Crapware is in the eye of the beholder, apparently.
Seemingly respectable software now tries to bundle all sorts of crapware. Have you tried installing Flash recently? They try to sneak the Google Toolbar on you.
Anyone tried installing iTunes or Quicktime in the past decade? They bundle each other.
Anyone tried installing Java? I think it tries to bundle Yahoo! Toolbar or OpenOffice or both.
I'd venture that most of the people installing Flash have heard of Google, in fact they probably used it to find the installer. iTunes and Quicktime are both made by Apple and meant for media playback (for the most part), so it's not that big of a surprise that they bundle them together. I believe certain features of iTunes do rely on Quicktime, and now that Apple offers the ability to download Quicktime alone without having to go on a scavenger hunt, it's not too bad. Like Flash, I'm sure most of the people installing Java have heard of Yahoo! Toolbar, and I believe they only show an advertisement for OpenOffice while installing.
I wish these companies weren't trying to force all of this onto our computers, but it's become a bit of standard practice for freeware.
The problem I have is the amount of other programs Digsby is pushing but even more frustrating is how they went about installing the grid client. Sure, they have a lite installer that doesn't offer all of this (though you still have to opt out of things at the end), but the distributed client is installed in both cases.
Just as a test I did a fresh install of Digsby in a VM. This is using their normal installer and installs Digsby version 23485.
- Do you want to opt out of making My.Freeze.com your browser's home page?
- Do you want to opt out of making Yahoo! IE8's default search?
Note that most of the EULAs that you'd be accepting are not on the product's actual page but rather Freeze.com, so there is no way for me as a user to know without a doubt they are current or even applicable to the version of software they'd be installing.
Also, there is absolutely no mention aside from the TOS that they'll also be installing the distributed computing client. Though at least you now have to opt into enabling it via the Help->Support Digsby dialog. They include a link there to their own site
explaining what the client does, but it's rather vague. They don't mention what project your computer will be working on, or even who the client comes from; instead it's referred to as the "Digsby Research Module."
I feel I'm pretty well versed in software, and I've only heard of Yahoo! and the Weather Channel here. The rest of these sure have names that sound exactly like programs that advertise all over the Internet and are usually crapware. It's one thing to bundle programs from your own company or other well known companies, but what the InstallQ installer offers is a lot of programs that are from neither. They all look like crapware to me.
Go ahead and be the judge for yourself, but in my opinion this is a whole new league of disgusting.
As I said, my main problem is how they installed and previously enabled the grid client, in addition to how they've handled the fallout.
- No mention of the client during the install except for in their TOS.
- No mention of the client in their change log.
- No official mention appeared on their website. This has since changed, but last night about the only thing I could find were some blog posts about how they were thinking about adding one, and a few forum posts.
- I'm fairly certain you aren't shown their TOS when Digsby auto-updates itself, so you aren't made aware of changes.
- Hours after this broke and was made well known they hadn't updated their site to address it. They had no problem sending out a mass message begging for votes on the Lifehacker poll, but they kept quiet on this. (They may have sent something out after I uninstalled it - but clearly I wouldn't know.)
- Instead of admitting that they made a mistake by including it without making users aware, they mocked some of the complainers and did not take their concerns seriously. This goes back at least 8 months.
- When finally addressing the topic, they didn't apologize for their actions. It's a little thing that goes a long way.
- They've been trialing this out for months, and there were several complaints about it as well as their lack of communication. They clearly felt a mention in the FAQ and TOS would be enough and ignored the users who argued otherwise. In the end, I don't believe they even graced us with that mention in the FAQ until today.
- It's not like this is the first time the users have had to complain about the opt out attitude that Digsby has. They went through this multiple times when trying different installers and using InstallQ.
- They now claim they were going to make us all aware in good time, they just hadn't finished coding up a decent interface for it. That's fine, but why is it enabled then? With the many hours of EULAs and Privacy Policies they expect users to read during install, it's hard to believe they might put users before money. A user who has no idea the client is running won't disable it, and the longer it's running the more money they earn. If they didn't see how this would be viewed as negative by the users, then I'm not so sure they should be programming in the first place, and I certainly have less trust in their software.
Again, I have no problem with grid computing, and actually think Plura Processing is an interesting way for developers to cover their costs, but it should always be clear to the user and only ever something that user's must opt into. I can even swallow the pain of opting out of everything InstallQ offers me, but all of this makes it really hard to trust that what they show and tell users is accurate and all their program does.
Sorry about another long post, but this type of sneaky behavior really upsets me and it damages the user-developer relationship for every application out there by making it even harder to build any trust.