Mozilla to Apple, Microsoft and Google: ‘Stop being evil’

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Mozilla‘s Asa Dotzler is fed up with Apple, Microsoft and Google installing software plug-ins, without permission, into the company’s popular Firefox Web browser.

So much so that he told the tech giants in a post on his blog this week to ‘stop being evil,’ evoking the Google mantra of ‘don’t be evil.’

‘Why do Microsoft, Google, Apple, and others think that it is an OK practice to add plug-ins to Firefox when I’m installing their software packages,’ Dotzler wrote.

‘When I installed iTunes, in order to manage my music collection and sync to my iPod, why did Apple think it was OK to add the iTunes Application Detector plug-in to my Firefox web browser without asking me?’


Dotzler, who is Mozilla’s community coordinator, wrote that Microsoft sneaked in its Windows Live Photo Gallery and Office Live plug-ins without his knowledge before criticizing Google.

‘What makes Google think it’s reasonable behavior for them to slip a Google Update plug-in into Firefox when I installed Google Earth or Google Chrome (not sure which one caused this) without asking me first?’ he wrote.

‘This is not OK behavior. I downloaded and installed a specific application from these vendors intending to have only that application installed, and without my consent that application foisted additional software on me.’

Dotzler compared the practice to using Trojan Horse Internet viruses.

‘In my book, that fits the definition of a trojan horse. Yes, that is precisely how a trojan horse operates. These additional pieces of software installed without my consent may not be malicious but the means by which they were installed was sneaky, underhanded, and wrong.

‘I repeat: this is not OK.’

Officials from Apple, Google and Microsoft weren’t available for comment Tuesday afternoon to discuss Dotzler’s blog post.

RockMelt, a recently launched browser that embeds social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, also received a mention in Dotzler’s post as another installer of unwanted and undisclosed plug-ins.

‘I’m calling on you to stop this now,’ the Mozilla evangelist wrote. ‘If you want to add software to my system, ask me. Sneaking software onto my system that I didn’t ask for is evil (precisely in the Google ‘don’t be evil’ sense.)’

Dotzler admits that Firefox, which is built on an open-source platform that allows users themselves to make improvements to the browser, can do more to help users block out secret software plug-ins, but he argues that trustworthy actions from Apple, Microsoft and Google are needed.

‘These vendors should stop this behavior and let Mozilla and other software organizations focus on more important usability issues than combating their evil behavior,’ Dotzler wrote.

‘Microsoft, stop being evil. Apple, stop being evil. Google, stop being evil. And you upstarts like RockMelt, don’t follow in those evil footsteps. It’s not worth it.’

If the plug-ins are necessary, Dotzler envisions a solution that would bring the practice out into the light.

‘It’s really simple. ASK first!’ he wrote.

[Updated 9:14 p.m.: Microsoft e-mailed the Times a response to Dotzler’s comments.

In the e-mail, Microsoft said, ‘We use web/open standards where possible. To reach as many customers as we can with our web experiences, we use HTML/JS/CSS and try to avoid plug-ins. Office Web Apps are a great example of this.

‘Sometimes we need plug-ins to enable key features ... Where we require plug-ins, we minimize friction for customers. When we can, we make them available with popular browsers like Internet Explorer and Firefox, so our customers can choose the browser they want.

‘Also, when customers and/or OEMs install apps like Windows Live Photo Gallery or Office 2010, we install plug-ins needed to make these apps work seamlessly with web services.’]


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles