Browser investigate

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.

67 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..

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

and when this garbage starts to run in the background I get asked to enter the password to allow it to load. I simply refuse to give the password and the stuff doesn't get loaded. I find it interesting that this stuff does get to run in the background on a Win 7 system which is supposed to stop that.

Fairbs
Fairbs

I think the slogan is intended to go a bit deeper than worrying about if they create a minor annoyance for inattentive downloaders.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Adobe Player is free solely because if users had to pay for it then many wouldn't use it and the people who pay the money for Adobe Flash to create programs in it would get few sales for their products. Thus the player is given out as a freebie so they can encourage the sales of the full Flash program.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

long term practice make it any more acceptable? I don't think so, and that's the same answer to this stuff! The problem is the proprietary retail software industry is getting to used to getting away with putting out crap and pushing more garbage down out throats, We need to draw a line and shove back.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

comparisons have shown google searches to give better results than Bing etc - however, the changes to the google search result sin the last few years where you get hits prioritised on what the people have paid google and on how frequently others have selected a hit page instead of how well they match the search request do have me wondering how good a google search is now. In some recent examples I did a google search for a particular product by its vendor name and model number - the first mention of the vendor's web site was in position 68 as the first few spots were taken up by paid advertising by retailers to sell the product, and the rest up to position 67 were more lists of the product on retail web sites and for articles comparing the product with similar products - five years ago the vendor's web site would have been the number one hit, now it's on spot 68. Sadly, Bing is just as bad when i check it for the same search.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

*always* look for check boxes and read what there for, and usually just un-check them. simple answer to a simple problem

Tony_McS
Tony_McS

Nice to know you never make mistakes isn't it ;-) Nor do I blindly install things. The point here is this is an UPDATE and previously you just hit Enter to accept the update. The change in behaviour is deliberate and designed to catch as many people as possible. I Yes I do write eLearning software, but I'm also a developer and I was cutting code before your DNA even combined ;-) Yes, I didn't read the small description and tick. because it told me it was a Flash update and also didn't inform me that it was changing my default browser and putting that annoying toolbar in IE - they changed this after my screen cap. BUt hey, I got scammed, so it must be my fault.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

for years now the Flash updater ONLY updated Flash, you had to be watchful if you didn't want the automatic update to install silently (I prefer to choose when to update). Oracle and its Java had the Ask Jeeves junk. Adobe "conditioned" users into accepting their updates almost sight unseen. To then add on additional stuff without CLEAR indication is trickery and slight of hand. Would all of you that are defending Google and Adobe in this matter be as quick to defend, let's say Microsoft and Yahoo, if a Windows Update automatically had a check box ticked to install the Yahoo Toolbar and make Yahoo your "home page" and default search, web email, social platform? Of course you wouldn't! The weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth would be of almost biblical proportions! Quit being a hypocrite and constantly giving Google a "free pass", just because at one time they were a good search engine. As for Adobe...well, 'nuff said!

curtisneal
curtisneal

It is no choice when you have selected automatic updating.

Tony_McS
Tony_McS

I understand I've obviously offended you by daring to complain about what I regard as sleazy behaviour. It appears Adobe and Google can do no wrong. I'll make the point again. This is a Flash UPDATE. Previously you just hit Enter to install one of its many updates. Placing a ticked option on an Update screen without even proper description (the changing the default browser and installig the toolbar description were only added later) is a deliberate attempt to trick you into installing software you don't need. They only had to leave it unticked if they wanted to provide people with the option. Both Apple and Microsoft provide default browsers with their OS and Chrome has no advantages over either and, as I pointed out for my usage, it also has limitations. If you really do feel the need to change your picture frame to yet another browser, you can do it at any number of websites. Oh and you should really read the article first. The whole point here is Chrome can replace IE and make itself the default browser.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

while the button for download now is much bigger and in a colour design to take your eye straight to it. In short, they designed the page so you won't spot the Chrome bit, then mark it is default yes. I bet if they weren't allowed to mark it as default yes the font would be way bigger and more colourful.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

given to us free, but we don't want them. This process is much the same.

dogknees
dogknees

We all make mistakes. The difference is that I don't blame others for my mistakes or expect them to fix what I broke.

stephen-laplante
stephen-laplante

Wow Tony, Am I the only person here that seems to be picking up on what you're actually complaining about? It's not that companies auto tick crapware when you install NEW software, it's that they're doing it now when you UPDATE software already installed on your PC. I was just as annoyed as you were when I did my last Adobe update - in fact the last 2 times I updated, I had to abort the "auto-download for my convenience" feature they added. I agree that this was done to intentionally "trick" people into downloading the Google software. I would guess that's because Adobe gets paid for each completed download - so who cares if the customer uninstalls it later right? I understand the business reasons for doing this and I agree you on the sleaze factor here.

blatanville
blatanville

you've been coding a LO-OONG time, Grandpa... I've owned many computers since 1982, and I've been bitten by a virus a few times...usually my own fault. I'm more conscious of things, now, and haven't had a virus (that I'm aware of, obviously) in about six years, including a six month period where, for whatever reason, I wasn't running any anti-virus app at all... On a supportive note: this is kind of sad that Adobe is in a position where they feel the need to do this sort of thing. Like the CS isn't enough of a cashcow, and their new (scam), the subscription-based apps isn't going to win them boatloads of money...sigh...

mattohare
mattohare

I'm lumping them with others and saying it's all wrong.

blatanville
blatanville

this is a user experience convenience. And like all computing conveniences, they need to be handled with care - both by the dev and by the user. I can't fathom why anyone would want to suffer with IE and it's gawd-awful interface and it's history of non-standards compliance, but like you said, it works for some. [The mere fact that the web browser most easily acquired (IE, for it comes with the most-widely installed OS on the planet) is losing market share to software given away by two other companies should give you some notion that many people DO consider IE lacking in some way. Same goes for Safari - it comes with OS X, but many choose to replace it, it seems, whatever it's advantages with application integration. People just seem to like to customize their browser experiences.] IF you have a problem with the fact that Chrome can make itself the default browser, complain to Microsoft, and read the dialog box before you click "accept."

ahanse
ahanse

Thought we were talking about free stuff *WE* did want.. man I avoid some free stuff and even some paid stuff with a passion...

Nitramd
Nitramd

My personal solution is to access the internet via my Ubuntu 12.04 desktop install dual booted with W7, (Mint 13/ XP Sp3 on my laptop). Although this could be seen as a sledge hammer to crack a nut, the Adobe flash nut is a tough one & justifies it! As you know, Adobe recently abandoned support for Linux, so no sneaky installs! I also notice the unwanted toolbars are absent. For me the 1/2 to 1hr invested installing (time lost Googling for laptop wireless driver solution), has been more than paid back with interest, withlow to nil time lost removing the unwanted, including malware, virus's (for now, popularity could change this.) Flash player alternatives available for Mint/ Ubuntu ( & derivatives of?) LightSpark & Gnash. I have not found any problems opening web pages yet, or experienced the frequent lockups, crashes that I find with Adobe/windows (just been lucky so far?!) I admitted from the start, for just accessing the Internet, this takes a lot of disc space, there are smaller Disto's like Puppy & Dam Small Linux, but I've found wireless a problem again (just me I suspect), and I do use the Linux install for many other tasks. Most Linux can also be effectively mounted & run on USB Memory sticks, also for ref, quick boot up for just Internet use, Intel used to have mounted, a Linux distro on their Mbr's.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

won't stop it. What needs to happen is to hit them in the hip pocket. Don't buy their software, don't use their software, complain to sites that require you to use their software; and explain to all involved why you're so against them. Get a big enough grass roots movement going to NOT use Flash or Adobe software and they will react to the loss of sales.

Nitramd
Nitramd

No! I've been slimed, who I'm going to call, Google busters! To clarify, I hate, object to crapware, sneaky updates toolbar installs & having to waste my time removing them, when I missed that box conveniently positioned, coloured, sized ect & already ticked for me. I do not delegate all blame to those caught out, assuming reasonable caution had been taken, ( note there has rarely if ever been an action between parties where responsibility for the outcome is totally one sided!), but look for solutions, of which the first step is trying to understand the why, the how Adobe & others do it, such as for subsidies for example ( sorry if it wasn't clear). As previously stated I spend time advising family, friends & even enemies how to avoid, remove it, performing such tasks if asked, (except for enemies who can wipe their own crap off!) The majority of people have interests other than technology, & it is to this significantly larger market that manufactures address, competing on price, which crapware lowers through subsidy (as customers often only look to specs & price for value judgments). These people also fall prey to the download traps, such as Adobe's so how to stop it? 1. Education, advise use of alternatives & warn of sneaky download techniques. Adobe's Flash Player is hard to avoid as past popularity has produced lock in on the Web & they've also appeared to make it difficult for other flash players to develop. Any one know of another player/plug in? 2. Do not use flash, use HTML5, flash blockers ect, the Steve Jobs solution, wasn't there a big argument against him doing this, from Techrepublic, ZDnet & others? 3. Legislate to ensure there are alternative flash players in competition. Introduce regulations that make disguised concealed download approval illegal. If people had to tick the box to load rather than having it pre ticked as now. This has to be the last one to try If all else fails, as it has the least chance of success due to powerful political lobbies, international boundaries and an admission of the failure of a free open market. I'm afraid discussing, calling Adobe & each other names here will not stop these obnoxious practices. To understand the problem is essential, but to change it is the point. That first change being with ones own habits, then convince those close to you, and so change cascades out as they do the same, and the power of organic growth does the rest. I will leave the opportunity to reply open (assuming the web page allows), I value interest, criticism (thank you andyvphil), alternative opinions & offer solutions.

andyvphil
andyvphil

The idea that I should accept their repeated attempts to sneak crapware onto my computers as the necessary price of their product and blame only myself if they succeed is obnoxious too. I'd be perfectly happy if Flash didn't exist since practically everything it is used for makes my browsing experience worse. But I want the websites that demand it to be functional and the course of least resistance is to keep updating it... though I'm considering cancelling that and seeing how long I can get away with an unupdated product. But Adobe always claims to be addressing a security issue that they've previously introduced. In any case, the idea that it's some free goodie that I should be willing to pay a considerable price in inconvenience and vigilance for is insane. I'm here because I was looking for some way to diable the Google toolbar rather than uninstall it. I've many times before declined to accept it, but this time it slipped through. Why anyone could think this malware behaviour is ok is completely beyond me. Adobe is slime, and if you think what they do is ok then you're probably pretty slimy too, whether you realize it or not.

Nitramd
Nitramd

Is the aggravation & hours lost in removing crapware or replacing unwanted OS's worth the subsidy paid to the OEM's, so they can compete on price,(reason for Linux loaded Pc's not being any cheaper than windows (ignoring MS coersion & high unit costs for lower demand?)) Saddly most people look at price, not the true cost, often not knowing, caring & just accepting this status quo. This also goes for free downloads, just looking at the number of toolbars & junk on my wifes & kids laptops that I continally remove (they blame the machine because its old, so crapware an instrument of planned obsolescence?) Education is the answer. There is no such thing as a free lunch & if it looks too good to be true, beware.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

so I buy the bits and pieces to put a system of my own together and load it up with Zorin OS Linux. That allows me to get better hardware for the same money and no bundled garbage. However, that's NOT possible with laptops, so I get stuck there. Which is why I tend to keep away from them when I can.

Bennett000
Bennett000

The entire act of purchasing a PC for me generally involves jumping through hoops so I do not have to unwittingly purchase an OS I do not want bundled with my computer. The OS which in turn is typically bundled with loads of advertising. Fortunately MS will let you pay them for a clean "signature" edition. People who live in Microsoft houses shouldn't throw blue screens.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

where they throw in extra free stuff in a way designed to make us overlook the fact they've put it in there.