04 March 2009
People searching for OpenOffice.org (or variations like Open Office) using Google have reported seeing "sponsored links" (sites which have paid for positioning at the top of Google search results pages) that charge users to download OpenOffice.org. Some of these sites look quite professional and could easily be mistaken for official download sites by newcomers who are unaware that OOo is always available free from the real OpenOffice.org website. While it is legal to sell OpenOffice.org, the wording on these sites (and in their terms and conditions) is often quite misleading, downloads from them provide no added value, and users who later find they've been duped cannot get a refund (per the sites' terms and conditions). Some of these sites say the payment is for support, but evidence (in the form of questions on the official OOo users' list and forums, in which people say they have registered and paid money, and are now having various problems with the program) suggests that the support is often (always?) actually provided by the OOo community, not the download sites. I won't mention any of these sites specifically here (why give them publicity?), but I do encourage readers of this blog to avoid these sites, tell others to avoid them, and (if you are so inclined) complain to an appropriate authority about them. Some other sites offer OOo on CD or DVD (usually for a low price: no more than $10), and/or bundle other material (PDFs of the user guides, clipart, various extensions, and so on) as a convenience to users. I don't have any objection to people who provide such value-added services, especially since they often link to the official OOo site.