Yet another method for luring unsuspecting downloaders?


I came across the product page for this obviously fairly new software just yesterday… SurfCanister.  SurfCanister appears to be virtualization software which claims to provide a safe browsing environment for its users:

Now, being virtualization software and apparently free, SurfCanister immediately piqued my interest. However, during further investigation I began to suspect that this might well be one of those occasions where the software would only be available for free during the Beta period, and until a final commercial version is released.

This notion has now been confirmed by the developer:

Hello Sir\Madam

According to your Question, “is it free or not?”: We are startup and we are in our beta phase. Hence for now we make our software freeware. When we launch our commercial version, then we make our software available  for “Trial version”.

Regards
Surfcanister Team

Okay, now that is pretty standard practice these days for a startup… no problem. However, the issue I have is that there is no mention of this anywhere on the SurfCanister site. Any casual, and less suspecting, visitor could easily be forgiven for thinking it is in fact ‘freeware’. Surely the developers must realize that “freeware” means free forever – not just for a relatively short period of time, until a certain event takes place.

Why did they not include this information on the product site? Was it out of naivety, or is it a deliberate attempt to mislead visitors into downloading their software?


I would like to give the benefit of the doubt and trust it’s the former, but it is yet another area where users need to be on their toes: If/when you see a “Beta” version of software advertized for free – be careful – before committing to download and install, make sure the ‘free’ aspect is set to carry over to the final version. Otherwise, what you are getting is merely a trial, pure and simple.

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About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

2 Comments

  1. There is another, less sinister, possibility that you could perhaps clarify with the developer. From their letter it could be implied that those who download the beta version do indeed get “free for life” freeware – maybe even free upgrades – but those who become first time users after they release their commercial version will get the trial version. I have participated in several betas where, as thanks for my participation in the beta, I remained a paid up licensed user forevermore while new users are paying customers.
    I’m not saying that this is the case with SurfCanister but it’s worth clarifying. They may not even have made a decision about that yet themselves. Their letter doesn’t say that freeware users will have to upgrade.
    Another possibility is that the beta users will retain lifetime freeware status for only the beta version but will have to pay later for the commercial release if they deem it worthwhile to upgrade.

    • Hey Bruce – Firstly: I thought I made it quite clear that I have no problem with the actual distribution model. What I did object to is that there was absolutely no information to this effect on the SurfCanister site. For all intents and purposes, any visitors to the site would have naturally assumed it was freeware.

      Secondly: Pursuant to communications, the developer has now changed the wording on the site from “Download Free Beta” to “Download Trial Beta”. Which seems to confirm that the software was indeed time limited.

      That said; the developer has been most open and amenable about this matter. IMO, it has obviously been an error in judgment rather than any deliberate attempt to mislead. However, that does not alter the context of my article – the fact that users need to be cautious applies regardless of whether misinformation is deliberate or inadvertent.

      Cheers… Jim