So this afternoon I was sent a link from a well meaning friend to download a compressed archive of photos. If it were me I would have just uploaded the lot to Flickr, but there you go.

The link he send me was to MegaUpload.com, one of the more popular one click file hosting sites (Wikipedia link). While I admit they are useful for people who don't have a web host of their own and want to share large files with friends, I tend to dislike using them because they're clumsy to use… by design.

The best business model the people running these sites have been able to come up with is providing a free, throttled service for people wishing to download content that they're friends want to share with them, with the promise that if you purchase a subscription the number of files you can download at a time increases and download speeds will be an order of magnitude higher.

But it's not that simple. Instead of just limiting the download speeds, these sites try all sorts of dodgy tricks. You're never allowed to start your download instantly, you have to wait just under a minute before the link "activates", during which time you're presented with a vague list of benefits you can claim if you pay. When the link finally appear it often doesn't work, and when you finally get a link that works the download often times out Murphy's Law style just when you're about to finish. Most one click file hosting sites have CAPTCHA (Wikipedia link) input fields, some of which are simple (like MegaUpload) and some are so difficult to read you can miss out several times.

ASIDE: At this point I’d really like to use stronger language… but I’m restraining myself :). Who knows, my year 12 English teacher might be reading this. Or my 8th grade Chemistry teacher. Wait, where was I?

Forcing users to pay for decent download speeds for material that the company hasn't even created themselves as they watch their current download crawl along at the rate of 4% an hour isn't blackmail, but I reckon it's close to it.

Sure there will be a few people who will whip out their credit cards and hand over a pile of cash so they can get what they're supposed to, but it baffles me that they think they can attract more customers by treating new users like this. It's hardly a glowing example of their service if it takes hours to download a file that should only take minutes. I certainly wouldn't want to give such a company any money after putting up with their awful service, and I suspect I'm not the only one!

To be fair, MegaUpload is much better than other sites such as RapidShare, but it still relies on Flash which isn't available on FreeBSD or 64bit Linux and JavaScript which I have disabled in my browser by default.

I've downloaded the file, but I will be advising my buddy in Germany to use alternative methods next time. I'm not Bill Kurtis.