Like many people, I use my Windows computer for work. Many smart people write great little programs to do useful things, like convert speech to text, edit the family vacation photos, or convert one video file type to another so more people can see it. Cool stuff, and a lot of it doesn’t compete with Microsoft, but makes Windows more valuable by working within the Windows OS.
The trouble happens when trying to download that cool little program. I don’t know the people who made it, so how can I trust that the download doesn’t have bloatware, crapware, adware, spyware, malware, viruses, or trojans? I could use a download site, but how can I trust them either? I really, really don’t want three junk toolbars, two adwares, and a spyware program included with my free download. It’s beyond my technical knowledge and ability to prove that every download site out there includes garbage because it pays well for them. Perhaps I haven’t found the good ones; the world wide web is well, wide. However, I don’t trust any of them to deliver the software that I ask for without any unwanted, unwelcome, unpleasant “extras”. It’s rampant, and even reputable indie creators often end up using sketchy download sites because the creator doesn’t have the bandwidth for lots of downloads. When I built my new pc, I had a horrendous time trying to download things I knew to be good because every download site that I could find included junk.
And this isn’t about free as in free beer. I don’t mind paying for software that I use a lot. (For example, the speech-to-text I use is Dragon Naturally Speaking. I bought it, I like it, and it was malware free.)
But I’d happily pay a couple of dollars per download of free software to be sure it is what it says, does what it says, and doesn’t have anything else to it. We need an App Store for those cool little mostly free programs that really awesome people have created. And we need people to be in charge of verifying authenticity and that it’s adware and malware free. No bundling, no tricky things to uncheck. It needs to be curated by people whose professional reputations rest of them getting it (mostly) right. Librarians, actually, do this all the time: judge the credibility and quality of sources and allow in only good sources. Media specialists are pretty tech-savvy already; libraries have brought in tech for awhile. Now it’s time for high-tech to bring in librarians.