Down with foistware!

3,000 (update: and counting) sign petition to remove Ask Toolbar from Java

Elliot Bentley
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Discontent over bundling of third-party software spreads as petition to Larry Ellison reaches top of Hacker News.

Over 3,000 people have signed a petition directly asking Larry Ellison to remove the bundled Ask Toolbar from the Java installer on Windows.

Update (6 Feb, 2pm GMT): Less than 24 hours later, the petition has risen to almost 8,000 signatures.

The petition was started on 1 February, but exploded in the number of signatures after it reached the top of Hacker News.

While third-party software has been bundled with Java for years, there has been a sudden outcry regarding the Ask Toolbar bundled with Java’s installer. It’s likely a by-product of the recent high-profile security alerts, which each time require Java to be manually updated.

An article on ZDNet appeared to be the tipping point, documenting the issue fully and bringing to light a previously unknown ten-minute delay between the installation of Java and of the bundled toolbar. The issue has since become so large that Oracle recently addressed the subject with JUG leaders, pledging to “carefully consider” all community feedback.

One developer, Dr Saied Nourian, apparently decided that enough is enough and started a petition on Change.org, claiming Oracle has sacrificed the “integrity of Java” for the sake of a “few pennies per download”.

“It is demeaning for a respected corporation such as Oracle to resort to such techniques only to make a small profit,” asserts the Boston-based developer. “Ask Toolbar hijacks user’s default search engine and forwards them to Ask search engine which resorts to various misleading advertisement techniques in order to confuse the unsuspecting users into clicking on their paid ads.”

At the time of writing, the petition had reached 3,003 signatures, though the page claims that a total of 250,000 signatures are required before (presumably) being sent to the desk of Larry Ellison. Considering there are 9 million Java developers in the world, it’s always possible that this target will be met. Whether it will be listened to is another matter altogether.

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