Say "No!" to bundled apps!

Summary:You've gotta be careful when you install software nowadays - you install one thing and you end up with a couple of applications that you didn't expect to get. Welcome to the world of applications bundling, and it seems that everyone is doing it nowadays.

You've gotta be careful when you install software nowadays - you install one thing and you end up with a couple of applications that you didn't expect to get.  Welcome to the world of application bundling, and it seems that everyone is doing it nowadays.

Over the past few years I've noticed a disturbing increase in app bundling.  Sure, you've always had to keep an eye on the install process just to make sure that you weren't getting something you didn't bargain for, especially if you were dealing with less well-known vendors, but now it seems that there's no telling who might be bundling apps - free software or commercial, it seems that companies are looking for additional revenue streams.

Take, for example, security software.  Alex Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt Software, security expert and all round good guy, has been keeping an eye on the competition and has noticed a disturbing trend where security vendors are bundling the Ask toolbar with their security offerings.  Webroot, ZoneAlarm and STOPzilla are three examples that Eckelberry has posted about recently.  These products don't just offer bundled apps to customers, the option to install them is pre-checked in the hope that users will unwittingly install them.  Disturbing how quickly security firms will resort to rogue tactics when it suits them.

Webroot bundled app
STOPzilla bundled app

ZoneAlarm bundled apps

Image credit: Sunbelt Software

In case you're wondering why security firms would risk their reputation by resorting to such disreputable tricks, the simple answer is that these companies are paid to bundle. 

It's not just security firms up to dubious tricks though.  I've lost count of the examples of bundling I've seen just over the past few months.  WinZip used to come bundled with the Google Toolbar and Desktop Search but now pushes the Carbonite online backup service and Adobe Reader comes with (or at least did the last time I looked) Yahoo! toolbar.  Oddly enough, I stopped using both of these products - I use 7-Zip and FoxIt Reader instead. 


WinZip bundled app

Even hardware vendors aren't shy of bundling either.  Lately installing or updating ATi graphics card drivers has become a pain because if you're not careful you end up with Earthsim and a whole lot of other unnecessary stuff installed, with the associated icons scattered about the place like confetti.

ATi bundled apps
ATi bundled app

I want to make it clear that I'm not anti-bundling, instead I'm against trying to trick the user into installing something they don't want or need by pre-checking the option in the installation program.  Not only is this designed to catch out the unwary, it makes the install process longer because you have to do custom installs and scrutinize everything.  Each time I come across a pre-checked bundled app, I lose respect for the company which is wasting my time, turning the install process into a game of Russian roulette and disrespecting my PC.  

Say "No!" to bundled apps! 


Topics: Security


Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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