In Pictures: Diagnosis – bloatware. 9 empty-calorie pieces of code

A look at the slowing, fattening, system-gunkifying software that gives us all indigestion.

  • Why is this here? There are a lot of different words for it – bloatware, crapware, foistware, shovelware. And while each of those terms has a slightly different shade of meaning, they all describe software that you don't want on your system, but is nonetheless there. Here, then, are some of the worst offenders.

  • Kazaa + Brilliant Digital + many, many others Kazaa was one of a long series of Napster successors, getting famous for both an extensive user network and huge, steaming vats of questionable code. One of the more alarming discoveries came in 2002, when it turned out there was essentially a semi-consensual botnet included in the software.

  • Flash + McAfee Security Scan Plus Any time there's an “optional” box that adds an unrelated piece of software to an installation or download, and it's checked by default, we call shenanigans.

  • Java + toolbar Oracle's Java installer – which approximately 43 bazillion computers have to run about once a week – has a box, again checked by default, that installs the toolbar and sets your browsers to use as a default search engine. The company has actually defended the practice, as well.

  • Flash + Google Toolbar + Chrome Yes, that's right IE users – as if constant ridicule wasn't bad enough, now you have to uncheck a box too during Flash installation to make sure you don't get both a Google Toolbar for IE AND Chrome itself. (Which is then automatically set as default.)

  • SourceForge + DevShare Nowadays, even SourceForge offers a “DevShare” program, which lets developers include (yes really) paid bloatware in their installers. Everybody wins, right? Seems sort of shady when asks for permissions when you open the installer, which was a different size than the one offered on the DL page.

  • The stuff you get on (insert carrier/OEM's name here)'s Android phones Oh, there's just so much of this out there. Both carriers and handset makers tend to make deals that pay them to package company X's lame app with their devices, which is great because they'll presumably say that this keeps them from charging EVEN MORE for service or hardware. Huzzah. Oh, and some of it can't be removed without rooting.

  • Your new laptop's OMG FREE TRIAL OFFERS! The pre-installed crud phenomenon predates smartphones, of course – similar patterns are still widely seen from any number of PC manufacturers, meaning one of the common steps to setting up an OEM-built PC is to painstakingly search out and destroy the useless gunk siphoning up system resources.

  • ESEA's rogue employee Gaming network ESEA swears up and down that it had nothing to do with malicious software installed into its matchmaking software earlier this year, blaming a rogue employee for hijacking powerful GPUs found in users' gaming PCs and using their resources for Bitcoin mining. The company is being sued by customers in California over the incident.

  • Skype (formerly) Credit where it's due – although Skype used to have a bad habit of packaging mysterious and persistent little pieces of crapware with their ubiquitous VoIP client, they seem to have cleaned up their act in recent months.

Show Comments