We don’t want your rotten toolbar!


 

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INTRO: This article was first published by Bill in March, 2010. However, the topic remains very relevant to this day, and the article is, of course, presented in Bill’s usual honest, sometimes irreverent, always entertaining fashion. Enjoy!

Jim[/important]

MEMO TO: SNEAKY FREEWARE DEVELOPERS

masked manYou give me your software for free as a marketing tool, with the hope of course, that I’ll upgrade to the commercial version of your application.


That’s cool, that’s smart, (it cost you nothing by the way) – nevertheless, I’m appreciative.

But you don’t stop with just the free use of your application, you piggyback a toolbar, or some other non-essential item, as part of the install package. Listen, I understand, you want to install a toolbar because you get paid by the toolbar developer. Even that’s OK – but you do it in such a sneaky way that it really p*sses me off, and that’s not OK.

Worse, if I don’t like your application and uninstall it, you open your Internet site, following the uninstall, using my Internet Browser – even if I don’t give you permission by allowing the connection. In my view, that’s a form of hacking. You need to take a refresher course in ethics.

I’ve been around the Internet for a few decades, so it’s not often I get caught in your schemes to install unwanted software on my machines, but less experienced users are often caught in your carefully laid traps.

Here’s a sample of the outrage a typical user, who got trapped by unethical behavior, feels – a comment on my site left by an outraged reader, several days ago, following her installation of Miro:


I thought I’d give this a try, since I watch Hulu quite a bit, and I’m sooo angry I did. Miro installed Bing Search toolbar, which I didn’t want or agree to install (using Firefox) and it wiped out all my default search engines for Firefox.

Now I’m trying to figure out how to get Firefox back to normal. Beware!!!!!!!! I don’t trust companies that install things without your consent or knowledge.

In this particular instance it’s true that the EULA covers this situation, but here’s the question. Why does an average user need to read a Eula in order to find an alternative installation solution?

An accusation of unethical behavior doesn’t begin to cover this case – sleazy; vulgar; dishonest; sordid; are much more appropriate.

You, the unethical developer, are not alone in attempting to profit by toolbar inclusion in freeware applications. More and more, high profile developers who offer a stripped down version of their commercial applications as freeware, are involving themselves in this highly questionable practice.

toolbars

So here’s a question for the “ethical” freeware providers. How many toolbars do you think an average user needs? Ten? Twenty? Thirty………….. Just so you know, a Google search for “toolbar”, returns 167 Million results!

I can already hear your answer “ but the user can uncheck the appropriate box when installing the application”. Right! Unless you’re detached from the real world (and, you may well be), you’re more than aware that a typical user does not uncheck this box. Then, over time, the user is at a loss to explain why their machine has slowed to a crawl.

Could it be because your toolbar, along with twenty others, all installed in a furtive way, become active at startup – ya think!!

So, just stop with the crapware already. If you’re p*ssing me off, just consider what you’re doing to an average user.

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EPILOGUE: Well said Bill. Anyone who deals with ‘fixing’ other peoples computers, whether it be in hobby mode or on a professional basis, will be well aware of the havoc reeked among the huge band of ‘average’ users by these ubiquitous and mostly uninvited toolbars. I am endlessly amazed when opening the browser on a client’s machine only to see up to half the screen real estate shanghaied by toolbars. When I ask my clients if they use any of these toolbars the answer is invariably no… and most have no idea how they got there.

Great article Bill…. Jim[/important]

About the Author

Bill Mullins

Bill heralds from the days of Commodore VIC-20s and Texas Instruments TI 99/4As in the early 1980’s and has fond memories of 5.25” floppies, 10MB hard drives, 300 Baud modems, bulletin boards and the birth of what we now know as the internet. He is presently an Information Technology professional specializing in technologies related to system and internet security and has been sharing his knowledge through Bill Mullin’s Tech Thoughts for several years. His articles are posted with his permission.

8 Comments

  1. Very good and informative. Every computer user should read it and be cautious when downloading FREEWare!!!!
    DINESH

  2. They all load at startup too? Love that screenshot! haha Yes it’s a bugbear, same with flashplayer update from Adobe the unwary can end up with the odd extra they don’t need or want.
    A bad one of note, a real kicker this one..icq instant messenger, i used it to contact the web master of a site i work on, update came through – ok…so far…restart and it’s hijacked my homepage installed a toolbar on firefox and believes it should load itself on start up and check for updates as well — noooo… sorry buddy you have to go!

  3. Hi Bill,

    A GREAT article.
    Yes siree, millions of people are TOTALLY peeeeeeeeeeeed off at the ‘toolbar lark’ by the shysters, which is a kind name for them, somewhat similar to the medicine men of the Old Wild West.
    Java, for instance, supposedly used by “billions of people” according to them, and lookout for the little ticked box to approve of the Ask toolbar when updating Java.
    As a Mr. Fixit of computers for seniors, despite all the warnings, hardly anyone listens to, “CALL ME BEFORE DOWNLOADING ANYTHING !!”
    A little trick which every downloader should use, including me, is a screen magnifier during downloading and see more clearly the ‘junk therein’ on the download page and ongoing screens.
    I would like to find a way to bombard the shysters with their own ‘medicine’.

    Kind Regards.
    JoninOz.

  4. I couldn’t agree more! Some REALLY sneaky toolbars install even if you refuse, which is the lowest of the low. I consider myself very computer-savvy but even I’ve been caught and friends have been had by what is probably the worst of the lot – the Babylon monster. That is a pig to get rid of. I’m amazed at the number of so-called reputable software developers (such as AVG, for instance) that are also trying to sneak toolbars in – “Normal installation. (Recommended)”. Well, they WOULD say that, wouldn’t they? Always go for “custom” or “advanced” installation, which is obviously want they don’t want you to do. However, the very word “advanced” is probably enough to strike fear into some folk. It’s a con, in my opinion, to infer that the “recommended” path is the normal or best way to go but less techie people would probably assume that the company is only trying to lend them a helping hand and might assume that they know best. WRONG! It’s about time these unwanted “extras” were outlawed somehow.

  5. Hi Dave,
    You musta read my mind!
    This ploy irks me beyond just a simple annoyance.
    I wish I had a bigger audience besides my cohorts whom I warn of these ongoing shenanigans with toolbars and BHOs.
    BillP’s WinPatrol (http://www.winpatrol.com/) FREEware utility (not riddled with such toolbars) is a useful tool that assists in preventing such unauthorized toolbar installs.
    WinPatrol (w/Scotty) has been around for at least 15 years and is in my StartUp for just as long.
    I paid for the “Plus” version (never expires) many moons ago and it is worth every penny.
    Cheers!

  6. Heck, even this web site got me. The ad at the top of this page says get rid of toolbars. I thought it was access to a freeware program that would get rid of toolbars. Once I realized it was scamware, I terminated it and uninstalled right away. SpeedMaxPC is just another scamware and I fell for clicking the link thinking it was pertaining to this article. Never again.

  7. Not in order, three top-of-the-tree, honest sites should be promoted world-wide.
    Win Patrol, DCT & FreewareBB, and add LO4D, run by Chris, the saviour of FBB.