Mozilla to Apple, Google, Microsoft: Stop Being Evil

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Mozilla’s community coordinator, Asa Dotzler, has a message for Apple, Google, and Microsoft (and any “upstarts” who might fancy following in their footsteps: Stop being evil. In a blog post, Mr. Dotzler said that all three companies are installing additional plugins into Firefox without permission with other software. He likens the practice to trojan horse malware, and calls on it to end.

“Why do Microsoft, Google, Apple, and others think that it is an OK practice to add plug-ins to Firefox when I’m installing their software packages,” Mr. Dotzler asked. “When I installed iTunes, in order to manage my music collection and sync to my iPod, why did Apple think it was OK to add the iTunes Application Detector plug-in to my Firefox web browser without asking me?”

He added, “Why did Microsoft think it was OK to sneak their Windows Live Photo Gallery or Office Live Plug-in for Firefox into my browser (presumably) when I installed Microsoft Office? What makes Google think it’s reasonable behavior for them to slip a Google Update plug-in into Firefox when I installed Google Earth or Google Chrome (not sure which one caused this) without asking me first?”

Asa Dotzler

Mozilla Community Coordinator Asa Dotzler
Photo: Roland Tanglao through Wikipedia

Mr. Dotzler made the case that software companies should simply ask if it’s OK to install a browser plugin, and that not doing so is simply wrong.

“In my book,” he wrote, “that fits the definition of a trojan horse. Yes, that is precisely how a trojan horse operates. These additional pieces of software installed without my consent may not be malicious but the means by which they were installed was sneaky, underhanded, and wrong.”

He also acknowledged that Mozilla and the Firefox development team should do more to stop it from happening in the first place, but he also argued that they shouldn’t have to worry about what big companies, “trustworthy software vendors,” are doing.

Evoking Google’s mantra of “Don’t Be Evil,” Mr. Dotzler closed his post with: “Microsoft, stop being evil. Apple, stop being evil. Google, stop being evil. And you upstarts like RockMelt, don’t follow in those evil footsteps. It’s not worth it.”

“It’s really simple,” he said. “ASK first!”

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7 Comments Leave Your Own

ilikeimac

I can’t find the “iTunes Application Detector” Firefox extension on my Mac, so I presume this only happens on Windows? I checked the usual spots under /Library and ~/Library, as well as skimming the entire file list for the iTunes 10.1 package file.

Jamie

I can’t find it either. Could it be that on Windows it’s a requirement for it to install (which would make this, once again, a Windows issue)? Cynical perhaps, but it wouldn’t surprise me. wink

Regardless, I’m glad there’s someone out there that still takes this stuff seriously. The tech world used to be a fun hobby, these days it makes my head spin a lot of the time.

dlstarr7

Isn’t Firefox open source?  Like Android?  I thought it was designed to do crap like this?

VaughnSC

Judging by the name, the Apple ‘plugin’ likely just redirects ‘store’ URLs around the web to display in iTunes; this URL handler (‘itms://’) is surely hard-wired into Mac OS, hence it’s absence.

Maintaining the same MO under Windows is likely expected by the user upon installing iTunes, so this is hardly ‘underhanded and evil.’ They are probably anticipating the same transparent handling of any Google Earth or Office Live URLs out there, as well.

Not that I follow the browser skirmishes, but I’d guess FF has crested its adoption bell-curve and felt it necessary to gain some gratuitous exposure.

kevinolive

Being a little more objective, perhaps it is not with “evil” intent.  Would it be reasonable to ask the average end user a bunch of endless questions that he/she may not even understand during an install (or uninstall) process? 

Yes, it would be better to ask before adding extensions but does it improve the average consumer’s overall experience?  Is it worth the extra expense to work up dialogs (and test them) for multiple installation options?  I’ve seen many windows installs/uninstalls where the questions are very user unfriendly.  (I don’t know if I want to remove the shared file; if it doesn’t break anything, then sure.)

Personally, I’d like to be asked prior to files being installed anywhere with a product install.  What happened to the days of the [mac] applications being self contained or was that just a misconception? 

However, for the average consumer, it may be a meaningless string of dialogs and clicking OK.

VaughnSC

Mac apps can still be self-contained. In fact, it is a requirement for App Store submissions, I hear.

However, features that must be available all the time (when the program is not running) must be implemented elsewhere. Of course, things like plug-ins also require extra directories.

I think it would suffice to include a simple disclosure like:

“Installer will do the following:
? Install <app> in your Applications folder
? Install in your browser to enable <function>

and leave it at that.

OldGuy

Perhaps Apple, Microsoft, and Google do “ask” or at least inform, in the End User License Agreements (EULAs) that everyone ignores.
Not the nicest way, but it might be there.
I have to agree that the average user is not going to know what to do when presented for an authorization to install what is, in essence, a sub-part of the application being installed (iTunes, Google Earth, etc.).

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