Automatic Software Updates To Pain

Jun 24, 2009   //   by Hackadelic   //   Blog  //  No Comments

HeadshotNot long ago, I updated my antivirus software to a new version. I do that regularly, as it is so easy to keep track with new updates: The software does that for me! Every time a newer version of it was released, the software asked me if I wanted to update to that new version. (I’m not talking about updates to the virus database, which are independent of this.)

It was all cool and easy until the other day. Oh, the update was OK. Nothing crashed or so. However, the new version keeps throwing annoying prompts to update to their “Pro” version.

Hey! Weit a minute! That was not part of the deal!

Of course, there was no explicit deal. There was an implicit one: The guys wrote software, but they had no users. So they started giving it away for free. Soon they had enough users, and public exposure, to start offering a payed “Pro” version. The implicit deal was: Folks, use our product, talk about it, make us famous, and you can use it for free, until you want the more advanced features.

After a while, they started to put time limits into their software. The “license” expired after a certain period, when you had to run a free update to renew it.

It seems to not make much sense for a free license to expire, right? But it’s an insidious way to force users to update – and moreover, get them used to updating.

Until they make that step and make their free program behave like shareware.1

All of which made me remember something that everybody who is running automatic software updates should not forget:

The guys who give you the updates don’t do that for your benefit. They do it for theirs.

So better look more carefully at an update before installing it. It may well change the rules before you know it…

  1. In a way, that last “upgrade” was actually a downgrade, as it has increased the software’s annoyance factor for their users. Needless to say that I turned automatic product updates off. []

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