21 March, 2008

Apple's Involuntary Safari Update

Controversy is raging about Apple's customer-involuntary Safari "update".
Fairly recently, Apple put the official 3.1 version of their browser on their update channel, which comes with any version of iTunes or QuickTime. The problem with this was that it was put there even if the user hadn't downloaded the program. Millions of people all over the world will be clicking the 'install' button without looking at what they're installing. Mozilla CEO John Lilly called it "wrong, [bordering] on malware distribution practices"

"This is a problem because, 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."




























(photo courtesy of CNET)

In another blog, CNET's Tom Krazit argues that users should be thinking before they install.
But the real problem is not the user. The real problem is that Apple is breaking the trust that has developed between them and the user.

But this is not the first occurrence of a software company using automatic upload channels to force a product on a customer. All the major IM companies have tried it, Yahoo had several lawsuits filed against it in 2005 for it, etc. Still, that doesn't make what Apple did any less irritating.

10 comments:

Lorien said...

Griffin, this caught my attention as well. I wonder how a company like Apple chooses to make a move like this. Did they explicitly model the backlash that it might generate? Did they weigh that against the number of users that would switch to Safari? What's the benefit to Apple for users on Safari?

Is there, like Quicktime, a Safari Pro version out there with an associated revenue stream? And will the benefit from that revenue outlast the cost from customer dissatisfaction that comes from this installation innovation?

Did Apple run a focus group? How did it make this decision?

Griffin Smith said...

Those are some good questions. I'll see if I can research it and post a post answering those. Thanks for taking it a little further

Johnathan said...

Hey I just checked for updates Griffin and Safari 3.1 version showed up and I have never downloaded Safari to my computer. It is very annoying that they would try to make me download the whole program when Apple Software Update is just to update the software that you have already downloaded from Apple. Examples like Quicktime and iTunes. Nice find!!

Andy said...

Every mac user I know uses Firefox rather than the included Safari. Perhaps Apple is frustrated the general lack of interest in Safari, even though they spent a lot of time and effort (and presumably money) in customizing their new(ish) Leopard OS to work with Safari, I don't perceive too many users going back in that direction.

As you have the option to NOT download the update, I wonder just how widespread the user dissatisfaction is with this "force load"?

I know I didn't bother when presented with the option (I haven't opened Safari more than twice since I downloaded Firefox, probably within 48 hours of going mac a year and change ago...)

Thoughts Infinity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnathan said...

I'm happy with Safari now that I took the time to try it out again. First time when I tried the Beta it was slow and web pages didn't load correctly which was last year 07. Now every webpage loads faster and it's got a sleek silver chrome interface.

I now prefer it over Firefox and Internet Explorer. Check out my full review of it at http://justthoughtsinfinity.blogspot.com/2008/03/unhappy-apple-plug-in-user-fans.htm so be sure to check it out.

And a quick search on Google in response to Lorien's comment about a Safari Pro pulls up a brand of binoculars and nothing has been announced directly from Apple. So the likelihood isn't high. Safari isn't bad despite the way apple has chosen to get people to try it...

Johnathan said...

Sorry link doesn't work you'll have to type in http://www.justthoughtsinfinity.blogspot.com click on March 08 right hand side and find "Unhappy Apple Plug-in Users" if you want to read my full review that is. Sorry for this inconvenience...

Andy said...

Moving in a tangential direction - the current issue of "Wired" magazine has an interesting article about Steve Jobs and Apple, entitled "Evil/Genius?" Seems the author's p.o.v. is that Jobs gets ahead by ignoring or breaking the "rules" (or conventions) of business, marketing, etc.

Worth a quick read, if you're interested.

Griffin Smith said...

You're right that it isn't exactly a "Force Load", but if you notice in the window, the Safari box is checked at default. The majority of people out there would have just clicked the Download button, because they trust Apple to tell them what is best for their computer. I think apple could have avoided all these problems if they left the box unchecked...

Johnathan said...

Gone are the days when Apple Software Update installs Safari without your notice unless you just still click install without looking at what is installing. Instead there is a new section called "New Software". The complaints must of been so bad about Safari installing like seen in the image of this post. Safari prentending to be an update and that Apple Sofware Update was just doing it's job. So Apple needed to create a new section probably specifically for Safari. Since there hasn't been any other new software yet that has gone into the "New Software" section yet I've seen. Check it out for your self! And remember don't click install without seeing what is installing in Apple Software Update program.