Enterprise Software

Google's sneaky Adobe partnership

A preselected checkbox on Adobe's Flash upgrade page moved Tony McSherry to stop using any Google products.

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.

I have a perfectly good browser that came with my operating system, and I don't need Chrome, even if it might be milliseconds faster in rendering a page. It also has some severe restrictions, in that it will not run HTML/JavaScript on local drives or CD-ROMs. Now, I know you and your friends might be always wired, but some of our clients in large organisations still want to be able to distribute training on CD, USB stick or install it on a local drive — something which IE, Firefox, and even Safari have no trouble with. IE has an additional benefit of allowing .HTA files, which allow you to use Flash on local drives without, setting the Global Security Settings.

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.

About

Tony is the owner and managing director of Microcraft eLearning and is one of the creators of the AUTHOR eLearning Development System.

68 comments
Snobird
Snobird

For a while there Adobe was sneaking in a free version of McAfee Security Essentials. This was causing all kinds of conflicts with our McAfee Enterprise installations. I can't count the number of time I had to uninstall that. One would think McAfee would not let its free version stomp on their paying customers.

curtisneal
curtisneal

I hav absolutely no problem with reasonably disclosed tie-ins or sponsorships. I just want an OBVVIOUSLY well disclosed option not to agree to the tie in. To my memory, Im have found various google malware installed on my computers for as long as I have been aware of Google. It has been installed without me even seeing a box (checked or not) on the installation of the software that I wanted. Along with that, my home page was changed EVERY SINGLE TIME without my choice. I call that type of corporate behaviour bordering on criminal! I have posting these complaints for several years now. You would think that they would contact me to see why I hate them so much.

brickviking
brickviking

Yes, I am slightly surprised that Adobe decided to "bundle" the Chrome browser, but I'm even more surprised at the reaction of the article writer. I find on my 2008-era system with Vista, that Google Chrome works significantly faster than IE on most of the pages I work with. In addition, I am able to DISABLE flash and DISABLE advertising junk without Chrome bleating at me each time a plugin has been blocked. Chrome just blocks it, and that's that. Whereas IE moans each and EVERY time I strike a out-of-band 'transmission'. Frankly I'm on the opposite side of the fence from Tony - I hate IE, and won't use it unless it's the only option. That's just my two cents worth. Please Mr Article Writer, do rewrite this article. It is not professional, even if it is intended as a pure opinion piece. Regards, The Viking (Eric Gillespie)

curtisneal
curtisneal

I also came up with this totally unwanted stealth installation. As i use the automatic updater, I was not even given the checkbox. This is Google's constant attempt to takeover people's computers. They have been doing this whenever and whereevewr they could for decades. I have many issues with Google and their total disregard for users. I could go into grat detail about their ubnderhanded and inconsideerate tactics. My most critical criticism is that they have no way to recover an hijacked gmail account wher the hijackers changed both the android phone number and secondary email account. The automated system only allows you to use those 2 items to recover the account. With no customer support that can bypass the automated system, I lost all of my calandars which I rely on extensively because of disablilties.

ManlyElectronics
ManlyElectronics

Also Google Chrome installing itself in Windows users directory's, not program's as other browsers do. That means few users per Windows machine can install few independent Chrome installations. I understand this helps to customize Google search results to each user on one machine. But I wonder if the price of Google shares depend on such fake "popularity" of Chrome.

WayTooSerious
WayTooSerious

Are you mad that you didn't have one of those CheckBox choices for Internet Explorer when you installed Windows? Isn't it unfair how we're supposed to PAY ATTENTION and ACTUALLY READ THINGS that might possibly be INSTRUCTIONS or CRUCIAL CHOICES during installations?

teef_au
teef_au

Since uninstalling Chrome, have you tried to click on any web shortcuts on your desktop or any links in Outlook? Not Good.

jhaliotis
jhaliotis

Ninite takes care of the whole issue. When I get a notification that there is an update for Flash (almost weekly at this point), Reader, Firefox, etc., I don't use their software to download it. I pull out the Ninite installer I downloaded a year ago, and let it do the work. It makes sure that any of the little "bonus prizes" that get included are ignored, and checks all the other software I've indicated for updates as well, all without me having to do anything other than start it. Oh, and it's free.

JonnyDee
JonnyDee

Tony, I agree 100% with you, I had to do the same. Putting those already-set tick boxes to download Chrone and the toolbar on not only SNEAKY, is also makes a mockery of Google's original 'do no harm' byword. The fact is: we don't need Flash and we should be doing our utmost to do without it. It's proprietary technology which offers what its makers decide for themselves. I'm presently running without Flash because the latest release has definitely made IE9 unstable fo rme, as shown by carrying out uninstalling/reinstalling sequences. Try getting an older version off the Adobe site - you can't: the sequence for asking for it goes through a trail of spurious pages that ends up where you started. (Is that engineered or incompetance?). Even when it wasn't doing that, it was pestinentially poopping up asking to install new versions so often that its credibility as well-managed software was, at least for me, plain gone! The big boys who build Flash into their offerings should stop using it.

tarose.trevor
tarose.trevor

I have to agree this is an issue ... when I install software, yes you can directly ASK me if I want to install something else, BUT if you select it by default, and hide the option to deselect it, my respect for your company instantly drops.

techracer7
techracer7

Makes me wonder how much you know about the shortfalls and pitfalls of IE. Anyone who is a serious tech user knows to avoid IE unless absolutely necessary.

Fairbs
Fairbs

You're upset about something that's free and you've used for years. Do you consider all the developer work that went into giving you something for free? Just uncheck the box. What did your inattentive install cost you? 5 minutes? It's not the end of the world.

justanoob
justanoob

I can't recall the software, but it had the same checkbox for installing IE and I have seen a similar setup for "make my default search Bing". No thank you, M$.

ttcirca
ttcirca

it's not as bad as when apple was trying to install safari by default when installing itunes. And it's easy to untick a box! you can only blame yourself for not paying attention to anything. All in all a completely useless and frustrated article.

efripp
efripp

This has been done for a while now. It clearly says, "Yes, install Google Chrome". However, it does seem suspicious that the tech giant, Google, would need to stoop to distributing their browser through this method. Chrome is a great browser and markets it's self to a certain extent. It'd be different if it was some kind of crapware.

mkottman
mkottman

Google set SketchUp free in April, 2012, so don't punish SketchUp for the evil of Google. It is now part of Trimble and can be found at sketchup.com. I suppose you also no longer use Java since every update to it asks to download the Ask.com toolbar, which is probably why Ask is suddenly the #1 search engine, haha. Also, while the current version of IE might be a perfectly great browser, at one point several years ago it was absolute crap that was nearly unusable. It was a bloated, ugly piece of software.

blatanville
blatanville

Do you know why Google is the preferred search box provider, why Google For Firefox is the default startup page? Because Google funds the Mozilla Foundation to the tune of millions per year. Yep, Google is funding a competing browser, for the price of having a foot in the search door in that browser...weird, huh? Oh, and it would seem that indirectly, Mozilla's Boot-to-Browser approach, which mirrors Google's ChromeOS would also be funded by Google. What's Google playing at? Maybe it's because they make about US$3B per month from advertising and they like to spread it around?

Craig_B
Craig_B

I tend to blame Adobe for this more than Google, as Adobe has created the deal with other vendors. My big issue is that when you go to the page, the Download now/Update now button renders first and the optional checkbox screen appears a second or so later. This means if you are just expecting the Update, you may do a quick click before the optional checkbox is rendered. I believe that all these add on things should be opt-in and not opt-out as this one is. If you attempt to force something down my throat I'm prone to get defensive about it. As for the browsers, each one has their place and each person can make make a choice of what works best for them. If you want to state pros and cons go ahead but please no holy wars, it's just a piece of software.

glsarto
glsarto

Tom, I totally agree with you. That is why I stopped using MS products years ago, and never been sorry. I carefully buy MS free PCs and servers, to avoid a faulty OS that needs antivirus to work bundled together. Ciao, -Gian

kdhall61
kdhall61

Every time I update Java it helpfully pre-checks "Install the Ask toolbar and make Ask my default search engine." Annoying, yes (for what it's worth, my default engine is DuckDuckGo).

blatanville
blatanville

Anyone who claims to technically savvy in the least ALWAYS looks before they leap. IF you just blindly install things without thinking or reading the extra bits, you're a fool. You're the reason viruses proliferate so quickly. And all of this coming from someone who writes eLearning software...sounds more like you operate by eRote instead of learning to THINK.

mattohare
mattohare

It seems they even had me ready to install Ask Jeeves stuff. I think the author did himself a disservice by bringing relative qualities of IE and Chrome. That's not the issue at all. The issue is these companies pushing software and configurations on users that just are not wanted. I've been slowly excluding Flash (and other Adobe products) for the last couple of years. About five years ago, I started being much more critical of Google's tool line since the search engine stopped working as well. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. We're not the customers. People that pay money are the ones that get the attention. Free users don't get that attention. We dug our freeware grave, the results are our collective responsibility.

lorefnon
lorefnon

I am really surprised that a premier blogging platform like TechRepublic is allowing such shallow minded opinionated posts. Seriously, here Adobe has clearly specified that Chrome download is "optional". What about all the bloatware that comes as an "integrated" part of the shoddy OS you use. Like for instance - Internet Explorer. Can you just remove it if you want to replace it with proven superior alternatives ? No you can't . It is an integral part of the OS. Its alright that you have your preference regarding some XYZ company, but really ... does it make sense to broadcast a reference to an optional download link deliberately squeezed into this fickle-minded context to millions of TechRepublic subscribers expecting quality content ?

ahanse
ahanse

agree that piggy backing gunk onto our computers is problematic but a little necessary due to them being free and all that.... If you think we can survive on ms only then go for it. BTW take this article and rewrite it as you should have in the first place. I, and many others I suspect, want factual info not personal shite..

Bennett000
Bennett000

I agree bundling schemes are asinine, wait a minute IE *IS* a bundling scheme. Furthermore the claims that Chrom(ium) cannot read websites (HTML/CSS/JS) offline is beyond idiotic. I've proved it on my GNU/Linux system, and I've proved on my Window$ system. I would be happy to make a video illustrating this. I could spend several more pages explaining all of the OBVIOUS shortcomings of Internet Explorer, up to, and including IE9. Please stop lying to your readers Tony McSherry

ErdMutter
ErdMutter

Dam, when I signed up for this website to comment on your article I had all these things pre-checked for me regarding newsletters and "Special offers from our premier sponsors"... I don't need that spam being sent to my email address. Perhaps you should consider your own companies, techrepublic, as malisius trying to spam our inbox's with this 'junk'. Luckily I was able to unchecked that sneaky little box before it was capable of sending me all this crap I don't want sent to me. This is the same type of argument you are presenting with having Google Chrome pre checked for installation along side your adobe flash. These pre-checked "Special offers from our premier sponsors" is what pays bills, and for Adobe... Google is willing to pay money to have that option there. It is up to the user to unchecked the box without blindly hitting the install button. What is sneaky is how Internet Explorer is a integrated product into Windows. I am not sure if it is still as such, but it was once required to have it installed in order to authenticate your installation of windows, to update your operating system, or even to visit the Microsoft website. As for your article saying that Google Chrome does not offer any features over Internet Explore, then I would like to you consider that Chrome offers sync, extensions, improved security, self updating client, and then there is the improved release cycle. Chrome Sync allows me to have my extensions, open browser tabs, bookmarks, and other information I chose to sync across all my chrome browsers on all my devices. This means I am able to search for something on my computer at home, and on my way out the door continue browsing on that same page on my tablet or phone. If that was not big enough of a feature, then you include extensions into the mix and you have a browser that you can make your own. I have an extension with gives me the ability to double click on a word on a website, and it will provide me with the definition of that word. Then there is my Translator extension that enables me to translate websites automatically when I visit one that is not in English. Another Extension I have is my ad blocker, which stops advertisement from being presented to me. A lot of times viruses like to propagate though advertisements, so this also improves security. All of these and countless more extensions are available for browsers like Chrome and Firefox, but with Internet Explorer the closet you get is toolbars. Some people might be turned off by auto updating, but when it comes to a browser it makes a lot of since. My browser, being chrome, does not require me to go out to Google's website to install the latest version of the browser like one would have to do with IE. This means that I am getting security fixes as soon as they are released, and being that Google thought of there user interface before releasing it... the interface does not change drastically from update to update like Microsoft's IE (they are still trying to figure out what they want to have it look like). To top that all off, Microsoft has never been known for their development cycle. They are often slow to pumping out the next release or security updates for there products. Then you add the amount of time it takes the normal user to update there browser... which is on average... never. Coming from a web developer's perspective I do have a rather distaste for Microsoft's IE, mainly because how they have handled web standards. Thanks to releases like IE6, We have a internet with multiple versions of the same website... just so it will load properly in that dam browser.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

http://www.techrepublic.com/forum/discussions/103-394241 This type of bundling stuff is tatamount to malware! I've limited my use of Google services, I no longer use their search, I don't use gmail, I don't use g+, and after these shenanigans, they can take their Chrome browser and insert it into the nether regions of their posterior, if they can fit it beside their heads! As I mentioned, this type of sneaky installation should not count as a Chrome user...I much prefer Opera for my browsing, and I've supported Opera for some 17 years now. The last update I was presented with for Java from Oracle was bundling McAfee Security Suite...I don't have to tell you how I feel about McAfee. So for those of you that are defending Google and Adobe with this, why don't you install McAfee as well? Must be a good product, it is included for free? My computers are just that...MINE! I decide what I want on them. Naive users should not have their systems gunked up with something they didn't want, irregardless how others may view the product. Sneaky, underhanded installation == spyware, malware and trojans!

explodingwalrus
explodingwalrus

"It also made me consider how Chrome appears to be such a popular browser, when it offers no advantages over Internet Explorer." haha seriously? I almost was with you until then! Chrome and Firefox are both faster, more secure than IE. And yes it's bad practice to have the checkbox already ticked but if you stopped using apps that did that you would be missing out on some great apps, and really you should pay attention during all installs.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Gargoyle tool bar off a number of systems due to them being preselected to screw you over. Another thing that got me about nasty Adobe behaviour is they recently got very up tight about people using non-Adobe flash plug-ins for their browsers and operating systems. I find it a bad attitude by Adobe since they have made it clear they will not support Flash updates for Linux and thus are forcing the Linux community to create the non Adobe flash players and plug-ins. Mind you, Adobe is NOT the only proprietary company doing this - there are a LOT of updates etc where you have to deselect the pre-selected extras for Gargoyle tool-bar, Chrome, and certain anti-virus programs too.

aaroncouch
aaroncouch

[q]...when it [Chrome] offers no advantages over Internet Explorer.[/q] My opinion is somewhat irrelevant to your article, but I guess if you don't see the advantages of extensions or being able to sync your browser settings across multiple computers, and so on, it doesn't have any advantages. Personally, I use those features all too often. As far as Google partnering up with Adobe and including Chrome in the installation process, I think all users should be aware of what they're installing on their computer. Sponsored software included along with free software installation is fine — it's what makes it free. As long as it's not installing it on its own and giving me permission to do so first, I have no problem with it.

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