Java is now bundled with an Ask.com toolbar. The web is blowing up about it. “Beware”, “Adware”, “shady”, “Sneaking” and other terms are used. Is this just a hype or is there something to these claims? Let’s find out.
I set up a brand new Virtual Machine, installed all the latest updates, the latest browsers, the latest versions of Flash Player and Little Snitch. I downloaded the latest version of Java directly from it’s source; oracle.com. When the download is selected it leads to the Java.com website (https://www.java.com/en/download/). The latest version at the time is Version 8 Update 40.
Adware is free software sponsored by ads. Toolbars are usually a form of adware. I use free software that is sponsored by ads on my Mac and my iPhone, nothing wrong with adware. When Adware starts to act like spyware and injecting ads in places it should not be, then there’s a problem.
I ran the Java installer and found clear mention of the Ask.com toolbar with two options:
– Set Ask as my default search provider
– Set Ask.com as my browser home page and new tabs page
If these boxes are unchecked, you guessed it, just Java is installed. But let’s behave like the typical user and click “Next” as fast as we can, completely ignoring all the information the installer provides.
The toolbar is installed in Safari and both the default search and home pages are changed to ask.com. Firefox users (as we should all be imo) get a warning stating a 3rd party is attempting to modify Firefox. You must allow it to be activated. If you do not allow this, the add-on will be installed but de-activated by Firefox. It does however change your default home page and search engine.
Here is what I’ve found:
– If you READ the installer information this toolbar will never make it on to your system.
– If you did manage to just click “Next” and get the toolbar installed, Firefox warns you about it and you must provide additional approval to activate the toolbar. Safari users are stuck with the toolbar immediately.
– Your new Ask.com homepage clearly shows links to how you can reset your homepage or remove the toolbar. They do not try to hide it.
– The toolbar does not inject ads anywhere they should not be.
– There are no additional processes running because of the toolbar.
– No dubious server connections are made by the toolbar.
– Tt takes 10 seconds to reset your home page, search engine and uninstall the toolbar in Safari.
– It takes 19 seconds to reset your home page, search engine and remove the toolbar from Firefox.
– It takes a minute to delete the few files left in the Library folder.
So, is it the worth the hype? Absolutely not. Clickbait mostly in my opinion.
Oracle did not do anything “shady”. Oracle did not “sneak” this toolbar in there. Does Ask.com suck as a search service? Absolutely. Is it annoying to have to reset and uninstall the Ask.com materials after you failed to properly read an installer? Sure, but that’s on you. Is there data theft, ad injection, horrible unspeakable things happening? No. As with all installers, read the information that’s provided. Don’t brainlessly click things you shouldn’t be clicking and you can avoid most of this stuff.