who say it's slower, and these suggestions seem to speed things up:

  • Compact FeedDemon's database after converting to Google Reader sync (File > Manage Cache > Compact)
  • Tell your anti-virus software to exclude FeedDemon's database files (.FDB)
  • Turn off page transitions (Tools > Options > Appearance)
  • Let the cleanup wizard remove older items

BTW, FeedDemon already sends sync requests in batches, and it does so in background threads to keep the UI responsive.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2009, 07:52:39 PM by nbradbury » Logged
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« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2009, 08:59:30 PM »

Thanks for the suggestions re. slowdown Nick, I will try them and see if I can pinpoint anything causing it. Currently I only have about 8 feeds subscribed and this installation of windows has never had FeedDemon installed on it afaik.

Just for the record this machine, whilst not state of the art, is certainly no slouch. Core 2 Duo 2.3Ghz, 2G Ram, 640Mb GT8800 gfx and plenty of hdd space.

Update: I tried all the suggestions but nothing made a difference. However, I think I've worked out what the issue was - in previous versions I had increased the upper limit of posts displayed per page and it had never caused me an issue, doing the same with 3.x seems to be the direct cause of the slowdowns.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2009, 09:11:36 PM by tanis424 » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2009, 02:09:41 AM »

I knew about the ads in 3.x, but then again I had known about them for some time. I believe that when FeedDemon was abandoned as a paid software and made freely available, it was widely mentioned that the biggest change would be the addition of ads to the free versions. Also, I do browse the NG forums - not regularly anymore but I am there enough to have read all about the ads. So I wouldn't have noticed mention of them missing from the installer and elsewhere.

I do want to say that Nick has indeed always treated his customers with respect and while I don't know him personally, I have never felt that he was one to sell out his customers/users for a buck. (Though I will admit I was pretty hot myself when, shortly after renewing my FD subscription - which I had for a number of years - Nick announced that FD was no longer being offered for a price and paid up subscribers would get nothing for the time left on existing paid subscriptions. Yeah, I was not a happy camper then, Nick. I subscribed and paid for the desktop and Pocket PC versions).

Only issues I am still having with, I believe, FD 3.00.38, is that mine is updating feeds considerably slower than 2.7 had. I notice that the order of updating is not straight down the list as it used to be. Instead the little busy symbol seems to jump around the whole time. Probably something to do with Google's order.

Just my 37 cents!

Jim
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« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2009, 07:11:16 AM »

Thanks, Jim.  BTW, version 3.0.0.38 was a pre-release, so if you're still using it you should upgrade to the final release.  There were a number of improvements since that pre-release, including sync performance.

You're right, though, that the update order has changed.  Previous releases would update each feed individually, but GR synching enables getting all feed changes in a single call, and then updating only the feeds that need to be checked for new items.  This means that the hourglass icon may jump around a bit instead of move down your subscriptions one at a time.
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« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2009, 07:19:47 AM »

I knew about the ads in 3.x, but then again I had known about them for some time. I believe that when FeedDemon was abandoned as a paid software and made freely available, it was widely mentioned that the biggest change would be the addition of ads to the free versions.

Well, having slept on it, my opinion stands. If there are any differences among us, I hope they don't fall along the lines of who knew about it beforehand and who did not, because this is only a side issue. If I added adverts to one of my apps, and only announced it here on dc, would that be sufficient? Not to anyone who just went to my site and downloaded the software.

We've all been through years of debating adware and other *-wares on all possible forums, and if there is one thing that those debates have produced, it is that users expect to be told beforehand, and that software vendors have by and large come to accept that.

I do want to say that Nick has indeed always treated his customers with respect and while I don't know him personally, I have never felt that he was one to sell out his customers/users for a buck.

The more I was taken aback to see the ads in FeedDemon.

I reinstalled the program specifically to see if the license mentioned the ads, and it didn't. Then I went looking for a privacy policy, but there is none that's relevant to FeedDemon, and the one that does exist on NewsGator site does not disclose anything about the ads.

This is a breach of trust, and especially so, coming from a vendor I respect.

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« Reply #15 on: December 28, 2009, 11:57:08 PM »

First, just to respond to the initial topic, I don't have an issue with anyone complaining that we should've done more to make it clear that FeedDemon is ad-ware (unless you purchase a serial number).  I thought we'd done quite a bit to make that clear, but Marek is correct - we didn't mention that in the software license, and we don't state that on the download page, and perhaps we should've.  I guess what gets me is the tone of the original complaint, which said that I'd "lied down with dogs," and suggested that we were purposely not disclosing the fact that the unlicensed FeedDemon displays ads, that we may be sharing your Google login (we're not - that would be suicide) and automatically subscribing you to feeds even when you chose not to.  I wouldn't have survived for so long in this business if I didn't treat customers with respect, and I get ruffled when someone suggests otherwise.

Should've? I don't think it's ever too late. Is it? I still see no mention of ads or ad-ware on the product page or a download page. Does anyone else? Is there now a visible disclaimer in the installer?  I don't see it.  To me it seems the original post and its tone was right on.  I would like to know what the quite a bit to make that clear part was.  It couldn't be much clearer than representing it as the ad-ware (license optional) software that it is, on the main product page and within the installer like other respectable programs do.  Thanks to the OP on this one.
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« Reply #16 on: December 01, 2010, 06:38:54 AM »

Thought this might be of interest:

http://nick.typepad.com/b...emon-40-lite-and-pro.html

Quote from:
This new version also returns to FeedDemon's roots as a paid application.  The final release of FeedDemon 4.0 will come in two flavors – Pro and Lite – which offer different feature sets.  FeedDemon Pro will offer the full feature set and will require purchasing a serial number (price TDB).  If you purchased a serial number for FeedDemon 3.0, there will be a nice discount when upgrading to the new Pro version.  A free ad-supported Lite version with a reduced feature set will also be available.

So FD has come full circle .. from paid software to free to adware and back to paid again.

Personally I wouldn't mind paying for it, except for the fact that he is only going to offer an upgrade discount to people who 'tipped' $10 to remove the adds in v3 and not to the people who actually paid full price for FD back at v2.
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« Reply #17 on: December 01, 2010, 10:44:05 AM »

Same here, Jibz. I paid for a license for FeedDemon 2 - two licenses actually as I also purchased a Windows Mobile license shortly thereafter. If I am locked out of any discount then I'll just keep living without FeedDemon, as I am now.

Thanks!

Jim
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« Reply #18 on: December 01, 2010, 12:25:21 PM »

Nick Bradbury addressed the issue of v2 license holders receiving upgrade discounts in the comments section of the blog posting about v4. The answer is essentially that they are unable to offer us discounts. So, if you have a v1 or a v2 Pro license for FeedDemom you'll have to upgrade at full-price. I think I'll probably just stick with v.3...
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« Reply #19 on: December 01, 2010, 12:55:12 PM »

Yes, that was the comment I read as well.

I was a bit surprised by the word 'unable' -- I doubt there is a law of physics preventing it, but I guess unwilling sounds less appealing cheesy.

There could be some licensing issue in regards to the deal he made with newsgator I guess.
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« Reply #20 on: December 01, 2010, 12:56:41 PM »

Nick Bradbury addressed the issue of v2 license holders receiving upgrade discounts in the comments section of the blog posting about v4. The answer is essentially that they are unable to offer us discounts. So, if you have a v1 or a v2 Pro license for FeedDemom you'll have to upgrade at full-price. I think I'll probably just stick with v.3...

Well, you can try but V.3 has been broken a number of times due to Google changing their Reader configuration and Nick has had to release fixes to keep up with it. Won't be seeing those fixes anymore.

Jim
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Darwin
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« Reply #21 on: December 01, 2010, 01:38:25 PM »

Ouch! I haven't had any problems with FeedDemon 3, but I'll watch for that, Jim.

Jibz - I was struck by the choice of wording as well: "unable"?! I think unwilling or uninterested would have been more accurate!
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« Reply #22 on: December 11, 2010, 08:20:22 AM »

OK - the fog is clearing... I hadn't realized that Newsgator and Nick Bradbury (Feeddemon's developer) had parted ways. In this post to his blog from a couple of days ago, Nick explains why he is charging for Feeddemon again.

I find myself quite sympathetic. Do I wish he'd offer a discount of some sort to license holders of v.2? Of course, but I can see why he isn't.
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« Reply #23 on: December 11, 2010, 10:23:40 PM »

Darwin,

I agree with most of your post - except I don’t see as clearly as you why he can't/won't offer a discount to those who purchased the last version of FeedDemon that was a paid version, V.2.

Thanks!

Jim
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« Reply #24 on: December 11, 2010, 11:01:09 PM »

Reading his post (and between the lines) I'd say he's reached the point where he needs the money. In the post he says he was let go by Newsgator a year or more ago and has been trying to get by on the revenue that the ads in v.3 bring in while working on v.4. I'm inferring that he's no longer able to do this and probalby needs to start generating some revenue. It sounds like he has two school-aged kids and all that implies (mortgage, car payments, medical bills, etc.) with Christmas two weeks away...

I may be reading more into than necessary, though!
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