For firewalls, I always recommend Zone Alarm from ZoneLabs. To my mind it’s still the best and most intuitive firewall around. But most people only need the free version. And that’s where the problem is. Why do ZoneLabs make it so hard for ordinary users to download it?
Readers and friends who have tried to download the free version often seem to run into problems, and download the ‘free trial’ version or some other less-than-free version of the software. As I recommend Zone Alarm, and thought that ZoneLabs had agreed to make this easer after earlier complaints, I thought I should check it out.
It’s true that it’s not easy. The Free ZoneAlarm and trials link is there in the top half of the screen, but it’s below another ‘freebie’, a Spyware Detector (more of that anon). The list of ZoneAlarm Security Products that are now available does not include a link to the free version, and the big link to the ZoneAlarm Security Suite page which dominates the top half of the screen contains no links to the free version. Neither does the download page. So unless you happen to see the link on the homepage, you’ve pretty much lost the chance to get the free download.
And even then, should you make it to the ‘Free Downloads’ page, you’ll have to scroll down to the end of the list, past five other mentions of the word ‘free’ to find the free version. Made it that far? You still have to skip past another tripwire before you make it home without removing your wallet. The first link on that page is to a link: FREE! Scan My PC for Spyware Before Downloading ZoneAlarm® (Recommended) that sounds, to a casual user, almost part of the download process. (What they don’t tell you is that the scan is for free, but you’ll have to shell out $30 to remove the ‘spyware, keyloggers, cookies, adware, browser help objects and other pests’ that the scan will find. My scan found 48 items of ‘spyware’ — all but two of them cookies, which is pushing the definition a little. (The other two were MS Media Player ID files, which are worth removing, according to CA and Kephyr.)
This is a shame because, while I can understand ZoneLabs need to make a buck, the free version is an excellent shop window for ZoneLabs. And users shouldn’t be misled by ‘recommended’ links to other software that looks free, but isn’t really. Bottom line: If you’re not educating the user but trying to get their money through stealth or obfuscation, then you’re not part of the solution.