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Facepalm

Java 8u40 plagues Mac users with Ask adware

Coman Hamilton
Ask toolbar installing on Chrome (via zdnet.com)

Oracle’s sneaky Ask toolbar installation has long made enemies of Windows users. Now with the 8u40 update, the Java overlords have decided that Mac OS X users deserve to suffer as well.

A dark shadow has been cast on last week’s exciting Java update, which brought several improvements to memory management, Nashorn and JavaFX.

With its notorious Ask browser toolbar adware, Oracle has decided to spread its base of hatred beyond Windows users to the Mac community. Secretly bundled within Oracle’s latest 8u40 update was, once again, the Ask toolbar, sneakily adding itself to the browsers of countless unsuspecting grandmothers and digital non-natives. Java updates have been installing the Ask toolbar to Windows browsers for years, but this is the first instance of the adware being added for Mac OS X users.

SEE ALSO: Java 8u40 brings improved memory management and JavaScript support

News of the adware spreading to Mac users unsurprisingly drew hefty criticism from both users and developers. “I work IT for a school of 500+ Mac’s that need Java… this is bad news,” one Redditor writes. “It’s moments like these when I’m happy I work in an entirely separate line of business than Java,” says another.

5 million installs, $1.5 billion in revenue

As always, users only need pay attention and un-click during the right step to avoid installing. Many Java developers continue to shrug their shoulders at the news and comment that “it’s just one click”. However Oracle’s persistence in bundling the Ask Toolbar with its Java updates has led more than 21,000 people to sign a change.org petition to Larry Ellison.

ask java oracle

The Ask toolbar installation step (via java.com)

Studies of the Ask Toolbar behaviour reveal both Oracle and Ask’s techniques to deliberately manipulate users. The Ask toolbar will wait ten minutes after finishing the Java update to install so that any user clever enough to check out their list of installed programs after installation won’t spot the extra software.

Anyone unlucky enough to have installed the toolbar can expect Ask to take over as the default search engine, which will give poor, ad-ridden search results where ranking gives preference to advertising sponsors from Ask and its owner IAC (who also own Tinder, Vimeo and Dictionary.com). ZDnet’s Ed Bott has also spotted that Ask chose the Chrome Web Store developer name “chromewebstore12”, probably in the hope that users will assume it is Google software. IAC reports that products like Ask from its Search & Applications Division earned it over $1.5 billion in revenue last year, a chunk of which will surely be going to Oracle for its growing adware collaboration.

In fairness to Oracle, the Ask toolbar wasn’t their original evil idea, but the concoction of previous Java owner Sun Microsystems. Google and Adobe have entered into a similar evil alliance that presumes anyone updating Adobe Flash will also want to install Chrome. Yet while HTML5 continues to steal ground, Java’s history of desktop security problems coupled with its infamous adware is making the Java runtime an increasingly unpopular choice for Mac and Windows users alike.

Author
Coman Hamilton
Coman was Editor of JAXenter.com at S&S Media Group. He has a master's degree in cultural studies and has written and edited content for numerous news, tech and culture websites and magazines, as well as several ad agencies.

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