Earlier this week a Firefox exec launched a scathing attack on software companies that install stealth plug-ins on your web browser. It’s a reminder that ‘bloatware’ is still the bane of computing.
Bloatware – also known as ‘crapware’ or ‘shovelware’ – comes in all shapes and sizes, and as Asa Dotzler of Mozilla Firefox recently discovered, the likes of Microsoft, Google and Apple aren’t averse to littering your web browser with it either.
It isn’t necessarily malicious or dangerous, it’s just a massive waste of time, space and money. It’s about time the PC industry dealt with it properly.
A problem as old as the CD
It’s not as if they haven’t had the time. For instance, the word ‘shovelware’ was penned at the advent of the CD, when software peddlers crammed hundreds of programs onto a single CD. Imagine ‘Now That’s What I Call A Software Compendium 1994’ and you’re most of the way there – lots of naff rubbish.
Of course, the CD isn’t the source of such drivel these days – the internet is far more effective. If you can think of a problem, someone has probably created a software solution for it. Some of it is great (and free) but most of it is at best ropey and at worst pure snake oil.
In fairness, though, unless a program is unwittingly attached to something else – like the web browser plug-ins found by Dotzler – it’s up to you whether you download and install software from the internet.
But if you’re looking for the real culprits, it’s the PC manufacturers that are to blame.
If it’s pre-installed, you probably don’t need it
It’s astonishing how much rubbish comes pre-installed on Windows PCs. All too often manufacturers install ‘custom’ software that does little more than replicate functions already present in Windows, and more often than not, to a lower standard.
All this crud merely slows PCs down, particularly their start-up times, and does little to enhance the user experience. No wonder people continue to flock to Apple computers.
So what can be done about it? At the very least it’s worth examining any new PC you buy, and removing software you don’t think you’ll need.
However, in the future, maybe the app stores that you see on your mobile phones could make downloading new software a far better experience. Apple and Microsoft plan to launch computer app stores in future, and hopefully they won’t allow ‘fart apps’ to sneak their way in.