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Apple a Malware Distributor?

On Friday, Mozilla CEO John Lilly accused Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) of being a miscreant by offering the Safari browser to those who are updating iTunes and QuickTime on Windows. Quoting from his blog entry:

That's a problem ... by and large, all software makers are trying to get users to trust us on updates, and so the likely behavior here is for users to just click "Install 2 items," which means that they've now installed a completely new piece of software, quite possibly completely unintentionally. 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.

(With apologies to the good folks who make the new Bud Light commercials:) ... Dude. Malware? Talk about a trumped-up controversy.

What Lilly doesn't mention is that Apple has changed exactly nothing. Mac users (sniff) have suffered through the same interface since Mac OS X and its Software Update utility were first introduced.

Yes, all the potential updates -- even those you don't want -- are checked for you. Don't want 'em? Uncheck 'em. Or, better yet, quit Software Update till there's something you either want or need.

And let's get real about this practice, shall we? Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) pushes all sorts of unnecessary software in Vista. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) pushes its software suite to those who use its Toolbar. Are these companies miscreants, too?

To be fair, I should admit two biases. First, I'm a very happy Mac user. Second, I'm a very happy Firefox user.

That's right. Safari just isn't for me. I installed it out of curiosity -- and, well, because my iPhone uses the Safari browser, and I wanted to import my Firefox bookmarks. But it otherwise sits idle. Firefox, for me, is just better. More functional. And, yeah, I admit, cooler.

I'm not alone in that view, which makes Lilly's comments all the more mystifying. What do you have to worry about, sir? You can't really see us users as zombies, can you? As unwitting pawns, unable to uncheck a box?

Give us a little more credit. Or, better still, admit your real worry: that Safari on the PC will disrupt Firefox the way that Firefox disrupted Internet Explorer.

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  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2008, at 9:33 AM, stephentemple wrote:

    Firstly, the argument that other companies do it as well doesn't make it OK.

    Secondly, yes you can uncheck the box, but why should we have to, can't it default to being unchecked. Then if I want safari I can check it. Rather than the time I forget to check it on one of the overly frequent ~200Mb download updates to iTunes I get a bit of software I don't want and didn't ask for installed on my machine.

    If it only asked once it wouldn't be so bad, but it's on every update and it does degrade the trust I have in the Apple updates now, as I now have to double check everything in there to make sure I'm not installing something I don't want.

    In my mind an updater should just update software, quickly and efficiently with as little interaction, particularly if there are security issues and not install new software!

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