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More on the Apple Update scandal

by Brandon on March 22nd, 2008

Two points I want to make based on the comments my last post is receiving:

1)  That post, and its title, are mainly about the outrageous ways in which people are jumping to Apple’s defense… not Apple’s action itself.

2)  If your argument is that user’s read the dialog and can uncheck the Safari box if they don’t want it, you are delusional.

Consider the recent report that 24% of internet users can’t find Google.  Now think about this from that user’s perspective.  They see a dialog that says, very clearly, “Select the items you want to update.”  Do you really think those users are going to know what Safari is?  Do you think they’re going to know that they don’t already have it installed?

I bet you way more than 24% don’t even know what “Quicktime” is.  I can promise you my sister, her roommates, and my mom all don’t.  They sure as heck don’t know what Safari is.  If they see it in that list, they are going to assume it is something they already have.  Probably something that came with their computer. 

If they’re “good” users, they will know that keeping their software up-to-date is important, so they’ll choose to update everything they possibly can because they don’t want their computers to be hacked, and we keep telling them that the best way to do that is to keep their systems up-to-date.  Apple is manipulating that to their advantage.  That’s exactly what John Lilly, CEO of Mozilla, said yesterday.  He is right.

You can argue that it’s their software, and they can do with it as they please.  I will agree with you, actually.  However, just because I believe they can do this, and support their right to, doesn’t mean I have to like it.  I think it’s a shitty practice, and if we don’t make a big deal about it right now, it’s only going to get worse.

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19 Comments
  1. Dan permalink

    I installed iTunes by accident once because the Quicktime download comes with iTunes unless you opt-out.

    I think there might not have even BEEN an opt-out option at the time and Apple changed it quick because of outcry (I assume), but I can’t be sure, I might’ve just missed the option.

    Anyways I keep Safari for Windows installed, but only to make sure my pages render correctly in it. I do my main web stuff in Firefox. Likewise I only use Quicktime for the browser plugin, and Winamp and the CLI MPlayer for desktop audio and video respectively.

    If I ever got an iSomething, I wouldn’t use iTunes either. Winamp and Songbird can talk perfectly well to iPods without iTunes, AFAIK.

  2. kirasaw permalink

    One thing a lot of people miss in this whole debate is that browsers are something many many people have more than one of and probably should have more than one of. NO browser renders every webpage correctly so having the ability to check with another browser is a good thing. I have seen other arguments against what Apple is doing like Mozilla doesn’t offer Thunderbird through Firefox well there is a good reason for that, how many people do you know that run more than one email program? I often run 2 browsers at the same time and very often I will use another browser besides safari to view certain webpages. The fact is that having several browsers on your computer is a good thing. Now if Apple where pushing a program that would only make sense to have one of say like Mail.app that would be wrong but with Safari I think they are spot on to do it.

  3. Louis Wheeler permalink

    I have to wonder at the hue and cry over this. It’s not as though Apple forces you to do anything. Nor are the alternatives to the Safari browser very good. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser is intentionally not HTML compliant. Try to explain that to your sister, her roommates, and your mom.

    Nor is your computer being hacked when Apple merely tells you that new software is available and offers it to you.

    There seems to be quite a bit of Microsoft bigotry in operation here. Microsoft zealots seem offended by the presumption that Apple thinks it is better than Microsoft. It’s time to wake up. Apple is better-perhaps not in everything, but in most things. Are you afraid that your sister and your mother might agree with that contention?

  4. Spiffy permalink

    What is this?

    http://www.microsoft.com/en/us/default.aspx

    Oh No! Where is the outrage!

  5. Spiffy –

    The Microsoft home page? What about it?

    Louis –

    You’re exhibiting exactly the same behavior that I discussed in my last post. You are irrationally justifying Apple’s move because you believe you are on some sort of crusade to show PC users the error of their ways. You’re like a religious zealot trying to convince me that I shouldn’t buy alcohol on Sunday, that I should hate people who are different than me, or that I should help you force your choices onto others.

    Safari has been the most difficult browser for me to support on the sites I’ve designed (more difficult than IE6! The second most difficult, but unlike Safari, a significant number of people use it, so I have to support it). So I don’t buy that “standards” argumet for even a second. IE 8, I believe, supports more and newer standards than Safari, and does a better job meeting the test criteria for standards like CSS 2.1.

    Maybe the very latest version of Safari has caught up to Firefox in terms of standards support. I don’t know, the last time I built a new site and tested it was when Safari 2.x was the latest, and it was a disaster. So if you’re suggesting that because Apple very recently became a standards-compliant browser and therefore it’s okay to sneak it onto people’s computers, would you have supported forcing the god awful Opera browser on people for the last several years?

    Oh yeah, and claiming that IE is “intentionally not HTML compliant” is positively absurd. IE was the *first* browser to support the CSS standard. It was the *first* browser to support ECMAscript. It inherited its “quirks mode” baggage from Netscape and Mozilla, NOT the other way around.

    IE 6 fell behind because new standards arose, and at the time of its release, nobody had fully implemented CSS 2 or even agreed upon how it should be implemented – so its support was incomplete. You can’t blame IE 6’s developers for that. They most certainly didn’t “choose” to not comply with a standard that barely even existed – and that becomes obvious when you consider that nobody else was able to either.

    After that, the IE team was disbanded because the government forced them to stop new released because they’d been too successful. If you want to blame anyone for the gap between IE 6 and IE 7, don’t blame Microsoft. Blame the regulators or the competition for failing so miserably.

  6. Kirasaw –

    No offense, but you’d make a terrible software designer. You cannot honestly expect the “average joe” to have multiple web browsers. Most of them can’t even find the first one. They certainly don’t know that it’s a “web browser,” how the heck are they going to manage running two of them? And why should they?

    That’s like saying the average user should dual boot. Or have multiple IM clients. Or use a different program for managing their media than the one they use for playing it.

    It demonstrates a complete lack of touch with normal, non-geek computer users. So does this whole “standards compliance” issue. That’s not a user feature. Implementing CSS 3 to the letter isn’t going to get someone to switch. They just want their web pages to look right, which is why IE and Firefox have become popular.

    If Apple wants to target those users and teach them what a web browser is and why theirs is better, that sounds like a fantastic idea. I wish them luck with it. But if they’re saying that’s too hard, and that normal people are “too stupid” to install Safari themselves, it is NOT their place to force it onto your system.

  7. Apple is sending a free browser to their iTunes customers. Their iTunes customers who have already downloaded their free iTunes music player software.

    Unless you make a rival browser, where is the problem? Most of Apple’s iTunes customers like Apple’s free Windows software. There is no crime in letting them sample some more of Apple’s free Windows software.

    They might like it.

    Maybe that’s the problem.

  8. Sigh… the drones just won’t stop trying to convince me that assimilation is okay.

  9. Artie Kay permalink

    Come on brandon, can’t you see the innovation here? Apple took a decade old malware installation technique and “improved” it in “revolutionary” new ways… Mainly of course that they can come up with a wonderful press release next week about the incredible numbers of downloads.

    Doesn’t matter that most didn’t want it to begin with, and will promptly uninstall it, the number of downloads will look great in goatberg’s next “news” story.

  10. Eytan permalink

    If they really don’t know what Safari is, they won’t run it after it gets installed – just like they don’t run 80% of the crapware preinstalled on their Windows machines. At least, unlike those (and iTunes,) Safari does not install any CPU stealing background processes.
    That being said, Apple should have done a better job of distinguishing a new install from an update, or unchecking the checkbox.

  11. Mr. Reeee permalink

    The ‘sin’ Apple committed with Software Update and Safari, is NOT identifying Safari as a NEW software install, for those who may not have Safari already installed. OR having the Safari ‘update’ NOT-selected by default and offering some sort of explanation.

    I call it laziness. It’s certainly not evil or malicious.

    As for Spiffy’s link to the Microsoft homepage. It presents you with a pop-up window that all but forces you to install Silverfish… er… Silverlight. If you don’t know any better, one might assume that you MUST install Silverlight in order to access the MS homepage.

    So which is worse the Silverlight pop-up or the Apple ‘update’ by default?

  12. I don’t see the connection to Silverlight or any other browser plug-in (Flash, etc) install. Plenty of pages require you to install Flash. Plenty of Apple’s site requires you to have Quicktime.

    The Silverlight pop-up is telling you “this page uses Silverlight, to see it, you need Silverlight. Click here to install Silverlight.” It seems pretty straightforward. Even if you don’t know what Silverlight is, you need it to see the page. So you either install it, or you don’t see the page. Simple. Makes sense.

    When I plug in my iPhone, and Apple pops up iTunes along with a dialog that usually says “Click here to update iTunes or bad things might happen!” And one day the dialog decides that updating iTunes really means installing some completely different piece of software, but makes no effort to tell me that its purpose has changed… well, that I find offensive to me as a user.

  13. Alan permalink

    Actually Brandon, you’re wrong.
    I don’t need Silverlight to see the page, and the really light grey “No thanks” button on the top right allows me to bypass the install and see the page without the new sw.

    It seems to me the activity here is using an existing distribution channel to deliver new software programs by bundling them together. It obviously happens from multiple software vendors, though this is the first I’ve seen it from Apple. Windows delivers IE with it’s operating system regardless of whether the end user wants it or not, so that is really not that different.

    The Safari package costs the user nothing (excluding download bandwidth, disk space, and cpu cycles) to download, install, and use so it’s hard to say this is imposing on people. It’s different than malware because there is no exploit that results from the install.

    I believe they should not mislabel it as an update and agree with the criticism of this.

    What it’s about of course is ad revenue – whoever ships the user to Google gets the cut of the ad revenue so Apple wants people to use Safari, MS wants people to use IE, and Mozilla wants people to use Firefox, and so on.

    The exact same thing is going on with video over the web – whoever has the platform that delivers it gets the ad revenue cut. Adobe is the clear leader here with Flash; Apple with Quicktime, Real with Realplayer and MS with one of their players are also in the game as are others that I don’t know about. The newest MS player is Silverlight, and the sites that use it will provide the plug-in download to allow people to see the new content that will be available with it.

  14. Greg permalink

    Malware is anything that installs through surreptitious means. Legitimate software doesn’t need to do this. Ultimately, Apple stands to make money by tricking users, so to claim that it’s harmless is ridiculous.

  15. Alan – stop with the disingenuous argument. You don’t really believe that. At least, I should hope you’re intelligent enough to realize that what Apple has done here is nothing like the things you’re comparing it to.

    The MS home page is telling you that you need to install Silverlight to see it in full fidelity. There’s absolutely no way that has anything to do with the discussion at hand.

    IE is a component of Windows. Just like Safari is a component of OS X. Nobody is complaining about either of those things.

    This also isn’t “bundling.” Bundling would be if the iTunes installer asked if I wanted to install Safari. Or if it just installed it without asking. That is bundling.

    The fact that you need three (irrational) arguments tells me that you have no faith in any of them, and are grasping at straws to defend Apple.

    The only reasonable comparison being made is to Windows Update, or to the Firefox updater. If the Firefox updater or Windows Update started “offering” up completely new products that the user doesn’t have installed in the same path that has previously been used for critical security updates – you would be outraged. But because it’s Apple, you’re defending them.

    I don’t see what this has to do with ad revenue. As far as I’m aware, MS doesn’t get ad revenue from IE. I’m pretty sure Safari doesn’t either (Firefox might through their default home page I suppose).

  16. Ok Brandon, I understand that you work for Microsoft so you feel the urge to try and make MS tech seem better, but some of your comments are ridiculous:

    “Safari has been the most difficult browser for me to support on the sites I’ve designed (more difficult than IE6! The second most difficult, but unlike Safari, a significant number of people use it, so I have to support it). So I don’t buy that “standards” argumet for even a second. IE 8, I believe, supports more and newer standards than Safari, and does a better job meeting the test criteria for standards like CSS 2.1.”

    From all that I have seen and read about what IE 8 will support, it seems that IE 8, which won’t even be out for a while supports less than Safari 3.1, which is out now. IE 8 will finally be CSS 2.1 compliant and passes the Acid 2 test. It is gaining some HTML 5 features and the ability to do a bit of SVG. Safari has been CSS 2.1 compliant for quite a while and was the first browser to pass the Acid 2 test in a public release. It is well on it’s way to being the first to pass the Acid 3 test and has supported many CSS3 attributes for quite a while. It is also well on it’s way to implementing the HTML 5 spec and getting full SVG support. On top of that it supports resolution independence and Apple is working to get these standardised.

    As for Safari being more difficult to design for than IE 6? If you wrote your site while testing in Firefox or Safari you’d find that you site would be the same in 99% of the cases between both browsers. It would then likely be the same in other pretty standards complaint browsers such as Opera. Then you’d come to IE and instead of having to tweak you’d end up having to hack around to try and get things looking right. Ask any decent web designer and they’d have a similar problem. IE 7 made things a lot better and IE 8 will improve things even further.

    “After that, the IE team was disbanded because the government forced them to stop new released because they’d been too successful. If you want to blame anyone for the gap between IE 6 and IE 7, don’t blame Microsoft. Blame the regulators or the competition for failing so miserably.”

    Too successful = tied to the OS so it can’t be removed? Being successful isn’t a crime, bundling software isn’t a crime, having a monopoly isn’t a crime. Abusing said monopoly to give yourself an unfair advantage in another market in order to kill the competition, that is a crime. If IE had been able to have been deleted from the machine and all traces of IE the application would have vanished, then I doubt MS would’ve had the trouble they had. Leaving the rendering engine there is fine, in fact this is exactly what Apple does and I’m at full liberty to delete Safari from my system if I so wish, but requiring and the application in order to run the system is not (note that QT player works the same way).

    As for IE 6 not being developed any further, it was partly due to regulators but mostly due to the fact that there’s no real need to improve software when you have 97% of the market and it’s free. If it was the regulators that stopped development then surely MS wouldn’t have been able to start up development of IE 7 when they started rapidly loosing market share to the competition.

    Now I agree with the general point that Apple shouldn’t be putting Safari in software update and selecting it by default, there should be some separate UI for installing new software (there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying “try this”), but most of your criticisms about Safari are ridiculously biased and rarely factual.

  17. Alan permalink

    Sorry Brandon, I can’t let this one go:

    The parallel between Silverlight and Safari are that they are both land grabs to get ad revenue by installing software that gives the company some control over the viewing. Even though all that stuff can easily be changed, most people don’t change it (as you mentioned, lots of users can’t even find premier web sites).

    Browsers are not components of OS’s, they are bundled software. They serve absolutely no OS function at all. I think the courts in the US and Europe have made this pretty clear to Microsoft.

    If you think there Google is not paying for their spot in the search bar of browsers you’re not reading the news. Maybe they’re not paying Microsoft in dollars but they are certainly using coercive measures (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/01/technology/01google.html?ex=1304136000&en=69417a0bdae611a3&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss) (side note: as you read the NYT article, keep in mind your comment about people not changing default settings and check boxes – it applies here as well).

    Surely you must acknowledge that ad revenue is the game here, right? I mean, your job is for a search engine which is one of the top ad revenue engines around. Do you think MS built and promoted IE by bundling it with every copy of Windows because of the goodness of their hearts? Did they do it out of pride because Netscape had built one that was popular and they felt like they weren’t the smartest guys around? Did they do it because of the deep intellectual challenge? Or maybe…wait for it…they thought there was some MONEY in there for them?

    And lastly, I said in my previous post that I didn’t think Apple should have called it an update and that I agreed with the criticism about that. But I don’t disagree with them using their channel to distribute Safari. Just like I never complained when MS and others gave me programs with no added cost to do other useful tasks.

  18. “I don’t see what this has to do with ad revenue. As far as I’m aware, MS doesn’t get ad revenue from IE. I’m pretty sure Safari doesn’t either (Firefox might through their default home page I suppose).”

    Just to point out that for every search you do by the built in toolbar in Firefox or Safari (or any other browser pretty much) the developer gets a cut of the ad revenue from the resulting page. I believe Apple got something along the lines of $2 million last year from Safari, not a huge amount for a company that’s making billions a month but more than enough to fund development of Safari.

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