Mozilla's CEO blasted Apple for distributing its Safari browser via the Apple Software Update service on Windows that is used by millions of iTunes users.
In a blog posted today, John Lilly, the chief executive of Mozilla, claimed the distribution practice is unethical because it allegedly tricks users into downloading not only their regular iTunes and Quicktime updates but also a brand new web browser -- without the user's consent.
As shown in the blog, the dialog box asks users to check off the software they want installed -- two boxes, one showing iTunes and QuickTime together, and the other displaying Safari, and at the bottom an option of installing the two items or quitting. The two boxes -- including Safari, the Windows version of the default browser in Apple's MacOSX -- are checked by default when the dialog box pops up.
"What Apple is doing now with their Apple Software Update on Windows is wrong. It undermines the trust relationship great companies have with their customers, and that’s bad — not just for Apple, but for the security of the whole Web," claimed the CEO, whose company's open source Firefox browser is No. 2 on Windows. "As a software maker we promise to do our very best to keep users safe and will provide the quickest updates possible, with absolutely no other agenda .... Apple has made it incredibly easy — the default, even — for users to install ride along software (Safari) that they didn’t ask for, and maybe didn’t want. This is wrong, and borders on malware distribution practices."
Some agreed strongly with Lilly's contention, some disagreed vehemently. The blog has caused a bit of a controversy.
"If Microsoft did the identical action, install some non-user-selected software using their software update channel, there would be cacophony across the Internet," wrote one sympathetic reader.
Others read the blog as a defensive response to Apple's Safari 3.1 for Windows, which was released on Apple's update site for Windows yesterday.
"Wow. You Windows users are not only paranoid, but so anti-Apple that your comments are hysterical," chimed one respondent.
"Much to do about nothing! The problem here is clear: Mozilla’s CEO is intimidated by the competition," added yet another writer.
Lilly claimed in his blog that his statements are not a criticism of Safari as a web browser and that he had no problem with a company using its installed software as a channel for other software. His concern is that many end users may not realize that they are downloading an entirely new web browser with their regular iTunes updates.
Still others say Lilly doesn't give end users enough credit.
"This is the biggest non-isue yet - and anyone using a computer that can’t use that screen and make a good decision should go back to a typewriter," another blogger said.