badware

by havoc

Hmm, Luis
mentions
this AOL-as-badware
report
. While some of the stuff is plainly bad, such as the
fact that you can’t uninstall fully, I can’t agree with some of
it.

e.g. Google Talk also does automatic updating, and I think it’s
exemplary good software behavior; the alternative is all the apps that
install a “check for updates” tray icon and tell you about it all the
time. “Look at me! I’m updating too! Check it out!” – cute for one
app, sucky when you have quite a few installed. Hmm, Firefox also
does automatic updating; it auto-downloads, then asks if
you want to restart Firefox, and whether you do or not the next time
you start up Firefox you automatically get the new version. Are these
badware too?

I don’t think putting a toggle for this in an installer would make
any sense. Many people wouldn’t know what it meant or wouldn’t read
carefully, and if they turned it off they’d just be shooting
themselves in the foot by not getting security updates. Why clutter
the installer? Allowing auto-updates to be turned off in preferences
is just fine.

Seems like some of these “badware” guidelines lead to “dialogware”
(which is also a nasty Windows disease), where instead of just picking
sane behavior and allowing you to modify it later, the app asks you
about everything in a dialog. As I think Joel notes, programmers love
dialogs, but in my experience designers will LART you pretty much every
time you put one in. I also suspect that
technical users are more prone to want to be asked everything than
nontechnical users are. (Random aside, Visual Studio is the worst
in this respect, it’s like a dialog firehose.)

Anyway, I’m not sure the badware guidelines should include
debatable design decisions or stuff that’s merely annoying. As long as
the app uninstalls completely and easily from the normal add/remove
programs screen, if people think the app sucks they can always get rid
of it. Of course, the AOL software does appear to be hard to get rid
of.

I have to admit I was surprised and annoyed when the AOL Instant Messenger
installer also installed some crazy-weird web browser (not IE, not
Firefox) … the bundled software with AOL 9.0 could conceivably be
there as dependencies (e.g. maybe AOL 9.0 requires Quicktime to work
right), but it’s tough to imagine that an IM client needs to replace
my web browser in order to work.

(This post was originally found at http://log.ometer.com/2006-08.html#29)

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