Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Monday, August 25, 2008

What's Wrong with Toolbars?

Our good friend Donna who manages Calendar of Updates have been keeping an excellent list of which software installers have been sneaking additional software on to our systems. It’s called the Installers Hall of Shame. The list includes folks who insist on installing not only toolbars from, Google and Yahoo but also browsers, video players and more. Click here to see the list. I’ve added it to my Favorites so I check it regularly.

Examples include:

  • Cyberlink PowerDVD 8 - Google Toolbar and BETA of Moovielive
  • DivX - Yahoo Toolbar
  • Shockwave Player - Norton Security Scan or Google Toolbar
  • Webroot SpySweeper - Ask Toolbar
  • Windows Live Installer - Windows Live Toolbar & Sign-in Assistant
  • Winzip - RegistryBooster

  • I also see that Donna just posted an article specifically about the toolbar; Update on Products with Ask Toolbar. It was a timely post considering just last week I heard back from IAC/InterActiveCorp asking if I would re-consider adding the toolbar to WinPatrol. I was told that I wouldn’t have to include MyWebSearch or promote other infamous FunWebProducts from IAC. “We’re not really connected to them” I was told. As I did in the past, I said “No thanks”.

    It’s still surprising that programs like Zone Alarm, SpySweeper and Comodo Firewall install the toolbar while other security programs still flag it as undesirable, suspicious or even adware.

    Donna has some great points and screen shots but even if not for suspicious behavior what’s the big deal you ask? One the worse arguments I hear is “It’s the users own fault if they don’t see the pre-checked option”. Well, suppose when you upgraded to WinPatrol PLUS I default the number of licenses to 10. Can you imagine the anger from people who would be charged $299 USD instead of $29.95? I’ll bet a few people wouldn’t even notice it on their credit card bill and pay it. Is it their fault or would I be scamming them?

    Bottom line: No installer should include a default option to install additional software.

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    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The trend to include toolbars (or other, usually unrelated, software) when downloading any software is appalling. It is particularly offensive when the download in question is from a security company.

    I had just finished Donna's entry, when I saw your update here. Did you notice the insanely long EULA for the Ask Toolbar? Who would download that, if they actually read the EULA? This is my favorite Term:

    "5. Security
    The Software is exposed to various security issues, and should be regarded as insecure. By accepting this Agreement, you indicate that you understand and acknowledge that by using the Software you may be subject to various security risks from third parties, including the exposure of data you have downloaded or have offered to share and unauthorized access to or acquisition or corruption of search results or other data organized or maintained on your computer by the software, and that you accept all such risk as solely your risk and responsibility."


    -The Dean

    12:08 PM  
    Blogger Corrine said...

    Once again "my hero" chooses Ethics Over Dollars!

    (Hi, The Dean. Haven't seen you in a while. Hope all is well. Almost time for the season to start again. :)

    You'll find you have been quoted in the post linked above.)


    8:10 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    We have been approached many times (and offered a lot of money) to include toolbars in our installers. Like Bill P. we've said "No" every time.

    FunWebProducts continues using the money it gleans by turning people's computers into billboards and selling the data that its products mine from personal computers.

    The more money these kinds of companies acquire the more prolific they will become. Many once-respected programs have taken the low road by bundling their products with other potentially unwanted products. It's rare these days to find people like Bill P. who care more about their reputation and their products' reputation then they do about the almighty dollar.

    Bill P. is a wonderful exception in this increasingly money-hungry world.

    Thanks Bill.

    Cloudeight Internet

    8:44 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    On item I have noticed is that with registration or downloading or most anything that requires or asks you to input your name, etc., has a pre checked box at the end to receive newsletters and often information from other companies. It can be unchecked BUT if you don't fill in the code right or if you leave something out of the information and have to correct it..the unchecked box becomes checked again. In short, every time one has to correct or change such forms before they are accepted, any boxes unchecked become checked.

    4:09 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I have seen a comment by a tickbox saying something like 'don't uncheck the box if you don't want to receive information from third parties' or words to that what kind of c**p is that?

    3:25 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    It's real simple. Until users begin to sue companies that install 3rd party software on your computer without making it painfully clear what they are doing, regardless of inserted licensing terms and conditions, this trend will continue. Consistent time consuming expensive lawsuits always get the attention of companies like this. Follow the money, just like politics...

    9:13 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Or you can simply speak with your wallet and not use/purchase these products.

    10:44 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I've noticed this too and have adopted a policy of not downloading most toolbars. The result: Sooner or later it will turn into adware or spyware or becoming some sort of worm or virus. It should not be okay to have the default option to install these annoying toolbars. Do we actually need these so called useful toolbars? I think it's better to go without and just go with the standard.

    2:56 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I have seen this before too. It is getting to the point where I say no to these so called useful toolbars and not just the ones that installers encourage users to install by default. Software companies should be considered with selling useful products and not on pushing products that are going to cause us more problems, but that's the world we live in now. It's all about the money. The only thing we can do is try to be smart and not install these things we don't need or don't trust. Bottom line stay away from toolbars.

    3:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I don't see much difference in this and programs like WinPatrol and others offered for free or to buy on this site, which have a lot of adware\tracking cookies bundled in with the downloads. At least the software with the toolbars tells you about them and gives you the chance to opt out if you don't just blindly rush through the install process.

    I posted this on another thread,

    I simply downloaded WinPatrol from this very site and instead of using the OPEN or RUN command I chose SAVE. Then I did a scan of the saved file with a spyware program, which found a good bit of unwanted junk that I don't want on my system and would have never been warned about or given the chance to opt out of in the install process.

    Funny that a person can write an article like this yet at the same time be involved in the same type of seedy practices. Sorry if that sounds mean spirited, but I just want to be able to trust the author of an article or software program when they are telling me what's wrong with what everyone else is doing.

    Sure would like to see some explanation here as to why it's ok for this author to do nearly the same thing their article seems to be saying is a negative thing for others to be doing.

    2:23 PM  
    Blogger Unknown said...


    None of the cookies you list come from your choice to download WinPatrol. I don't know what browser you're using but selecting Save shouldn't be putting cookies on your machine.

    You might want to check with your spyware software again. You might also check and see what they mean by "Tracking" cookies.

    I don't see any comparison between tricking people in downloading additional software and what you call bundling cookies.

    If somehow that's considered evil feel free to write about it.


    3:45 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Bill > Well, suppose when you upgraded to WinPatrol PLUS I default the number of licenses to 10. Can you imagine the anger from people who would be charged $299 USD instead of $29.95?

    Most people are "click happy". :)

    The other side of the coin . . .

    We were inundated with follow-up emails wanting to add the optional installation CD to online orders back when we had the default set to "No". The cost of manually processing those add-ons was more than the transactions were worth, and we were losing money.

    We now have the CD option checked by default. It's far more cost effective to process a few "I didn't want the CD" refunds a month than to process hundreds (literally) of "I meant to order the CD" add-ons a month.


    11:38 PM  
    Blogger Dixon Marshall said...

    A quote from the above post by John:

    " I simply downloaded WinPatrol from this very site and instead of using the OPEN or RUN command I chose SAVE. Then I did a scan of the saved file with a spyware program, which found a good bit of unwanted junk that I don't want on my system and would have never been warned about or given the chance to opt out of in the install process."


    Scan of "THE saved file?" Your own screenshot shows that you scanned 102,918 files, probably your entire hard drive. I feel that you don't seem to understand security software, or what and where a cookie is.

    Downloading and saving a file will not dump those cookies onto your computer--especially a file from the WinPatrol site.

    I've been using the paid version of WinPatrol since 2004, (longer for the free version) and I consider it the singlemost valuable piece of security software that I have. And, there is practically no resource cost to use it.

    WinPatrol has proven invaluable to me on many occasions, and it actually REMOVES the dangerous cookies other sites leave.

    From experience, I trust Bill as a security expert more than any other.

    By the way, I work in corporate IT, so I'm not just blowing smoke here.


    8:21 PM  
    Blogger Charles Dick said...

    I've been a Scotty-plus user for 3 years and couldn't be happier. Bill has always given me the impression of complete honesty. I'm on his side!

    2:47 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I'm always amazed at the monopolistic practices that the largest companies can get away with...while the 'watchdogs' complain about smaller companies.

    - Why doesn't anyone complain about the ubiquitous presence of the largest distribution deal out there: Adobe + Google Toolbar
    - Is anyone bothered that Mozilla locks Google in as the address bar default search provider for the Firefox address bar...and there is no easy way to change this?
    - Google default search in IE trumps Yahoo!, Ask, MSN, AOL even if the user has consented to change their address bar default search
    - Microsoft...don't even get me started!

    Hey Bill and your watchdog buddy Donna, how about some blogs on this?

    1:19 PM  

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