The other day, I was informed that there was an Adobe Flash update. As I'm used to it updating every week or so, which says a lot for its stability, I just hit go after checking the URL was Adobe.
What I didn't do, was check if Adobe had tried to do an installation of crapware. I noticed the Flash update come up and then, to my horror, I noticed that it was installing the Google toolbar and Chrome, as well. I immediately killed the installation and disabled the Google toolbar — luckily, the Chrome installation hadn't started yet.
I went back to the original page where I agreed to the update and found that, "Yes, install Google Chrome" was checked.
Given that most people have to update their Flash regularly, having a Chrome download pre-checked falls under social engineering in my opinion. In fact, it's the type of behaviour you might expect from an advertising company.
Having successfully cleaned my computer, I went to work to find the same update message appearing on my work computers, and with the same Chrome download checked by default. I carefully unchecked the box and installed the Flash update.
I returned home to find Chrome as the default browser on my living room PC. My partner had done the same thing — updated Flash. Once again, I had to remove Chrome and that annoying Google toolbar.
It also made me consider how Chrome appears to be such a popular browser, when it offers no advantages over Internet Explorer. Is Chrome's usage just the result of tricking countless millions into downloading Chrome, and making itself the default browser?
While I have a Gmail account and I do occasionally use Google SketchUp — both great products — I mostly use Bing for search, not Google. This current behaviour with the Adobe Flash player update has made me reconsider using Google and Adobe products at all.
I'll miss Google SketchUp for the odd times I use it, but the rest of Google's offerings can be replaced by more functional, and frankly, better looking Microsoft products, such as Bing, Office and Outlook.com. Given that Word 13 does a good job with PDF documents, I don't really need Adobe, and HTML 5 is a good substitute for Flash (as long as you are just using it for audio/video). Since Flash will be integrated in IE10, I hope we won't see any Adobe updates, at all, except for Microsoft, who I can trust to not have a Chrome download checked by default.
Whether you believe Chrome is the browser Messiah, or you believe an advertising company that say they will do no evil, this type of marketing is just wrong. I don't really mind if I'm downloading new software from the web, and it has various pieces of extra software checked, I can make a decision then. But using an update of an installed product to install unwanted software is a deliberate piece of social engineering.
So read your next Flash update dialog box — carefully.
Tony is the owner and managing director of Microcraft eLearning and is one of the creators of the AUTHOR eLearning Development System.