September 1, 2005 6:30 PM PDT

Yahoo IM users get more than they bargained for

If you're one of the tens of millions of Yahoo users asked to upgrade your instant-messaging software this week, be on your toes: The update can open the door to unwanted PC houseguests--and setting changes--by default.

The newest free version of Yahoo Instant Messenger (YIM) boasts advanced Internet phone calling in a upgrade that comes "highly recommended" by Yahoo. By clicking "yes" to the update, a user can expect to get a slicker YIM interface with buttons to quickly chat, blog, swap photos or call someone online. It even has new smiley icons.

Those changes are what many might expect. What they may not expect are all the other tools they get when not paying attention.

By accepting Yahoo's "typical" installation of YIM with Voice, it will also download Yahoo's Search Toolbar with anti-spyware and anti-pop-up software, desktop and system tray shortcuts, as well as Yahoo Extras, which will insert Yahoo links into the Internet Explorer browser. The IM client also contains "live words," which will automatically show an icon when the user highlights words online and then hyperlink to Yahoo search results, definitions or translation tools. Finally, the installation will alter the users' home page and auto-search functions to point to Yahoo by default.

To avoid these changes, users must actively choose the "custom" installation and uncheck five boxes.

Yahoo spokeswoman Terrell Karlsten said that for avid Yahoo users, the included services are valuable and highlight the integration among all its tools.

"By setting it that way we're giving people choices. For people who want to download software in one fell swoop, they have that option. If they don't want it we give them the ability to customize it," Karlsten said.

Battle for the desktop
Privacy advocates called Yahoo's install tactics disappointing, yet part of a long history of guerrilla marketing among Internet companies promoting free software. Ray Everett-Church, a principal at privacy consultancy PrivacyClue, said in this case that Yahoo was going further than it ever had before.

"This is the first instance where you actually must go and do a custom install to control them from installing other software," Everett-Church said. "Most folks go to the default install and are not expecting to get a whole suite of unasked-for software. That's where the sneaky factor comes in."

Yahoo isn't the only company employing aggressive means to promote their applications and services, nor is it the first. Big companies including MSN and America Online and smaller firms like RealNetworks and Claria have long taken the opportunity to push other tools or features when users install their software.

The tactics are so common that people often forget about the technological battle being fought for control of their PC, in which Internet companies play offense and defense when it comes to changing preferences for home pages, e-mail, multimedia players and default Web searches.

"The hidden check boxes during installation are a common practice for companies trying to further extend their reach onto your computer desktop," Everett-Church said. "Companies have a responsibility to very clearly indicate what is being installed during that process and give a clear opportunity to reject software."

In this case, the YIM software triggers a miniature battle with other software makers. If people accept Yahoo's default home page and search settings and then want to set them back, Microsoft's IE contains an option under its "Tools" menu to "Reset Web settings." That selection, however, will not necessarily restore personalized settings. Rather, it will point people to Microsoft IE default settings, including the MSN home page and auto-search features.

Yahoo is persistent, however. If people set back their auto-search settings to MSN or Google, for example, Yahoo will send a pop-up message asking users if they would like to change it yet again to Yahoo Search.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company has been testing the new version of YIM with advanced Net phone service since May and released it in early August. This week, it began pushing out a "recommended upgrade" notice to U.S. users, Karlsten said. It has included default home page and search changes since May 2004, when it released YIM 6.0.

Yahoo Messenger with Voice also includes shortcuts to IM from the desktop and system tray. The Yahoo Extras software will specifically add links into IE that point people to Yahoo services like e-mail and shopping. The "custom" installation of the software will let people opt not to receive the toolbar, shortcuts and extras.

Yahoo could be counting on the fact that most people won't care or notice the changes.

"There are a ridiculously high number of people who never budge off the default," Everett-Church said.

116 comments

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Add your comment
A digital download bill of rights...
I think it's time for some sort of 'digital download bill of rights' that tightly controls the installation, spyware and settings practices of software makers, especially with regard to their interactions with third-party software.

There is absolutely no valid reason for any piece of software to change settings on a third-party application without user permission first.
Posted by UnnDunn (55 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What I Don't Understand Is...
If those "extra" features are for "avid" users, why does Yahoo hide those options under "custom" install? The right way for Yahoo to do is, after showing EULA and confirming which folder to install, ask customers CLEARLY what they want or what they don't want without using misleading words such as "typical installation", "recommended installation", and so on.
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Link Flag
Not just downloads
You said:

"There is absolutely no valid reason for any piece of software to change settings on a third-party application without user permission first."

Which is absolutely correct, installing software from any source shouldn't make changes to other software without explictly explaining what changes it wants to make and allowing the user to decide otherwise.

But the other part is that when you're installing one piece of software it shouldn't be bundled with a lot of other unannounced software in the first place.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
A digital download bill of rights...
I think it's time for some sort of 'digital download bill of rights' that tightly controls the installation, spyware and settings practices of software makers, especially with regard to their interactions with third-party software.

There is absolutely no valid reason for any piece of software to change settings on a third-party application without user permission first.
Posted by UnnDunn (55 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What I Don't Understand Is...
If those "extra" features are for "avid" users, why does Yahoo hide those options under "custom" install? The right way for Yahoo to do is, after showing EULA and confirming which folder to install, ask customers CLEARLY what they want or what they don't want without using misleading words such as "typical installation", "recommended installation", and so on.
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Link Flag
Not just downloads
You said:

"There is absolutely no valid reason for any piece of software to change settings on a third-party application without user permission first."

Which is absolutely correct, installing software from any source shouldn't make changes to other software without explictly explaining what changes it wants to make and allowing the user to decide otherwise.

But the other part is that when you're installing one piece of software it shouldn't be bundled with a lot of other unannounced software in the first place.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
A digital download bill of rights...
I think it's time for some sort of 'digital download bill of rights' that tightly controls the installation, spyware and settings practices of software makers, especially with regard to their interactions with third-party software.

There is absolutely no valid reason for any piece of software to change settings on a third-party application without user permission first.
Posted by UnnDunn (55 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What I Don't Understand Is...
If those "extra" features are for "avid" users, why does Yahoo hide those options under "custom" install? The right way for Yahoo to do is, after showing EULA and confirming which folder to install, ask customers CLEARLY what they want or what they don't want without using misleading words such as "typical installation", "recommended installation", and so on.
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Link Flag
Not just downloads
You said:

"There is absolutely no valid reason for any piece of software to change settings on a third-party application without user permission first."

Which is absolutely correct, installing software from any source shouldn't make changes to other software without explictly explaining what changes it wants to make and allowing the user to decide otherwise.

But the other part is that when you're installing one piece of software it shouldn't be bundled with a lot of other unannounced software in the first place.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
A digital download bill of rights...
I think it's time for some sort of 'digital download bill of rights' that tightly controls the installation, spyware and settings practices of software makers, especially with regard to their interactions with third-party software.

There is absolutely no valid reason for any piece of software to change settings on a third-party application without user permission first.
Posted by UnnDunn (55 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What I Don't Understand Is...
If those "extra" features are for "avid" users, why does Yahoo hide those options under "custom" install? The right way for Yahoo to do is, after showing EULA and confirming which folder to install, ask customers CLEARLY what they want or what they don't want without using misleading words such as "typical installation", "recommended installation", and so on.
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Link Flag
Not just downloads
You said:

"There is absolutely no valid reason for any piece of software to change settings on a third-party application without user permission first."

Which is absolutely correct, installing software from any source shouldn't make changes to other software without explictly explaining what changes it wants to make and allowing the user to decide otherwise.

But the other part is that when you're installing one piece of software it shouldn't be bundled with a lot of other unannounced software in the first place.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
not really nice...
I actually read the onscreen instructions and very carefully did NOT install the Yahoo toolbar and search etc ..but it is pretty poor behaviour of Yahoo not to make it more explicit.

But at least Windows users have got a new version of Messenger ..when will Yahoo grow up and provide updates to the Mac version!!!!!
Posted by ceebee23 (109 comments )
Reply Link Flag
If this is how they do business...
... I think maybe I'll stick with iChat. I don't really care for the way
Yahoo is doing business. Of course, I don't really care for the way
AIM, MSN and just about all the others do business, either. I think
that makes me S.O.L.! :)

Eric
Posted by Eric W (30 comments )
Link Flag
not really nice...
I actually read the onscreen instructions and very carefully did NOT install the Yahoo toolbar and search etc ..but it is pretty poor behaviour of Yahoo not to make it more explicit.

But at least Windows users have got a new version of Messenger ..when will Yahoo grow up and provide updates to the Mac version!!!!!
Posted by ceebee23 (109 comments )
Reply Link Flag
If this is how they do business...
... I think maybe I'll stick with iChat. I don't really care for the way
Yahoo is doing business. Of course, I don't really care for the way
AIM, MSN and just about all the others do business, either. I think
that makes me S.O.L.! :)

Eric
Posted by Eric W (30 comments )
Link Flag
not really nice...
I actually read the onscreen instructions and very carefully did NOT install the Yahoo toolbar and search etc ..but it is pretty poor behaviour of Yahoo not to make it more explicit.

But at least Windows users have got a new version of Messenger ..when will Yahoo grow up and provide updates to the Mac version!!!!!
Posted by ceebee23 (109 comments )
Reply Link Flag
If this is how they do business...
... I think maybe I'll stick with iChat. I don't really care for the way
Yahoo is doing business. Of course, I don't really care for the way
AIM, MSN and just about all the others do business, either. I think
that makes me S.O.L.! :)

Eric
Posted by Eric W (30 comments )
Link Flag
not really nice...
I actually read the onscreen instructions and very carefully did NOT install the Yahoo toolbar and search etc ..but it is pretty poor behaviour of Yahoo not to make it more explicit.

But at least Windows users have got a new version of Messenger ..when will Yahoo grow up and provide updates to the Mac version!!!!!
Posted by ceebee23 (109 comments )
Reply Link Flag
If this is how they do business...
... I think maybe I'll stick with iChat. I don't really care for the way
Yahoo is doing business. Of course, I don't really care for the way
AIM, MSN and just about all the others do business, either. I think
that makes me S.O.L.! :)

Eric
Posted by Eric W (30 comments )
Link Flag
Yahoo IM!
They didn't get me, I did the Custom install and eliminated all their garbage, and believe me, there are tons of it.
Mark
Posted by Sunday_Niagara (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yahoo IM!
They didn't get me, I did the Custom install and eliminated all their garbage, and believe me, there are tons of it.
Mark
Posted by Sunday_Niagara (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yahoo IM!
They didn't get me, I did the Custom install and eliminated all their garbage, and believe me, there are tons of it.
Mark
Posted by Sunday_Niagara (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yahoo IM!
They didn't get me, I did the Custom install and eliminated all their garbage, and believe me, there are tons of it.
Mark
Posted by Sunday_Niagara (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Spyware
This update has the same behavior as some spyware applications. Thankfully, I'm on Linux, which comes with GAim, a program which can connect to yahoo without having to download yahoo messenger. Anyone interested can get it from sourceforge. It has both linux and windows versions.
Posted by (41 comments )
Reply Link Flag
gaim rocks!
hehe, i've just put it on right now :)
no dodgy spyware BS for me.
Posted by Scott W (419 comments )
Link Flag
Spyware
This update has the same behavior as some spyware applications. Thankfully, I'm on Linux, which comes with GAim, a program which can connect to yahoo without having to download yahoo messenger. Anyone interested can get it from sourceforge. It has both linux and windows versions.
Posted by (41 comments )
Reply Link Flag
gaim rocks!
hehe, i've just put it on right now :)
no dodgy spyware BS for me.
Posted by Scott W (419 comments )
Link Flag
Spyware
This update has the same behavior as some spyware applications. Thankfully, I'm on Linux, which comes with GAim, a program which can connect to yahoo without having to download yahoo messenger. Anyone interested can get it from sourceforge. It has both linux and windows versions.
Posted by (41 comments )
Reply Link Flag
gaim rocks!
hehe, i've just put it on right now :)
no dodgy spyware BS for me.
Posted by Scott W (419 comments )
Link Flag
Spyware
This update has the same behavior as some spyware applications. Thankfully, I'm on Linux, which comes with GAim, a program which can connect to yahoo without having to download yahoo messenger. Anyone interested can get it from sourceforge. It has both linux and windows versions.
Posted by (41 comments )
Reply Link Flag
gaim rocks!
hehe, i've just put it on right now :)
no dodgy spyware BS for me.
Posted by Scott W (419 comments )
Link Flag
irritating
That toolbar and other programs seem to be conflicting with what I already had on my computer.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
irritating
That toolbar and other programs seem to be conflicting with what I already had on my computer.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
irritating
That toolbar and other programs seem to be conflicting with what I already had on my computer.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
irritating
That toolbar and other programs seem to be conflicting with what I already had on my computer.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Beta Was Disappointing, Is This The Same?
I've been running the YM Beta for a while, I suppose this new release is that one. My complaints:

1) Add-ins like spyware scanner didn't work. I went nuts uninstalling and reinstalling, upgrading Java, etc. Finally I just uninstalled the Yahoo add-ins and only kept Messenger.

2) Messenger uses Net2Phone for VoIP. Voice quality wasn't as good as Skype and costs more. Most annoying though was an incomplete branding implementation. If you have both a regular Net2phone account and YM Net2phone they don't recognize each other -- they are stovepiped. And you can't change the PIN that YM/Phone assigns you at reg time. If you change the PIN the service breaks.

3) YM Beta couldn't not talk to other YM users on a different release, at least on the Mac platform.

Given all these hassles, I am hesitant to upgrade to the new YM.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Beta Was Disappointing, Is This The Same?
I've been running the YM Beta for a while, I suppose this new release is that one. My complaints:

1) Add-ins like spyware scanner didn't work. I went nuts uninstalling and reinstalling, upgrading Java, etc. Finally I just uninstalled the Yahoo add-ins and only kept Messenger.

2) Messenger uses Net2Phone for VoIP. Voice quality wasn't as good as Skype and costs more. Most annoying though was an incomplete branding implementation. If you have both a regular Net2phone account and YM Net2phone they don't recognize each other -- they are stovepiped. And you can't change the PIN that YM/Phone assigns you at reg time. If you change the PIN the service breaks.

3) YM Beta couldn't not talk to other YM users on a different release, at least on the Mac platform.

Given all these hassles, I am hesitant to upgrade to the new YM.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Beta Was Disappointing, Is This The Same?
I've been running the YM Beta for a while, I suppose this new release is that one. My complaints:

1) Add-ins like spyware scanner didn't work. I went nuts uninstalling and reinstalling, upgrading Java, etc. Finally I just uninstalled the Yahoo add-ins and only kept Messenger.

2) Messenger uses Net2Phone for VoIP. Voice quality wasn't as good as Skype and costs more. Most annoying though was an incomplete branding implementation. If you have both a regular Net2phone account and YM Net2phone they don't recognize each other -- they are stovepiped. And you can't change the PIN that YM/Phone assigns you at reg time. If you change the PIN the service breaks.

3) YM Beta couldn't not talk to other YM users on a different release, at least on the Mac platform.

Given all these hassles, I am hesitant to upgrade to the new YM.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Beta Was Disappointing, Is This The Same?
I've been running the YM Beta for a while, I suppose this new release is that one. My complaints:

1) Add-ins like spyware scanner didn't work. I went nuts uninstalling and reinstalling, upgrading Java, etc. Finally I just uninstalled the Yahoo add-ins and only kept Messenger.

2) Messenger uses Net2Phone for VoIP. Voice quality wasn't as good as Skype and costs more. Most annoying though was an incomplete branding implementation. If you have both a regular Net2phone account and YM Net2phone they don't recognize each other -- they are stovepiped. And you can't change the PIN that YM/Phone assigns you at reg time. If you change the PIN the service breaks.

3) YM Beta couldn't not talk to other YM users on a different release, at least on the Mac platform.

Given all these hassles, I am hesitant to upgrade to the new YM.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I've found out the hardway.
Yes, I agree with this article. I yahoo search bar install on both my Firefox and Internet Explorer. For firefox, yahoo search bar can be removed easily by using add/removo extension to uninstall it. For Internet explorer is really a pain in the ass. Yahoo search bar won't go away when you use Add/Remove Program in Control Panel, You can't use Microsoft Anti Spyware to blocked it from launchig or uninstalling it. The only option left for me to do is to delete C:\Program Files\Yahoo!\companions folder and use Spybot to remove registry. I would consider yahoo companion for Internet Explorer that come with this new yahoo messenger with VOIP as a spyware because of the fact that it's so difficult to remove.

Pat
Posted by patskoo (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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