Back in the day, RealNetworks managed to grab early market share for its innovating (for those times) RealPlayer media player. The player itself wasn't too bad, but once competing products (WinAmp, WMP, QuickTime, etc...) started eating its lunch, the powers that be at RealNetworks decided that the only way to stay on the user's desktop was to hook itself into every nook and cranny of the computer, hijack every file association they could think of, sell shortcuts (to placed on the desktop) to other companies, etc...
By the 6th or 7th release, RealPlayer was unrecognizable and massively bloated. In addition to playing media, it actually had a message center, where the only message you'd receive were to upgrade to the paid version. To make matters worse, some versions actually spied on you. So it's no surprise that RealPlayer became a desktop persona non grata in a very short period of time. It's fall from grace has gone spectacularly fast.
Fast forward to now, Google makes a good amount of insanely useful free software: Google Desktop, Chrome, Earth, Sketch-Up, etc... However, the manner in which it installs itself is very reminiscent of RealNetworks.
Consider, these screenshots from the Autoruns application.
There are 2 entries for Google Update. I don't know why the update needs to run on startup - there is no reason to, other than to slow down the PC. What worse, the Update applications remain in memory.
Google has installed 2 applets into Internet Explorer's (and thus Windows Explorer's too) notorious Browser Helper category. This means these applets load whenever you bring up either Windows Explorer or Internet Explorer, whether you like it or not.
This screenshot has 2 areas of concern. First, it installed Google Toolbar Notifier BHO, which typically would be fine if I installed Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer. However, I did no such thing - I installed Google Toolbar for Firefox. Secondly, once again, we have the Google Update Helper loading. Except this is worse than in the first screenshot. With the first screenshot, a reasonably educated user can at least bring up msconfig, and remove the offending entries. In the second screenshot, unless you know of tools like autoruns, you stand no chance of disabling the applets.
If this is not bad enough, I present yet another fun screenshot.
As if having 2 applications that launch on startup and 2 applets that run with the Windows Explorer was not enough, Google now has 2 (yes, one is simply not enough), you guessed it Update services. So, for those keeping track, that 6 separate Google Update related entities launch on startup.
Google Chrome or Earth or whatever else they make is not that important that it needs to know pronto that an update is available. I like the Firefox approach - while the app is running, it checks for an update, downloads it and notifies the user. This way, Firefox does not tax the system with cycle-sucking code, while it's not running.
So Google, in the spirit of "do no evil", do the right thing and fix this travesty.
On this PC, I have the following installed:
- Google Earth
- Google Chrome
- Google Toolbar for Firefox 3