OK, people: 'Unlimited' does not mean three

OK, people: 'Unlimited' does not mean three

Summary: It's been a few weeks (or at least a few days) since David Gewirtz did a rant. No, it's not about Linux. And yes, this time you're pretty much guaranteed to agree with him.

TOPICS: Security

Update: When it comes to this particular story, "unlimited" now means unlimited. We spoke to BitDefender about the issues below and they have made corrections. Their comments and the update to this story follows the initial rant. Be sure to read all the way through.

Let me be clear here. I like marketers. I spent years in product marketing. I know how hard it is to walk the fine line between getting a real message out and making sure you get attention that leads to sales.

But it's time to define our terms here. Unlimited does not mean "three". It does not mean "until we're sick of you." It does not mean "until you get real traffic on our servers." It specifically does not just mean "more than one."

Why am I ranting about this today? Honestly, I've had a bug up my rather generous posterior maximus about this for years. I went through a phase when I was looking for Web hosting providers, many of whom claimed to allow "unlimited" traffic in their marketing, only to have the fine print define "unlimited" as "pretty darn limited."

This time, I'm picking on BitDefender, an anti-virus company. Here's why.

Yesterday, our Larry Seltzer ran a front-page piece Antivirus on Windows 8/8.1 compared, where BitDefender came out tied for top rating in both enterprise and consumer AV. I've used other tools, but haven't had much experience with BitDefender so I went over to the company's site.

Right on the home page was this promotion. Notice the chunk I highlighted in yellow: "One License. Unlimited Devices." See that word? Unlimited? Yeah, I knew you did.


My first thought was that's not bad. If the price wasn't too high, I might recommend BitDefender, especially since it has unlimited devices for purchasers. I like that approach for consumers. It makes things easy and creates a large base of loyal customers.

So I clicked into the "Buy Now" link. Uh-oh. Take a look at this screenshot:


On the left side I've drawn a nice green box around the wording that says, once again, "One License, Unlimited Devices." So far, so good. Now follow the red arrow to the right, to the red box I drew around the kinda-small print. What does it say there?

Yep. "Up to 3PCs." PCs are devices, folks.

Is that unlimited devices? No, three is not unlimited. Three is three.

Update: I've spoken to BitDefender and asked for clarification/response. Catalin Cosoi, BitDefender's Chief Security Strategist got back to me with this statement:

"Thank you for pointing this situation. We analyzed all the topics raised in your article and we can confirm a human error in the landing page only. It has already been fixed.

Otherwise, during the time that we displayed the misleading landing page, the info listed in the shopping cart and in the product page were absolutely correct. Bitdefender commercial offer is unlimited devices per user of the household, for three family members."

And here it is, corrected. Nice job, BitDefender.


Speaking personally, this looks like a heck of a good deal. Kudos to BitDefender for being so responsive. Now, let's see whether other limited-unlimited statements will get fixed as well.

BitDefender is far from the only company using "unlimited" to mean something other than unlimited. If you've had experience with other companies or offers claiming unlimited out of one side of their mouths while restricting and imposing limits out of the other side, please tell us about it in the TalkBacks below.

Topic: Security


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Web hosting providers

    David, any Web hosting providers you can recommend?
    Honeyboy Wilson
    • Friends

      I wound up going with friends who own datacenters and who sliced out a little chunk of rack for me. I bought the computers and manage them, and they just let the sit there. Co-lo isn't their normal business, so it's not something that would work for you. Finding hosting has been an interesting challenge.

      Anyone out there want to recommend hosting that's worked for you?
      David Gewirtz
      • A Small Orange - doesn't offer/promise "unlimited"

        A Small Orange: http://asmallorange.com/why/different/
      • If you want a server in Canada

        A year or so ago, I recall Zak Whittaker writing something about, how if a hosting company not in the U.S. is owned by a U.S. company, Homeland Security can command them to turn over client information including personal files, even if that breaks the laws of the country in which the hosting company resides. Since I deal with some very security-conscious Canadians, this became an important issue. Canadian law forbids a hosting company in Canada from turning over anything to the U.S. government without the permission of the hosted client. But as Zak pointed out, if the owner of the company was MS, MS would ignore Canadian law because MS resides in the U.S., even though their subsidiary resided in Canada. So for my Canadian web site, I had to find a Canadian web host that was wholey Canadian-owned. A Canadian friend of mine recommended Koallo.ca and I've been using them ever since.

        On a nice side bit, if there is ever a global thermonuclear war, their servers will still be operating for 7 days. Turns out their facility is in a former Canadian Forces bunker and shares the parking lot with the Canadian Space Agency.
  • Reminds me of unlimited data plans with caps.

    Reminds me of "unlimited" data plans with caps.
    • I was thinking the same thing

  • Unlimited devices?!

    I found another landing page for Family pack, 5 users 1 year = $64.97 but still don't know what unlimited devices means in this case.

  • Crickets unlimited data plans

    I was looking at Cricket wireless the other day for a friend and thought it was funny that they have 3 unlimited data plans, one with a 2.5GB limit, another with a 5GB limit, and a third with a 10GB limit. How are any of those unlimited? Maybe they are soft limits, but it is still not unlimited.
  • Had similar issues with Sprint

    Unlimited data? Yes. Unlimited data at full speed? No. They would let me chew up as much bandwidth as I wanted, but at a certain point, good luck getting past 40-50k/sec. Of course, there were many times I struggled to get more than that when I was UNDER the cap, so I jumped ship to a higher capacity provider.
  • Surely this is unlawful ...

    Under the Trade Descriptions Act?
  • I think there's wide agreement, but...

    ...never say never. You might well get a BitDefender defender to respond to your article.
    John L. Ries
  • Some data plans are unlimited.

    With the rapidly growing availability of LTE, providers offer a limit to how much you can use up to an amount for package deals however, upon maxing your plan of choice (2.5 gb, 5 gb, etc.) they then slow your data download rate to 3G until your monthly plan renews. So, you still have data, it IS unlimited, but.... it gets slowed.

    I vote that the entire nation have a permanent wifi service with high speed paid for through a universal tax paid by everyone with a registered mobile phone and or tablet.

  • It's about wifi!

    I rarely use data. Everywhere I go, living in Seattle, most venues have wifi. If not surely you can connect to one nearby. I don't understand the point of data other than it's simply another means to drain your wallet. We're living in a highly advanced society these days. If we could just remove the hunger for greed and truly treat ourselves to really making our lives easier with that technology, perhaps our human species would start evolving again. But seriously, this hang up on mobile carriers competing for data is ludicrous. We don't need data. We need global wifi. Wifi is better. It's being upgraded to even faster technology. Older devices won't be compatible. But that is the evolution of technology. Now if only we could evolve beyond this need for greed. Lol yeah right.

    /end rant