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Apple Taking Heat for Auto-Update

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Mozilla CEO John Lilly posted a scathing post about Apple auto-updating Windows users’ iTunes and Quicktime programs while adding in Safari 3.1. Lilly starts out by describing how important it is to update programs for the sake of security. He says:

There’s an implicit trust relationship between software makers and customers in this regard: as a software maker we promise to do our very best to keep users safe and will provide the quickest updates possible, with absolutely no other agenda. And when the user trusts the software maker, they’ll generally go ahead and install the patch, keeping themselves and everyone else safe.

He goes on to say that Apple has violated that trust. Basically, Apple is resorting to near-malware lows by pushing Safari 3.1 on Windows users. This is not a problem on Apple machines because they all come installed with Safari. But when people are using Windows machines and iTunes or Quicktime, it is pretty bad that they must also download Safari. There is a checkbox that they can uncheck so that it does not install Safari.

Windows Safari
Photo via John Lilly

John Lilly’s blog sounds like he is shocked and appalled that Apple would stoop to this level. He does not sound like he trying to bash another browser company. He even adds a disclaimer at the bottom affirming that.

In the comments of the blog, Gen Kanai states that if Microsoft did the same thing, there would be an uproar across the internet. It seems as though Apple is testing the water; they seem to be trying to test the halo effect a little too strongly. This is clearly a business practices issue. As of this writing, there are 224 comments on Lilly’s blog.

I personally haven’t heard that much about Google having any complaints, even though they do the same thing all the time with their Google Toolbar. My grandpa has about six toolbars up on top of his browser from Google, Yahoo,, Answers, MSN Live search and probably some others.

This is a new low for Apple. What are your thoughts?

23 Responses to “Apple Taking Heat for Auto-Update”

  1. kevin thibault

    the blog, and all tge result comments all miss the point with me. I somehow got Safari. Dont use it. Never tried it. On my start screen but I just learned it is a browser as I tried to find out how to keep it from interrupting my game with an Auto update; thought I had crashed – game “not responding” and find that my pc is in process of “auto updating” my version of Safari without asking me If I want to do it now. I suspect that -and it even mentions somewhere- that safari may be autoupdated — but I havent been able to find out where to go to keep auto-update from interrupting my applications in the future. It should be a prominent choice in the auto update preferances. I also dont want my machine hung up waiting for a response to a screen which I will never see until my game/application ends.

  2. I solved this problem by uninstalling quicktime all together. If I happen to visit a website that uses quicktime…. see ya! I don’t appreciate being tricked into installing megabytes worth of software I will not be using.

  3. Stephen Hendrick

    “There is a checkbox that they can uncheck so that it does not install Safari.”

    You shouldn’t have to uncheck it. It should be opt-in, not out.

  4. Basically, I guess we should call iTunes just another malware program that is going to slow down your windows based computer. I always thought of Apple as being above all that, … or are they becoming more like Microsoft after all.

    I know more about computers than most, but I am guilty of hitting the OK button just like most people do when they are “updating” software.

    Apple please don’t resort to being like Microsoft… I may need to find a new MP3 player.

  5. In general i would prefer software companies to not try and slip in new software. If Apple was doing the right thing, it would offer safari vai the updater but leave it unchecked. The user should always have to opt in rather than opt out.

    As has been mentioned in a number of previous post, a lot of companies are doing this and it only looks like its going to get worse. Standards seem to be slipping and these companies will only have themselves to blame in a few years time when people start to automatically click ‘no’ and ‘cancel’ whenever something pops us, regardless of whether it is an important update or not.

    If one good thing has come out of this, it is the that safari will gain increased market share. Increasing the diversity of browsers being used to access the web encourages the use of standards and is good for the web.

  6. I can’t believe you folk are comparing Apple’s pushing Safari 3 as part of an iTunes update, to malware.

    Shady business practice? Perhaps.

    Then again, last time I tried installing Microsoft’s MSN Messenger, it wanted to give me some “Microsoft Live” garbage – it didn’t explain what parts of the “Live” package I could choose to install to get just the instant messenger.

    At least Apple’s option puts “Safari 3.1” out there in plain view, and installing it isn’t going to drastically change your computer’s operation. If you’re short on disk space, sure you’ll have issues. Otherwise, it’s just more crapware.

    This is a case of the pot calling the silver service black (milk with your tea, sir? no, thank you).

  7. this is overblown.
    when steve introduced safari for windows, he did said that apple will push it by way of iTunes and qt. And everyone reported it.
    so why now only they make noise?

  8. engrish

    Azzamallow, it’s no wonder that no one complained about Apple Software Update when it was working as intended, that is updating previously-installed apps to a new version instead of proposing new ones.

    What does Firefox do with their updates? Are you seriously asking that? They’re updating the browser you already choose to install, most of the time for security reasons. Apple does this too, and rightly so, when they release a new security update patching some vulnerability, or a new point release. And in both cases you can disable the auto-update in the preference pane.

  9. azzamallow

    I think this is a massive overreaction by Lilly. Apple has every right to get their foot in the door this way. The apple updating software was there before safari arrived, and no one complained then. Think about what firfox do with their updates! They dont even ask you, it just happens. At least users have a choice here.

    What is dodgy is installing the latest Windows Live Messenger. The installer has all this boxes ticked for installing other stuff (like Windows Live Mail) in the INSTALLER. Which means if you leave your computer then come back you will have all this other stuff installed straight up.

    Its all dirty tactics agreed. All companies do it, just on varying degrees. In the end Lilly’s company is just as guilty as Steves.

  10. Gordon,

    It is different for you because you use a Mac already, and even more different for you because you already have Safari on your computer. The real issue is trust. People downloaded iTunes and Quicktime for a reason–to listen to music and watch movies. Users should not have to double check every time there is an update to make sure nothing is being slipped by them. I doubt that most Mac users would be okay with Microsoft slipping in a little Windows explorer for Mac every time Microsoft Office Auto-update launched.

    Oh, and the article was originally written to reflect that nobody is “forced to take Safari if they want iTunes and Quicktime.” It is the last sentence above the picture.

  11. Gordon Anderson

    this is way overblown. The dialog makes it clear it is new software. The Apple software updater that runs on Macs works pretty much the same way so I guess I am used to it, and I have no problem unchecking updates I don’t want. Windows aren’t forced to take Safari if they want iTunes and Quicktime. The article should be rewritten to reflect that.

  12. Stephanie Guertin

    Do other software manufacturers do this? Yes – I refer to Yahoo! toolbar, which appears as an install option on a ridiculous amount of software, and to Google toolbar, which comes at the least with Java. Does Microsft do this? Yes – remember the recent screaming over the idea that Office 2008 might have automatically installed Silverlight? Remember the difficulty of not-installing WMP 11, which appeared in every security update notification for a very long time?
    This is not new. This is not even particularly noteworthy when it’s Apple. These days, almost every software manufacturer with more than one product- especially if some of them are free – does this. And yes, people do just click through installers without reading them. They always have and they likely always will; it’s this behavior that keeps both the spyware-makers and the spyware-removers in business.

    Not a big deal.

  13. I feel this is much ado about nothing. What is so seriously wrong with Apple distributing Apple software with it’s own distribution engine? Remember, this is an *optional* update, with an *optional* choice of installing Safari. If you don’t want it, un-click the box.

    Anyone who just ‘clicks away’ and then gets upset about something they didn’t want, well, that’s not an issue of trust, it is an issue of end-user laziness, and at worst, end-user ignorance.

  14. I’m an Apple user and instead of Safari I use Firefox, so I really don’t side either. But because I like Apple so much, I hope that Apple will be more careful when “testing the waters”. Of course, it’s a legit and obvious tactic for businesses to push their products, but I really would not like Apple to gain Microsoft’s reputation of aggressiveness. Plus, Apple users are loyal and that means they will seek out software when needed without Apple having to push too hard. Recently we’ve seen a large number of Microsoft users either switch to Apple, or use more of Apple’s products/software. Eventually, they will see the superiority of Apple and then switch automatically. As such, Apple should continue innovating and giving us superior products, albeit without rushing. Too many updates and new versions/generations one after another may good for Wall Street, but not for the customer, and eventually the company. Let me know if you want a detailed strategy for product innovation. ;)

  15. Can anyone say tempest in a teapot?Should Apple have done something like this? No. Is it really that big of a deal or that horrible of a thing to do? No. Is anyone who accidentally installed Safari going to be hurt by it? No.This seems like a pretty good way for Apple to offer their software to me. Next time I would suggest that they make it unchecked by default though.

  16. Melianor

    Some people really fail to see the point. Yes, there are alot of people who will simply trust the Auto Update function and install whatever that Update function provides, since they simply do not know better. This is a fact and by simply stating that people have a choice, this won’t go away.

    Alot of people use a computer for just some specific tasks and do not care about inner workings. So they will trust that the updtes they get are correct and not new software they will never use. Malware does just the same. BLoat the users computer with uneeded software. This is not a move that should be expected from Apple!

  17. Ryan, you are absolutely correct. The article is mistitled and the end user DOES have choices. This has really been blown waaaaay out of proportion. Nothing to see here- move along.

  18. I believe by “auto-update”, you mean “pops up the Apple Software Update window and provides suggestions for what to install”. At that point, the end-user can choose what does and does not get installed.

    If people are too stupid to read, then tough. But quite frankly, I think this has been blown completely out of proportion.

  19. I’m a little surprised, but it’s really no big deal. Anyone computer-literate enough to care will be able to uncheck the box. For everyone else, they’ll just have another piece of software on their computer that they don’t have to use and probably never will.

  20. I couldn’t agree more – it is the sort of thing I expect from dodgy software, not from Apple – they should be trying to set an example of how using a computer should be – to lure people from Windows onto OS X with the prospect of “look at this app – if you want more that work like this, you should get a Mac”.

    When I was a Windows user, I wouldn’t have trusted any company that tried this sort of stunt, lets hope they haven’t damaged their reputation too much by doing this.

    Interesting point about the Google toolbar though.