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28 March, 2008

No hitching

John Lilly has pointed out that Apple is pushing the Safari browser at all users of iTunes, semi-covertly as an 'update' rather than openly as newly-installed software.

Whenever anyone uses the Apple Software Update utility, or whenever iTunes does it automatically, Safari will appear on the list of available updates. The 'Install' box is ticked by default. How helpful.

If I want a new browser, I'll deliberately seek out and download a new browser.
If I want to update existing software, I expect the company's 'update' facility to check for available updates to software I already have installed. And nothing else. At all.

This isn't merely a 'Firefox vs. Safari' issue, and it's perhaps unfortunate that Lilly happens to be the chief executive of Mozilla. The core issue is security: users need to be able to trust software manufacturers to provide essential patches against vulnerabilities and perhaps improve functionality of existing software. This trust should never be abused as a marketing tool – at best it'll annoy users, but at worst it could cause them to regard Apple Software Update as malware and disable updates altogether.

In this instance, the better alternative is to select the 'Ignore Selected Updates' from the Update utility's 'Tools' menu.

[Update 18/04/08: Apple has belatedly reworded the Updater's interface, clarifying that it's offering Safari as new software rather than as an update. Some have suggested that Apple deserve credit for responding to massive criticism, but I disagree: I'm offering no praise for their correcting an error that shouldn't have happened in the first place. This amendment is only partial, anyway: the 'Install' checkbox is still pre-selected by default. Unacceptable.]

[Update 05/05/08: El Reg reports that Apple's trick worked (under a very loose definition of 'worked'), tripling Safari 3.1's 'market share' (I think that's installations, not necessarily usage), relative to that of Safari 3.0, to a 'massive' 0.21% (Firefox: 18%).]

[Update 15/07/08: Be aware that the 'Ignore Selected Updates' option is pedantically limited: one can ignore, say, Safari 3.1.1, but Safari 3.1.2, etc. won't be blocked; indeed, they'll be preselected for the unwary to accidentally install.]


I'm more upset about the fact that it won't update Quicktime without installing iTunes as well! At least it's possible to opt out of the Safari install.

Posted by danbee at March 29, 2008 04:44 PM
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