Today, I Lose All Respect For Apple: Software “Updater” Installs Safari

I used to highly respect Apple. I bought an iBook, a few iPods, an iMac, and an iPhone. I’ve purchased several songs on iTunes, and I’ve used the Safari beta. They’re trying to remove DRM from iTunes music. They were a good company.

But as of today, I’ve lost all respect for them. Let me explain.

Today, Apple realized Microsoft’s success, and decided to follow them as a role model. They forced their Safari web browser on Windows users of iTunes, QuickTime, or Bonjour.

Sneakily, the Apple Software Updater will run and pop-up automatically on the screens of Windows users who have iTunes installed. This is fine. The problem is that it now has Safari, and it’s checked to install by default.

apple_safari.jpg

Even if you have never installed Safari before.

Yes, they’ve been doing this for some time. The fact that people have not noticed it until now, does not make it right. The software updater is meant to fix exploits in existing software, not force or trick users into installing new software.

There are some ways in which what they did can be good. I can see how it was easily rationalized by Apple, especially as a good business decision. I wonder how much Google is paying Apple for ad revenue generated via searches in the Safari search box. The new software (Safari) doesn’t constantly run the background, wasting CPU cycles like QuickTime did (with its annoying browser plug-in). The main cost is the space on the hard drive. An additional problem is that it also takes up space on the Start Menu and Desktop.

Non-savvy users do need software handed to them. When I go to a non-savvy user’s PC I’m always happy to see Firefox installed, so they have the option, whether or not they use it regularly. Safari is not a bad browser: I actually enjoy using it now that they’ve changed the keyboard shortcuts to be the same as Firefox’s.

When Safari first starts (which it does by default, after the installation process), it asks to become the default browser. Two clicks are necessary, one to clear the checkbox, another to say “No.” Safari is not my default browser, and I don’t want it to be.

From the Slashdot story:

I’ve just discovered that if you run your iTunes auto-update *again* it re-adds and re-checks the Safari download each time the update is run. This is sort of like how Microsoft keeps offering you the Windows Genuine Advantage update even if you’ve already turned it down before. So, it seems like Apple is being very hostile with this update. You are eventually going to download it, maybe by accident.

Firefox shouldn’t come bundled with any Google software, set home page to Google without giving a choice of other search providers or popup “set me as a default browser dialog?” unless the user explicitly goes to preferences menu and does so. I do hope Safari doesn’t automatically hijack the default browser when it is installed in this manner. I don’t see a big security downside to installing it if it needs to be explicitly run by the user rather than automatically activated from a web link.

Unfortunately, Safari is no better than Firefox in this regard. It does ask to be set as the default browser, and by default will keep asking every time it starts.

If you use Bootcamp to install Windows on a Mac, Apple Software Update will be installed. Even if you don’t have iTunes nor QuickTime installed at that time, they will appear in the update program ! On the contrary, I have never seen an actual update for any of the components of Bootcamp… (Comment on John’s Blog)

Heh, excellent point there.

Further reading: Where By “Interesting”, I Mean “Annoying”

The really bad thing is that Apple is tricking users by pushing the software via Software Update. Users are trained to accept these installs because they fix security flaws. To install unrelated software (e.g. a web browser) is a monumental betrayal of that trust.

What should Apple have done? Simple. Make that checkbox unchecked by default. How easy would that have been? No doubt they’d lose out on some browser installs, but that’s why this is a subject of controversy in the first place.

So does Apple now suck? Yep, I’d say so. Post your thoughts below.

4 thoughts on “Today, I Lose All Respect For Apple: Software “Updater” Installs Safari”

  1. Oh boo hoo. There’s nothing sneaky about it, it shows exactly what it’s going to install, and requires user confirmation.

    On top of that, Safari is a superior browser. Certainly superior to IE, and by most measurements, superior to Firefox (load speed, page layout, JavaScript speed, memory usage).

    If it gets lots of IE users to switch to a better browser (whether that’s Safari or Firefox) then fine by me.

    1. The sneaky thing is that it’s part of the Apple Software Updater *and* it is checked by default, thus making it look like an update to your existing software. There have been many very serious security vulnerabilities in Apple software, which, fortunately, have been patched and distributed by the Updater. Distributing new software automatically (with a pre-selected checkbox) via this mechanism is a betrayal of user trust.

  2. In terms of CSS support, Safari really is superior to other browsers. That said, it’s true that Apple does have quite a few shady practices. For example, custom iPhone apps must be distributed via iTunes and Apple gets a cut of the proceeds. Furthermore, they can’t run in the background whereas “official” apps can. If this were Microsoft, we’d be hearing it loud and clear.

  3. Yep. And just look at iTunes being bundled with that useless QuickTime thing that you have to jump through twenty hoops to uninstall.

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