Anyone who likes to download freeware and shareware tools from the Internet should read this cautionary tale about the value of “five-star awards” from sites that aggregate and mirror downloads.
Andy Brice, a UK-based software developer, had grown suspicious about “awards” ascribed to freeware and shareware programs that he knew lacked functions and features of rival offerings. So he invented a program named AwardMeStars. It didn’t run; in fact, it wasn’t actually a program. It was a text file comprised solely of the words, “This program does nothing at all,” and renamed as an executable (.EXE). He had a third party submit his file to just about every software aggregation site; then he sat back to watch the results.
His non-operating, do-nothing program won 16 awards. Various cites labeled it “Certified 5-Star,” “Editor’s Pick,” and “Cool Discovery.” All of them, obviously, from sites that didn’t even bother to note the blatant name of the program, nor try to run it even once.