Apple Safari Backdoor Install "Wrong"

Since I wrote about Apple installing Safari on people’s computers through the backdoor on Thursday, there has been a lot of reaction.

Mozilla CEO John Lilly said:

Apple has made it incredibly easy–the default, even–for users to install ride along software that they didn’t ask for, and maybe didn’t want. This is wrong, and borders on malware distribution practices.

It’s wrong because it undermines the trust that we’re all trying to build with users. Because it means that an update isn’t just an update, but is maybe something more. Because it ultimately undermines the safety of users on the Web by eroding that relationship. It’s a bad practice and should stop.

I certainly agree with the assessment that it borders on malware distribution. I remember installing GoZilla! or some kind of file download manager on my Windows 95 PC when I saw it recommended in a computer magazine. Little did I know, a spyware application was bundled with the program. After that incident, I disabled Windows Update and started installing all my updates manually. It wasn’t until I switched to XP did I finally allow my system to download updates but I still wanted to know what was being installed before it completed the process.

I know that Safari isn’t a piece of malware. It’s a nice little browser: very fast, standards-compliant. But let people decide that: tell them about Safari so they can install it and then use it. Don’t distribute it through an automatic update system where it’ll probably won’t benefit Safari at all… users won’t know it’s there and Safari gets a reputation as bundled malware.

It has been argued that IM distributors such as MSN and Yahoo also bundle toolbars, etc. That’s true. But they ask you whether you want to do it during the installation process where you expect new applications to be added. And you give the green light for the toolbars to be installed. With Apple’s Software Update, I certainly do not expect a new piece of software to appear on the computer.

13 thoughts on “Apple Safari Backdoor Install "Wrong"

  1. “With Apple’s Software Update, I certainly do not expect a new piece of software to appear on the computer”

    so you failed to read what you where updating? The update asked you if you wanted to install – YOU MUST OK THE INSTALLATION. Apple is offering NOT installing a new piece of software that happy users of iTunes may like. And BTW Safari 3.1 is an update to anything currently running on a PC if you consider update to mean latest, newest, most current, and best.

  2. Malware distribution?


    ” tell them about Safari so they can install it and then use it. ”
    The Apple Software Update does just that. The dialog box at the bottom describes Safari in detail.

    “With Apple’s Software Update, I certainly do not expect a new piece of software to appear on the computer.”
    Neither do I, so that’s why I clicked off the box and Safari wasn’t installed. Boy, really hard isn’t it?

  3. Not long ago a Fuller Brush or Mary Kay salesman might come to your door to sell something. And you got to decide whether to let him or her in. Likewise if you’re an adult you can decide whether to load Safari. Try exercising some intelligence and judgement.

  4. Apple is right.
    Safari is not malware.
    This is a great way to break down the Microsoft monopoly.
    John Lilly is jealous. Safari, in this way, may gain a lot of ground inadvertently on Firefox.
    The iTunes music store will eventually need integration with a browser engine.
    There is no better engine than Webkit – Safari’s open source, Apple developed engine.
    Get over it.
    Go Apple!

  5. The Apple updater clearly states: “New software is available from Apple.” If a user can’t comprehend this simple sentence (it’s in BOLD letters by the way), then they’ve got bigger intellectual fish to fry. Geez….reading comprehension is fundamental.

  6. I think it’s important to remember that the vast majority of people are not interested in technology or particularly knowledgeable. For most of you guys, you will read dialog boxes when they pop up and offer “updates”. For the rest of us, we’ll read everything carefully when we install programmes. We might even read the full EULA. But when “Software Update” pops up, we certainly don’t plan on reading everything when typically the only thing that is happening is a buffer overflow in Quicktime is being patched or something.

  7. Guys give it a break. MS and vendors having been doing this for years. At least this software is free and pretty good I might add!

  8. It’s called Apple Software UPDATE… not Apple Software ADDITION. The tool should be used as it was originally unveiled to the public, as a means of distributing important and often security-related updates to Apple software already installed on the user’s computer. Using it to drive up the install base of other software products that users might not want or need is an inappropriate use of the tool. People saying it is within Apple’s rights to quietly install new products on those machines just don’t seem to understand the concept of only installing the software you need.

    Yes, users should know better. They should read the dialog boxes. They should see there is an option to opt out. But often times they don’t, and that’s no excuse for Apple’s attempt to exploit end-user ignorance and/or apathy.

    Apple complained when Microsoft made a similar move with their Windows Update software. Now you’ll notice that Microsoft Update will offer software not currently installed on a user’s computer, but it won’t be checked by default, meaning the user must make an active decision to install it if they so choose. Why can’t Apple take the same approach?

  9. All I want are iTunes updates so I can listen to music and audio. Apple already forces QuickTime onto my computer and absolutely won’t let me run iTunes without it. Furthermore with every software update (which occur way too often), Apple decides that QuickTime (which I NEVER use) and iTunes (which I launch once in a while) MUST be RE-installed into both my QuickLaunch and my Desktop without my consent. Respectable software (much less software updates) don’t much such presumptions.

    Now these folks at Apple take it to a new level of sleaziness. They try to catch me not paying close attention once during an software UPDATE to try install a completely unrelated application — Safari (negative option installation). I only want my damn iTunes UPDATEd so malware is a good word for this practice. I don’t want QuickTime and especially don’t want Safari installed on my computer if I forget to opt out once.

  10. When given the option to check/uncheck the box, how is the average person supposed to know that “Safari” isn’t necessary to the update, let alone what it was? Not being aware of the latest computer software marketing techniques doesn’t mean one has “other intellectual fish to fry” and I take offense to the statement. The statement might apply, however, to those who think that the world revolves around knowledge of computer software marketing techniques alone.

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