Firefox boss fumes as Apple 'forces' Safari upgrade

Firefox boss fumes as Apple 'forces' Safari upgrade

Summary: Mozilla CEO John Lilly has hit out at Apple, accusing the company of doing a disservice to Windows users everywhere by including its Safari browser as a default add-on installation in the latest iTunes update, likening it to the way malware is distributed.


Mozilla CEO John Lilly has hit out at Apple, accusing the company of doing a disservice to Windows users everywhere by including its Safari browser as a default add-on installation in the latest iTunes update, likening it to the way malware is distributed.

In a recent blog post, the head of the foundation behind the Firefox browser and Thunderbird e-mail client attacked Apple for including the option to install the browser as a pre-selected default, saying it compromises the security of all users, and the entire Web.

"Apple has made it incredibly easy — the default, even — for users to install ride along software that they didn't ask for, and maybe didn't want. This is wrong, and borders on malware distribution practices," said Lilly in the post.

"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."

"Keeping software up to date is hard — hard for consumers to understand what patches are for, how to make sure they're up to date. It's also critically, crucially important for the security of end users and for the security of the Web at large that people stay current," he said.

While Lilly encouraged Apple's practice of releasing frequent updates, he objected to the option to install Safari coming pre-ticked, saying the "likely behaviour" for users would be to click the option to install both items — thus abusing the implicit trust between software makers and their customers.

"User expectations drive the industry to provide a simpler yet richer computing experience for the customer," said Andrew Walls, security research director at analyst firm Gartner. "This user demand for magical computer experiences has forced vendors to shield the user from technological complexity, which generally forces the vendors to make decisions on the user's behalf."

The Gartner analyst said the move by Apple to provide a semi-automated download of Safari as an add-on to a separate upgrade should be assessed with this in mind, as well as the ongoing context of proprietary-based PC computing.

"To an increasing extent, the PC is viewed as a platform for the delivery of licensed content. The user does not own the operating system, content or applications. As a result of proprietary hardware design, the user is even restricted in the extent that they 'own' the hardware," said Walls.

"It is not reasonable to expect vendors to regard a PC as a private space into which they may not venture," he added.

Lilly, however, believes Apple is affecting the way users see technology companies. "It's wrong because it undermines the trust that we're all trying to build with users. Because it means that an update isn't just an update, but is maybe something more. Because it ultimately undermines the safety of users on the Web by eroding that relationship. It's a bad practice and should stop," he wrote.

Topics: Apple, Browser, Malware, Microsoft, Security, Software, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • get a life

    Which part of "New software is available..." do you not understand?

    Unfortunately installing iTunes/Quicktime/Safari on a Windoze box requires administrator rights. boo hiss.
    That rules out all those millions of locked down corporate PCs, including this one.

    yes. I know, security, but really....

    (BTW, FF doesn't require admin access.)
  • More Apple malware!!

    I have always refused to have Quicktime and iTunes installed on my PC, because I have always considered them malware.
    Adding Safari would be just making the pile of rubbish bigger.
    They put Microsoft in the shade when it comes to implanting rubbish in your operating system.
  • Computer Users, Just Use Your Brains

    Yes, it's probably true that suddenly trying to add another program you never asked for is dodgy. And clearly Apple has their own little mechanism to usurp other browsers via this 'back door'. On the other hand, any user who does not have the brains to look at what they're about to install are most likely to be hosts to real malware.
    In short, check what you want and reject what you don't.
    Apple for their part should not assume we want safari installed
  • The problem here is that it is an update! and not a new installation of software. If I update one piece of software I don't expect it to install any new software on my computer...
  • More Apple malware!! - are you kidding?

    Comparing Apple to Microsoft in the malware stakes is ridiculous. Try installing and running Vista without IE7, Windows Media Player, MSN Messenger, etc?

    At least if you don't install Safari it it doesn't directly affect your entire OS.

    A bit of an overreaction if you ask me, but this does make things more difficult for Firefox, and I can understand Lilly's comments.

    As for Quicktime being malware. In my opinion it's a fundamental video playback program, in the same category as Flash and Windows Media Player. Essential for enjoyable online surfing...
  • Apple malware

    OK quicktime might be a good product, but I don't want it bundled with other rubbish (read iTunes and Safari). If users want to change their web browsers and media players, let them, but don't force it down their throats. Apple isn't the only company who does this, but I am disappointed in their underhanded tactic here.
    I choose to run Firefox and winamp as my browser and media player and I DON'T want some other company to change it. Apple, let the USERS decide on what they want, don't force rubbish down our throats in your "we know better than you" attitude!
  • Exactly!

    I agree totally with the "it is an update" comment.

    Apple's Software UPDATER is designed to bring down UPDATES of ALREADY EXISTING SOFTWARE!

    Adding a new software installation is extremely misleading, and as has been said, borders on malware. Apple should know better, and this really is abusing their users trust.

    Microsoft may bundle a lot of software, but it's almost always actually necessary. IE was integrated into Windows, so, to an extent, was Windows Media Player. They became necessities because of Microsoft, but the point is that they were, and so they became mandatory.

    iTunes may use Quicktime's engine (it's a stretch to install the whole thing instead of just the engine), and that's okay with me. I didn't like it, but I dealt with it.

    Safari, on the other hand, has NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING to do with Quicktime or iTunes. "WebKit" is not used in either of those programs. There's no reason Safari needs to be on a machine with iTunes or Quicktime, other then the fact that Apple wants it to be there.

    Sorry guys, but you've lost my vote on this one.
  • firefix rules

    Mozilla Firefox more user friendly and safer than safari and Internet explorer.
  • Apple - Please try to do no Evil

    After getting frustrated with iTunes trying to install (default = check box on) Safari every time I do an update, I finally decided to turn off updating. I don't like not having the most up to date software but Apple leaves it users with little choice.

    Apple, please try to do no evil
  • FireFox on point

    Firefox is my perferred browser. I switched over from Internet Explorer on a good friend's recommendation and a little research. I'm already parnoid about agreeing to new software or updates, because of getting malware from past experience (pain in the azz like no other).

    But needless to say a lot of people don't pay attention to read the prompts when updating software. Then they find themselves agreeing to a lot of un-wanted software. I think companies who do practices like this prey mainly on people who fall in this category. Really, whats the statistics of new PC users/owners, that obviously haven't become somewhat computer savy? I imagine it's a high enough number, what entails here is that these new unsuspecting users become lambs to the corporate software wolves. Over past years I really had to get it into my kids not to download everything, or say "yes" to prompts not knowing what exactly they are agreeing to when they were online.

    For me, if it's something you miss or didn't understand during the software "updating" process? My rule is to select "No" to everything and start over, or do your research first.