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article imageApple Accused of 'Bad Business' Tactics in Distribution of Web Browser

By Chris Hogg     Mar 22, 2008 in Technology
The makers of Internet Web browser Firefox say Apple is operating "bad business" in the way it is distributing and promoting its Internet browser Safari. Mozilla says Apple's latest tactics are "...wrong, and borders on malware distribution practices."
Digital Journal -- It's a move that helped Microsoft cripple Netscape in the late 1990s: Distribute a Web browser along with the operating system so that you can get in the face of as many customers as possible. The tactic has been called everything from a brilliant marketing strategy to downright sneaky and monopolistic.
So when Apple pulled a similar trick this week to push its proprietary Web browser Safari, die-hard Apple fans were outraged.
This week, Apple used its auto-update service to distribute its Safari Web browser to Windows users; users who had iTunes and QuickTime installed were prompted to download the latest updates from Apple, and along with those updates the company was pushing out its Safari 3.1 browser. From a business perspective, it's a great move for Apple to reach millions of iTunes users who might not know about Safari. But from a user perspective, it's being called bad business, sneaky and borderline malware distribution tactics.
Mozilla CEO John Lilly posted a message on his blog recently that ripped into Apple. Lilly says the problem is that Apple lists Safari as an update and the install box is checked by default (even if you have never installed the software on your computer). Lilly says software makers work very hard to get users to trust them on updates so users will naturally click "install 2 items" with this Apple prompt. That is problematic, he says, because one of those updates is entirely a new piece of software and not an update.
"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. It’s wrong because it undermines the trust that we’re all trying to build with users. Because it means that an update isn’t just an update, but is maybe something more. Because it ultimately undermines the safety of users on the web by eroding that relationship. It’s a bad practice and should stop."
Lilly says Apple is undermining the trust relationship companies work to develop with customers. Mozilla is fuming about Apple's move because it added an entire product to a security update list. In his blog, Lilly wrote:
"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."
The move has even angered die-hard Apple fans on popular link site Digg.com (a widely pro-Apple userbase). One commenter writes simply, "Wow, imagine the outrage if Microsoft did this." Another writes, "By definition of software that installs unwanted software onto a computer, Apple software update is malware. It does this with Quicktime and iTunes as well." And in a final shot that shows just how seriously Web users have taken this, another commenter writes, "Why would I ever use Safari over Firefox? Apple, stick your ugly head back into the cave and don't try to push your proprietary bullshit...down my throat."
Apple issued an email statement to InformationWeek on this issue, saying:
"We are using Software Update to make it easy and convenient for both Mac and Windows users to get the latest Safari update from Apple."
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Note: Lilly's blog looks like it's being inundated by traffic so if you cannot access it from the link above, you can see it on Mozilla's team blog here.
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