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Apple is the new Borg.

by Brandon on March 22nd, 2008

If you haven’t heard, Apple has decided to start forcing Safari down your throat if you use iTunes, Quicktime, or any of their other Windows software.

In response, lots of Apple fans have jumped to their defense.  They say that users read the dialog before clicking “update.”  They say users will welcome their new Apple overlords.  They say it’s okay because “Microsoft is worse” – they make me reboot after installing updates!

Some nutjobs are even saying that Apple distributing new software through the updater is the “cost” of using their product – akin to ads in Messenger or fees for anti-virus software.  I don’t remember signing up for that cost when I bought my iPhone.  That same wacko makes a bunch of other outrageous claims about how it is a glorious achievement that Apple is assimilating your Windows machine without asking first.  You should read it, if only for the comedic value.

I think the disconnect here is simple. It’s just like the disagreement that arose over Apple’s font rendering when they first released Safari to Windows. And that is:

People like the way things work on their Windows PCs. They don’t want one app to have different, blurrier font rendering. They don’t want Apple installing apps on their machines without consent.

Apple and their fans don’t understand this, because they believe they are partaking in some sort of “holy crusade” and “bringing the light of Apple to the underprivileged in Windows land.” It’s an absurd mindset, but that hasn’t stopped them having it. They just can’t understand why Windows user’s wouldn’t welcome Apple’s software and UI.

They’re like the borg, “Why wouldn’t you want to be assimilated – we bring perfection!”

Come on, are they really *forcing* it on you?

Maybe not, but close enough.  Anything that leads to users unintentionally taking an action is a flawed UI.  That could mean this is a design flaw – but Apple doesn’t make those =)  Besides, the intent is obvious – to get more people to install Safari whether they want it or not.  Rationalize it all you want, but you can’t deny the game they’re playing.Is it working?I’m a software developer, and probably one of the most generally computer savvy people I know. I got very used to clicking “Update” button on the Apple Software Update dialog so that it would keep iTunes and Quicktime up-to-date (along with the BootCamp software on my Macbook).I came very close to installing Safari by accident because of this, and would not at all be surprised to see lots of others clicking it without looking.

The right thing for Apple to do here would have been:

1) Don’t check it by default. You’ve gotten people trained to click “Update” since you don’t have an automatic update system, and now you’re abusing that.
2) The text in the dialog is inaccurate. It says “Select the items you want to update” – but Safari isn’t software on my computer, so how can I update it?

I had Safari installed on one of my machines to try it out when they released it. So it was normal for the updater to want to update it there.  Then when it popped up in the list on a different machine I was confused, and thought I had mixed up which machine I’d installed it on months ago. But I had not. They were trying to trick me.

Oh sorry, they were trying to “show me the light.”


I just posted a follow-up to this entry.

From → Other

  1. Don permalink

    Couldn’t agree more with you Brandon.

    I have Safari installed on my work desktop so that I don’t have to find a Mac to check website designs look OK in Safari.

    Aside from the hilarious belief that seeing Safari side-by-side with Internet Explorer or Firefox would make me take Apple seriously, seeing a dialog box asking me to install iTunes takes the biscuit.

  2. Alasdair permalink

    Having been a PC user since the introduction of Windows 95, I have been trained not to “just click” a dialog without first reading it. Most of the time I find the default option is not necessarily what I want to do.

    I switched to Mac in January 2005, but I still read a dialog before I select any options. I know what applications are and are not installed on my system, and I can just de-select the option. I fail to see why this is Apples fault.

    I love and use Safari as my default browser daily. However, for me, you can’t beat IE on Windows. Anything else is just alien! 🙂

  3. Constable Odo permalink

    You sound like you’re being sarcastic so I certainly don’t take offense. The other day I installed three sets of QuickTime/iTunes updates on my MacBook Pro which has VMWare Fusion, Parallels and BootCamp installed running WinXP on all three. Before I ever download Apple updates I always look at each of them to decide whether I want them or not. Apple can’t “fool” me by ticking all the boxes. IIRC, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an unticked box in a Mac Software Update, but I might be wrong. Apple is not the boss of me.

    Anyway, I chose not to install Safari 3.1 in Windows. But even if I did install it, I could easily uninstall it. I won’t be forced to use it or keep it, will I? I already have Safari 3.1 in Tiger. I prefer to use IE7 in Windows. It works well enough for me and I’m happy to use it.

    I’m still angry at Microsoft for not porting IE7 and Windows Media Player for OSX. Otherwise I wouldn’t ever have to run Windows. And no, Flip4Mac doesn’t satisfy me. It’s better than nothing, but I’d rather have the choice to run WMP11 in OSX. Most sites nowadays do support OSX, but there was time when that wasn’t the case.

    I think users should pay attention when installing software and not just rush blindly ahead.

  4. Alasdair –

    Wrong or right, I got used to clicking “OK” on that *specific* dialog. Seeing it, it was very clear what it was… it’s the same iTunes nag screen I see all the time. Heck, it came up when I plugged my iPhone in and iTunes started. You don’t think I should’ve been surprised to find an update available for an application I hadn’t ever installed and hadn’t just launched?

    I’m used to installers offering me crap, and often having it selected by default. But if the Firefox updater popped up one day and said “Click here to install updates” – and one of those updates was “OpenOffice Installer” I’d be pretty miffed.

    Constable Odo –

    You’re right, users should pay attention. But that doesn’t let Apple off the hook. I don’t think offering Safari through their “unified installer/updater” app is a terrible idea. Quite the contrary, I like when companies offer me a “suite” of services, like Windows Live and Stardock do.

    But I don’t want a dialog I see every few days (for every security vulnerability in Quicktime across my various machines) being repurposed “on the sly” to put crap I don’t want onto my computer.

    If this were the iTunes installer, it would be less of an issue. If they had changed the text to say “Apple Software Installer” or “Apple Application Manager” or whatever, it would’ve helped. Mainly, though, if things I had explicity chosen NOT to install in the past were not selected by default, you wouldn’t have heard a peep about this.

    Whether or not Apple messed up, this post was more about the onslaught of hilariously absurd justifications from the Apple community than the error in judgement itself.

  5. Alasdair permalink


    I do see your point. If it helps, I don’t trust Microsoft Update, either. 😉

  6. Eric permalink

    I’m with you on this Brandon but my position is closer to the Mozilla CEO. Apple is abusing the trust of users in updates. By doing so users will become wary of any update, which is a horrible result. People who don’t important security updates are a danger to everyone.

  7. I don’t see what the big fuss is here. I have both a Mac and a Windows machine. I saw the “Install safari” software update prompt box come up on both I and installed it on both.

    If you installed Safari by accident, you can uninstall it.

    The installer doesn’t force you to try it, even once.

    It’s just there if you ever want it.

    Seems pretty uninvasive to me – other than the consumption of an insignificant amount of disk space, I don’t see how anyone is harmed.


  8. I completely agree that it’s an abuse of trust, but I wouldn’t get high-and-mighty about it.

    How come when I go to and choose to download Messenger, I’m asked whether I want to install the Live Toolbar, reset my browser search engine, and reset my browser homepage (all checked by default?) After I uncheck them, the installer then asks whether I want Writer, Mail, Toolbar (again), Photo Gallery, or Family Safety – at least this time the options are unchecked by default. It also installs the Sign-in assistant w/o really telling me about it or what it is, without any option to not do so.

    Google and Yahoo do similar things with their app installations – heck, they work out business deals to get their software installed when you install some other random stuff like Java or Flash. As much as it’s a not-nice thing to do, it’s a simple fact that everyone bundles what they can. Microsoft is probably the least-evil of the bunch because they’re under such scrutiny, but the concept of bundling is still alive and well across the industry. Apple would be stupid not to follow suit.

  9. Hey Paul =)

    I agree to an extent, but I do see a difference. It’s one thing to bundle apps with an installer. It’s another to have an “updater” dialog for years and then one day have that “updater” start installing things.

    I just think they could have messaged the change better, that’s all. As I said, my criticism is less directed at Apple and more directed at the ridiculous defenses of their actions.

  10. I’m sorry, I’m a little confused about your response to this situation. You are unhappy about Apple placing a program in it’s “Updater” program that wasn’t installed. You blindly click the “Update” button without looking at the list. Then complain that Apple installed a piece of software that you didn’t consent to. Yet you work for Microsoft, the company notorious for installing updates to Windows without it’s users consent forcing their computers to reboot at 3am.

    Please, explain the difference to me here. I’m not talking about Windows update set to automatically download and install updates. I’m talking about Windows update set to download updates, but wait for my consent before updating.

    No matter wether I am working on a Windows PC or a Macintosh, I always check the list of items being “updated” before I consent to the update.

    For someone that is supposed to be “savvy” with computers, you seem to be a little lax in your use of update programs.

  11. Dave M –

    As I said, I don’t really *care* that much. It’s not the end of the world, just an annoying decision on Apple’s part.

    Of course, the difference between Apple’s so-called “updater” and Windows Update is huge. Windows Update updates Windows. It only updates things that have already been installed. It has the ability to offer “recommended” software like Silverlight, but you have to explicitly choose to install offerings like that.

    Apple’s utility makes it look like you already have that software. Do you really think an average computer user is going to know whether or not they have something called “Safari” installed already? 24% of web users can’t find Google. Do you really think they know what Safari is?

    They get a dialog that says “Select the items you wish to update” – that sounds pretty clearly like those items should be things I already have, and that are out-of-date. Are you seriously denying that this is an attempt to get Safari on to PCs without the user knowing about it? Because that’s EXACTLY what it is. Whether it’s evil to do that is another matter. I happen to think so, but every company has its flaws. I just wish the Mac fanatics would wake up and realize that Apple is capable of making mistakes or making shitty decisions. Some of the justifications out there for this “feature” are simply outrageous.

  12. Hi Brandon. =)

    No arguing with you on your response. Using the Apple updater mechanism is … sneaky. The whole industry could use a change, but it’s hard to do so when the whole industry spends an inordinate amount of time figuring out how to best take over a user’s PC experience. I’d be happier seeing the current ire at Apple directed at companies like Symantec, HP, NVidia, etc. who load up their software/drivers with unstable bloat that destabilizes Windows in a meager attempt to get more screen real-estate from the user as if they were the one program their customers actually cared about using. (Hint to Symantec, HP, NVidia: if you did your job right, I wouldn’t want to see any of your logos past the install procedure, I’d just expect things to work!)

    Microsoft is in the interesting position that they’re they only ones out there with the remote possibility of fixing the issue by putting more restrictions on each app, but doing so would break so much in terms of backwards compatibility that it’s probably not a reasonable option.

  13. James Katt permalink

    I am very happy that Apple has made it so easy to install Safari on PCs.

    This allows more people to consider more web-standard compliant browsers other than Microsoft’s IE. And Safari is THE most web-standard compliant browser.

    Microsoft is the Borg.

    But Captain Luc Picard and Captain Janeway had to infiltrate the Borg to disrupt the Borg hive and culture. Both Star Trek captains ended up with pieces of the Borg inside of them. But this ends up being useful for them to anticipate what the Borg would do.


  14. Spiffy permalink

    Something different about this?

  15. Spiffy – about Why are you spamming my posts with a link to the Microsoft web site?

  16. Steve permalink

    Tempest in a teapot. Read before you click.

  17. Thib H. permalink

    This post is ludicrous! Ridiculous! It’s an overstatement to say Apple is forcing Safari on you. You are not required to install the software. You write, “They don’t want Apple installing apps on their machines without consent.” Well, it’s a long stretch to say Apple is forcing Safari down Windows users because it is not as if you actually have to install it, unlike how Internet Explorer was when you had to indeed install it or otherwise the operating system would not work.

    Now, if you criticised Apple for actually suggesting software to download when that was not asked, that itself is a legitimate argument. I also do agree with you that unless there is a reason that Safari is needed in order to run an Apple software already installed by the user, Apple should not have Safari pop up.

    Note to Brandon: I am an Apple fan, but not all of us bow down to Apple. Undeniably when compared to Microsoft, Apple has in most years (except for that really awful period from the mid-1990s to around 2000) produce software that is more user-friendly. In those awful period of the 1990s to 2000, I too had thought about switching to Windows when the operating system in Macs was quite unstable. There are some things I like about Windows machines but for maintaining them, I don’t like it at all!

  18. Thib H. permalink

    By the way, is there really not automatic update system for Apple software on Windows? On the Mac, we can have it set to automatically check for new updates, daily, weekly, or monthly. Not so on Windows? By the way, I run Windows too, and can do so natively on my Mac laptop OR what I usually do is run it under virtualisation. 😉

  19. humpme permalink

    Jive amigo. complete and absolute Karl Rove style disinformation and the making of nothing into something which takes folks eyes off the real problem. Go look at the total market share of safari…

    When microsoft software engineers start offering up free advice to Apple about ‘the user experience’ any reasonably, partially sane person should laugh hard out loud and tell that messenger to stfu!

    Brandon, go for a walk.. think this through again… then, seriously, on this topic leave it be… this is not an area where you’d have any credibility and you’ll appear to be silly and I’m sure you are a nice guy.

  20. Please, do clarify what you mean by “disinformation,” or why you think I lack credibility regarding my own firsthand experiences. I really am dying to hear it.

    Sorry, I shouldn’t be so sarcastic. After all, you went through all the trouble to pour on the hyperbole and told me to “stfu” while insulting me, so of course I’m going to take you seriously.

    So did all the good Apple trolls take the weekend off or what?

  21. Unbelievable how well-written and infromiavte this was.

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