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PDFreaders: How can you make institutions change their websites

Three months ago, I announced here the end of the PDFreaders’ bug hunt, during which we collected more than 2000 institutions’s websites which advertised for proprietary PDF readers.

Now that we and volunteers helping us have contacted each and all of them, the answers are flooding and about 210 institutions already changed their websites towards a more neutral handling of PDF readers. Some of them basically removed any indication, others propose to download proprietary and free software PDF readers, others now only advocate the use of Free Software.

On this campaign, the point is to friendly discuss with the institutions, to make them aware of their doing advertising although as public bodies they are not allowed to. So far, institutions in Russia, Italy, Croatia, Germany have been pretty receptive, and answers come from almost all contacted countries. And you can help there.

Volunteers like Massimo Barbieri and the LUG Scandiano have been helping us since the beginning of the campaign in spotting institutions, checking the addresses, monitoring the sending of the letters and following with the institutions that they do comply to what we ask from them. As for today, 86 Italian institutions changed their website. In Croatia, Marko Dimjašević followed the institutions so closely that we are now about to have all of them having changed their website !

Others decide to follow on their own the process we’ve started in September with the campaign. This is what Simon Linskill decided to do when he contacted the City Council of Sheffield. The city responded positively to his demands, and is currently working on removing the unfair advertising. In germany, another volunteer, Stephan, spotted and contacted the cities of Wegberg, Mönchengladbach and Heinsberg. They shall answer any time soon, you can follow the progresses on the list of German institutions. I invite you to follow their steps and become active in your city !

Make things happen around you!

If you have some time, you can bring your nearest institution to change its website accessibility policy. Check the website of your City Council, your local government, your region’s council, etc… If you find an exclusive advertising for a non-free PDF reader, send them a mail or write them a letter, explaining why this is wrong and how they could make it more neutral, non-discriminatory towards Free Software – in short, better. You can take inspiration from the letter we have been sending to the institutions. After that the institutions will probably come back to you, either with questions or saying they have complied to your demands.

  • In the second case, take the time to go to their website and make sure that they’ve got it right. Check not only on the page that you spotted, but on the whole website. If there are still advertisements for proprietary PDF readers, please contact them again, thanking for the effort and asking for them to be coherent in their policy. If you have doubts on how to deal with that, contact us !

After that, comes the glory part:

Once the institution has removed the advertisements or added also a link to free PDFreaders, send them a mail to thank them and report your success at

I will then add the institution you made more neutral on our list of institutions, and you’ll contribute to make the page greener and greener and to help PDF readers developpers to get known.