Back in April this year we published a review of a new music download software called MP3Jam. At that time, the software and the service it provided were free and, although it came bundled with the OpenCandy advertising module, was otherwise clean and my review mostly favorable. You can catch up with that original review here: MP3Jam: Free & legal music downloads.
Now, it appears, the MP3Jam developers have taken a completely different route. Firstly, they have since dumped OpenCandy, which most security experts agree is quite harmless, and opted to bundle the more aggressive and somewhat suspect Somoto advertizing module. There have been numerous reports of Somoto hi-jacking browsers, installing a toolbar without consent, changing home pages, etc. You can read an article regarding Somoto and its implications here: Beware: Solimba and Somoto bundled with freeware.
To make matters worse, there is absolutely no mention of the Somoto bundling anywhere on the MP3Jam site, nor in the end user license agreement, nor at any time during the installation process. Whatever Somoto is doing, it is doing it covertly, without the user’s knowledge or permission.
I installed the latest version of MP3Jam in a virtual environment and, to be fair, there was no sign of any misdeed by Somoto; no browser hi-jack, home page changes, no toolbar or anything else I could find associated with Somoto. I can only assume that MP3Jam is utilizing the advertizing module solely to push its own upgrades… and that brings us on to the second thing… it ain’t exactly free!
Everything on the MP3Jam site suggests that the software and the service it provides are free of charge – the term “free” is used liberally throughout:
It simply is not so. While the software itself may technically still be free, usage is limited to downloading just 30 tracks, after which a payment is required. When you install MP3Jam and run the program, you will see the following interface:
Note the faint text at the bottom of the interface, as indicated in the screenshot… “Tracks available for free download: 30“… and the associated “Upgrade” button. Limiting the software to only 30 track downloads does not equate to “Free”. What is does equate to, in my opinion, is a limited free trial. Mind you, the upgrade price ($9.95) for unlimited downloads does seem pretty reasonable:
In the end, it’s not so much what MP3Jam does or doesn’t do which prompted this article, it’s more about what the developers fail to do. That is; describe their software accurately and transparently. I am still of the opinion that MP3Jam is quite good software, and even though it is now limited to just 30 free downloads, the upgrade is inexpensive enough for it to still well and truly rate consideration. However, I urge the MP3Jam development team to be more open and honest about their software so potential users know exactly what they are getting:
- Make it clear on the home page that Somoto is bundled with the software, accompanied by an explanation of what Somoto does exactly.
- Also make it clear that the software is only free up to and including 30 downloads, after which payment is required.
Seriously MP3Jam developers, your software is more than acceptable, you are doing your software and potential users a disservice by not being completely up front and transparent.