This question was closed

How do I make sure my installer doesn't set off virus scanners?

as a dupe of

How to give evidence that an open-source project is reputable?

Personally, I think there's a subtle enough difference to disagree with the duplicate identification and it seems well on the way to being reopened.

But these questions raise a different issue. As they stand, each question has problems: too broad, too similar, and the underlying problem is not specific to FLOSS projects.

But it is a problem which is exacerbated by some aspects of a project being FLOSS. A new, small, and unfunded project does not have some of the advantages of a commercially backed effort in breaking into the growing ecosystems surrounding the 2 main commercial operating systems.

Both Windows and OSX are moving to more and more to a model where users are directed very forcefully to an "App store" as the officially blessed source of new apps. Even Ubuntu has a similar mechanism.

Commercial/Proprietary projects take the costs (time and money) of getting into these stores as just part of the price of doing business. They also have the advantage of providing a single point of contact, with official legal standing, that lets them negotiate with the store owners.

Add to this the growing fear (vs awareness and education) of users around the risks, pros, and cons of installing "unblessed" software and the influence of popular virus checkers.

This all adds up to a (hopefully unintentional) barrier to entry for new FLOSS projects.

So I can see that a question such as "How do I get my FLOSS app approved by the XYZ store?" or "How do I get my FLOSS software whitelisted by ABC Virus checker?" have specific relevance to FLOSS work.

On the other hand, we could end up with almost identical questions for each App Store and each Virus Checker. With answers which may regularly become outdated and inaccurate.

SO has a specific close reason for this type of question:

"Questions about general computing hardware and software are off-topic for Stack Overflow unless they directly involve tools used primarily for programming. You may be able to get help on Super User."

I think we need to decide whether this type of question is on-topic here and - if not - what close reason we should use (assuming we are not yet ready for custom close reasons).

And then, if we decide to let them in, we need to help the OP refine their questions into an acceptable form and try to answer them.

  • 2
    With those specific questions, I really think that they are on-topic: There's nothing wrong with them and it's more than healthy to have questions/answers that derive from expert experience. The only kinds of questions that I've really seen declared as off-topic are really those that are "support" questions for individual projects. Otherwise, we really should be having this in scope.
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 17:49
  • 1
    On a side note, I disagree with your general claim that the "stores" on Windows/OS X are creating a barrier to entry to FLOSS projects. Anybody, including open source developers, can submit a binaries to those stores. And they even provide free (or at least ridiculously cheap) hosting/infrastructure for the project. Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 0:58
  • 2
    The only issue is that Microsoft/Apple want to be able to kill malicious software after it has already been installed on customer PCs, using a technique very similar to the one used to kill SSL certificates when a private key has escaped into the wild. The FSF licenses treat that ability as a form of DRM which in my opinion is miss-guided and I would love to see it fixed in a future version of the GPL. In the mean time, we've opted to switch our license from GPL to MIT. Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 1:01

3 Answers 3


Questions that ask

How do I get whitelisted by X?

are off-topic, because it's about a specific product. The answer can probably be found fairly easily on their support site or forums, and they're much better placed to answer it than us.

the above was stolen from ArtOfCodes answer

However, questions asking what strategies should be followed to not be flagged by products in category Y are not this question.

You could bring against it that it is a shopping list question, but I disagree with that. It's not an open ended list of things you may want to do.

A list of specific actions for specific products would not be a good answer. It would be open ended, and quickly be out of date regardless. However, giving general advice that is valid for the whole class of things (i.e. get whitelisted. Don't obfuscate code. make sure to frubulate your astugators, as y's generally trigger on unfrubulated astugators. Also, don't forget to istern all gribbers) is not too broad, it borders on off-topicness (how is this related to open source), but skirts it (the source can be inspected to confirm non-virulence, which requires at least a shared source model)

I like ArtOfCodes additional close reason though.

  • 2
    As the OP of the question that prompted this, I like this answer.
    – RubberDuck
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 20:54

If someone posted a question that was specifically about the problem of app stores, I think it might be on-topic. Not in the sense of 'technically, tell me a way to get into an app store' but 'What strategies have open source projects used to get into app stores?'

The 'reputation' question seemed to be about how companies evaluate potential open source usage, but it's hard to be sure. The answers went off into questions about Windows and AV, even though the question said nothing about technology. I think it is too broad even if there might be an on-topic question hiding in it.

The virus scanner question has just the problem that ArtOfCode cites. It's not about building open source code or communities. It's not even about some programming question about how to write code that AVs will find un-frightening. It's about a policy of AV companies to warn on uncommon programs. That leads only to 'tech support for the AV'. To respond to the comment: as I read https://opensource.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic, actual technology questions -- programming questions -- would belong on stackoverflow, not here. If this question were edited to read, 'how do open source communities overcome the fear-factor of AV warnings,' then I'd think it entirely on topic.

(As an aside, speaking as the child of older folks who are not techies, I am happy that AV programs discourage them from installing random programs. I'm sorry if that's an inconvenience for my fellow open source developers, but there you are.)

  • 1
    Aye, but is it not a common problem to come across the issue of seeing this message and having no idea why your project is being flagged? Put yourselves in the shoes of someone who has never done this before. It's a legitimate question that is eventually faced by every new OSS dev that creates an installer for their project. You've failed to convince me that technology questions are off topic here.
    – RubberDuck
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 20:52

We're not customer support.

(yes that's a meta.SO post, but it applies equally across the network)

Questions that ask

How do I get whitelisted by X?

are off-topic, because it's about a specific product. The answer can probably be found fairly easily on their support site or forums, and they're much better placed to answer it than us.

I'm also tempted to say that questions asking

How do I improve my chances of getting whitelisted?

(i.e. looking for general advice, not on any specific product), are also off-topic, because although they're not about specifics they're still about products we don't control. A few of us may use each product, and a few may watch their updates, but the major problem with this type of question is it's not going to last: with the next algorithmic update on that virus checker, there are going to be different caveats and conditions to getting verification. There are better things to be doing than constantly watching updates and updating answers here - let the product forums do that.

I'm up for debate on the second one of those points (about more general questions). Comments, opposing answers are welcome, as is chat discussion. If we are going to make these off-topic, I'd suggest a custom close reason (because the default doesn't explain why) something along these lines:

Questions asking for integration advice with a specific product or type of product are off-topic, because the answers are likely to change the next time the product updates. You may be able to get help on the products' support forums. See Are questions on getting your project "blessed" on scope? for more information.

  • 1
    We've also discussed general startup questions here
    – kdopen
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 15:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .