Sourceforge download page gone from bad to worse

If you’re not a geek you probably don’t know SourceForge. It is a very useful website for computer programmers (or developers, as we like to call ourselves), because it provides an aggregation point for people, code and knowledge, and it does so for free. It unfortunately was built by a certain sub-type of geek that thinks they automatically understand the internet, simply because internet uses technology, and technology is something they understand.

A result of this is that for a long time SourceForge used link texts that looked like package.zip or program.exe that promised to lead you to a downloadable file. The only correct expectation that a visitor could have is that if you right-clicked the link and selected Save As in your web browser, the browser would store the promised file on your hard disk. Instead, you would get a web page with links to the actual files on your hard disk. You see, the .zip-link would not actually lead to the file itself, but instead to a collection of links that in turn would lead to (several instances of) the file.

Now SourceForge has changed this method. By the time I finally learned not to “Save As” the linked document, they’ve made it so that a download will start automatically. Of course, they won’t tell you this. Instead, you get a page with several links to downloadable files, just like before, except this time the files aren’t the ones you requested, but completely different ones that are part of advertisements. Might even be virusses, who knows? Since the web isn’t immediate, I didn’t realise I just needed to wait until the download started, and instead clicked the most likely looking link. Which was the moment I realised I was wrong, because the file that started downloading was several hundreds of megabytes large, whereas the file I had requested was supposed to be only several kilobytes in size.

Once again, FOSS geeks, sterling work! Please don’t ever learn, you might have to admit to having been wrong in doing so!

[screenshot]
(follow link for enlargement of screenshot)

4 responses to “Sourceforge download page gone from bad to worse”

  1. luke says:

    Branko,

    yeah, the download page does go pretty funky when there are download ads served inside of it. unfortunately nothing we can do that about that since our ad network pays the bills.

  2. brankl says:

    Luke, it’s also a question of presentation. If the ads don’t look like ads, people are going to assume they’re something else.

  3. brankl says:

    I’m beginning to think that this may not be unintentionally bad design, but very deliberate bad design. I’ve look at a couple of other pages, amongst them the home page and a project homepage, and some of regular content is made to look like Google ads. For instance, the main menu on the homepage, which on almost every other website in existence looks like a strip of tabs or buttons, or at least bold links, looks like a strip of ordinary text links at Sourceforge.

  4. ozoid says:

    Hi
    I have left a few comments in the SF feedback area relating to this and the number of errors in the HTML on their download page – i use DebugBar which shows 44 errors on the download page alone including missing closing tags and invalid markup.

    I then found your blog confirming what i thought. I think its a case of fixing it when it wasnt broken and taking two steps backwards.

    Steve

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