For years, software manufacturers have been bundling applications together. Chances are if you download an instant messaging client from Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo, you’ll also be asked to install their toolbar and search engine. I would say that such behavior has come to be expected when you download something new. Including optional packages in updates however, is not something that is done regularly. Microsoft doesn’t include new applications in automatic updates, for instance. You can imagine the uproar there would be if they did – it was bad enough when they included IE7 (an update to existing software).
Apple recently started doing this with its Software Update service. Instead of including just updates for iTunes, the service now includes Safari by default. Mozilla CEO John Lilly explains:
Anyone who uses iTunes on Windows has Apple Software Update installed on their machines, which does just what I’ve described above: it checks for new patches available for Apple-produced software on your Windows machine, alerts the user to the availability, and allows updates to be installed. That’s great — wonderful, in fact. Makes everyone more likely to have current, patched versions of Apple’s software, and makes everyone safer.
The problem here is that it lists Safari for getting an update — and has the “Install” box checked by default — even if you haven’t ever installed Safari on your PC.
Lilly points out that this is wrong, because it “means that an update isn’t just an update” and that it “undermines the safety of users on the web”. I have to agree with him.
Tom Krazit at CNET says this isn’t a big issue:
If you don’t want Safari, don’t click “install.”
Normally I’d say he makes a good point, but this is different. Apple hasn’t made Safari an opt-in choice for users, they’ve checked it by default. Most users will just click install, meaning they’ll get Safari too.
Not cool, Apple.