(By Leo A. Notenboom of Ask Leo!)

Have you ever had a new toolbar suddenly “appear” in your browser? Although it might not seem like you agreed to install it, the likelihood is that you did.

One of the most frustrating strategies companies use to deploy more toolbars relies on your not paying close attention when installing software or other programs on your computer.

For example, let’s say you’re installing an update to the popular Java runtime, which is software used by some websites to provide rich functionality beyond just displaying static pages.

The update consists of the normal installation program, and then proceeds to ask you the normal installation things, including agreeing to the software license.

Then another screen comes up and without reading it you’re about to click Next.

Wait!

In doing so you would have been asking to have the Yahoo! toolbar installed.

Nothing against Yahoo, Java or Sun here, but this can be very annoying. It’s not that the Yahoo toolbar is bad. It’s actually a fine toolbar. The annoying part is this:

  • The offer appears during an update- you’d already made your selection when you initially installed the program, there’s no need to ask again.
  • It defaults to “Yes”. Anything optional, particularly anything totally unrelated to what is being installed, should default to off.
  • They’re “sneaking it in”. OK, this is really subjective, but you can’t help but feel like this might be an attempt to sneak the installation in, during a process where people are usually just hitting Next repeatedly to get the install over with.

This installation is not the only case. During installation of many software packages – both initial installs and updates – the option to install a toolbar will often be selected by default. You have to click a box to opt out. This choice typically comes during the middle of the process when you’re conditioned to hitting “next” just get it over with. If you’re not paying attention once you’re done suddenly a new toolbar will “appear.” A toolbar you didn’t realize you had actually agreed to.

Typically, installers include this option to earn profit. It’s a way for those offering free software to recoup some of the cost. But this habit certainly shows up in paid for software as well.

This tactic is a perfect example of why it is important to pay attention during installations and updates. Read each step before clicking next or you might find you’re about to “ask” for something you didn’t really want at all.

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