Wednesday, July 12

The war of toolbar

Yahoo has inked an agreement with HP to install Yahoo toolbar in HP's new personal computers. HP users will have Yahoo services automatically. If they don't like Yahoo email, Yahoo messenger, and Yahoo search, they can uninstall the toolbar afterward. How many of them will do so?

We all know that users are lazy. Most users use tools which are easy to get. If Yahoo search is the default search engine, they don't want to change it to others, as long as the Yahoo servers are alive. To promote their services, Yahoo and Google has started a war in user's desktop: Yahoo signed contract with computer makers HP and Acer, when Google had deals with Dell, Adobe, News Corp. If you occupied user's desktop, you are the king.

Not only Yahoo and Google know this rule. Microsoft has its MSN Toolbar. A lot of spyware are designed as a toolbar too. Toolbar has gotten a little bit out of control recently. Most toolbars have similar features: Internet searching, Ad Blocking, Shortcuts to different channels. If you trust the host, and you like using those services, toolbar can actually facilitate your Internet browsing. But many PC users have many toolbars installed. Some toolbars are installed by BadWare quietly, but the users are too lazy to uninstall them: Because they may be reinstalled, if the users don't know how to prevent BadWare.

Toolbars are not only providing shortcuts to searching service of their host, but also collecting users' browsing activities. Most websites are ad-driven, and the websites wants to know users' browsing habit so that they can put corresponding advertisements to users, and increase the chance that users actually read the advertisements and purchase the items: That is how the advertisement companies and websites earn money.
In this deal, user's privacy is compromised. The websites get the browsing habits of user, and they sell this information to advertisement companies.

Some toolbars also collect user's personal information, even credit card number, social security number, bank account/password.

Be aware of your fragile security. Antivirus software and Firewall can not protect you from this kind of software, because they look like legitimate software.

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