Avast’s “site rating” feature

By | April 25, 2011
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MaryLee on Avast’s’ new site rating feature
Hi TC & EB, On your suggestion, I was just about to uninstall the free version of Avast, to try the Microsoft program you recommended recently, when Avast made an update to their program, so I downloaded the new version. Now I see that they have a “rate this site,” which I’m using. I’ve never had any trouble with Avast, so I’m staying with it for now and rating sites that I visit (yours, with excellence, of course.) I wonder if you’ve seen this yet and what you think of it, compared to McAfee’s Site Advisor. I already know what you two think of WOT, and I agree and dumped it long ago. … Also, note to TC: I know you enjoy Hugh Laurie on “House,” and think you’ll like this interview with him on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, from 02 Mar 2011: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZgFgS0NTxw . Thanks for all you do for us, MaryLee

Our answer
Thanks, MaryLee – and thanks for the “House” – he does an American accent so well, doesn’t he?

With regard to Avast’s new “feature”:

Any time a software product or a software company “recommends” a site, you should question the motivation. Is it subject to someone paying someone for that “recommendation”…especially if the product is free. The idea of adding more and more “features” to an antivirus program, makes it more and more like a “security suite”. Security suites use the often tried and often failed “all-in-one” approach. All-in-one products try to be everything to everybody – it’s a great marketing gimmick, but not usually a great idea.

Asking users to rate sites is a is a terrible idea, no matter how democratic it may sound. As we noted in our WOT article a while ago, there were millions of negative comments, and very few positive ones. The web is not that unbalanced; there at not 20 times more bad sites than decent sites. It’s pure fantasy to think that a system whereby sites are rated by all users, could ever be accurate or reliable. What one person may like, another person may hate. Imagine a site promoting Buddhism – being rated by Born-Again Christians. What kind of rating do you think that site would receive in a Christian country? Regardless of one’s beliefs – a site which espouses conflicting or different beliefs does not make it a bad site. Users are biased toward their own likes, dislikes, social values, religious beliefs and so on. A company that has tried a user-based rating system, Web of Trust (WOT) won’t even respond to our requests for information as to how they arrive at site ratings – or how much weight they give to users’ ratings. We’ve been trying to get WOT to respond to us for 3 weeks now about how they arrive at the their site ratings. So far, we’ve heard nothing.

Who is qualified to tell me what sites I like and don’t like? Not you, not EB, not my family, and certainly not a bunch of anonymous people; the only one qualified to rates sites for me is me. Browsers have features built-in to warn me of potentially harmful sites, fraudulent sites and phishing sites; I don’t need the masses to tell me what to like or what’s good and bad, and neither do you. Allowing users to rate sites will never work and it’s subject to too much abuse and too heavily weighted toward the negative.

And anytime any company rates sites as good or bad, you need to question how they arrive at those ratings and what’s going on behind the scenes. Is money the motivation? In the world of the Web, the number of visitors, the number of people using the software, the number of people in the software “community”, etc. can all affect how a site is rated – because traffic equals money.

In my opinion, AVAST site rating system whether based on user ratings, some Avast algorithm, or both, would be motivation for removing AVAST and use an anti-malware program that concentrates all its efforts on protecting my computer rather than attempting to judge web sites. I sure don’t need my antivirus program telling me which sites it recommends or doesn’t recommend – or having it ask me to rate sites. I don’t need to do that – there is no benefit to me or anyone else.

This whole “safe site” idea is much better in theory than in practice. There’s far too much room for abuse. There are too many variables in any system of site rating, because as far as I can see, rating systems are arbitrary, not accurate, and could end up being abused and use a vehicle for retribution and/or censorship. Worse they could be use to sway opinion, or to push political or religious agendas.

The current versions of Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox, and Apple’s Safari all have excellent fraudulent site and anti-phishing protection. I think that you’d be better off if you didn’t trust someone else’s opinion of what constitutes a good site or a bad site.. and find an antimalware like Microsoft Security Essentials that just does what it’s supposed to do and doesn’t recommend web sites.

We highly recommend MSE and a good antispyware like SUPERAntiSpyware and keeping them updated. We also recommend keeping whatever browser you use updated, and that you rely on it to protect you from fraudulent sites and phishing sites. Use common sense and don’t rely on something or someone else to rate Web sites. There is no system of rating Web sites that we know of that is not flawed; every one we’ve seen is too arbitrary and subject to abuse and misuse.

3 thoughts on “Avast’s “site rating” feature

  1. William Dinkins

    Concerning Avast….. Avasts site rating system, called WebRep, is a plug-in which can be uninstalled from your browser. I don’t approve of rating systems but I do like Avast so I simply uninstalled the plug-ins.

  2. Ashley

    Once, a long long time ago, (I say this because I can’t remember when), you (being TC or EB) had highly approved of AVAST antivirus. I had lost internet for a long while and have been out of “the loop”. Though I am curious to find out when you changed your mind about AVAST and the reason behind it. Especially since that is what I currently use. Thanks for your time!

    1. infoave Post author

      We had several friends and family members who were infected will running updated copies of Avast. While this can happen with any antivirus – it seemed odd to us that 3 people we knew personally had problems. That plus Avast’s more annoying approach to push users to upgrade to “Pro” and their encouraging users to use their site-rating feature — all added up to us downgrading Avast. It’s our opinion that Avast isn’t what it used to be, but we still consider it to be a good free antivirus – we just no longer think it’s the best.


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