The Ask Toolbar is (sort of, a little bit) dead
Microsoft has officially started classifying older versions of the Java update’s infamous Ask Toolbar as malware, and has now begun blocking installation attempts. The latest version of the world’s most hated add-on is still working fine, but there’s hope that its end is nigh.
The dreaded Ask Toolbar is finally getting some of the treatment it deserves – all rejoice! Microsoft has begun labelling older versions of the toolbar (which has been bundled into the Java installer since basically the dawn of time) as malware.
While the newest version of the toolbar will not be affected, the latest move from Microsoft targets search protection code, which blocks users from changing their default search engine. The Ask Toolbar, in all its doucheyness, is unfortunately not considered malware in its most recent version, as a result of Microsoft’s definition of what can be considered malware:
The latest version of this application is not detected by our objective criteria, and is not considered unwanted software. Older versions of software can restrict or limit your control over your search provider. It can prevent you from disabling or modifying your search provider.
Their definition of malware excludes the latest version of the toolbar and isn’t specifically targeting its effects (pissing users off) or existence. The activity that is being poo-pooed is the toolbar’s protection mechanism that alerts users when their default search engine is being changed away from the Ask Toolbar option.
Microsoft details the aggressive behaviour at its Malware Protection Centre, stating that “when another program attempts to change the home page, default search or new tabs setting, older versions of this browser modifier displays the following warning that there have been changes in the Internet Explorer settings and attempts to revert you back to the Ask home page”.
The Java community is enthusiastically celebrating Microsoft’s new protection guidelines, because let’s face it, the Ask Toolbar f***ing sucks and gives Java a bad name. Mac users recently joined the suffering hordes under the Ask Toolbar autocracy in the aftermath of a public petition to finally drop the third-party software for good.
Oracle tried to ease the hate somewhat by offering a configuration option that suppresses third-party bundled software in July 2014. There’s also information on the Ask Toolbar description page about how not to punish yourself by installing it.
Ask Toolbar, kindly cease to exist please.