Think of the users, Microsoft

Last week, Microsoft released the third beta version of Windows Live Writer, its free software that lets you write and publish posts to your blog from your PC rather than having to log in to your blog.

I use WLW and think it’s a terrific application.

With beta 3, the method of installing the software has changed somewhat from previous betas. The installer is the new Windows Live installer, and how it behaves has upset a number of people.

What happens is this. You download the installer and run it. As you’d expect, WLW is the program selected for installation. What you wouldn’t expect is to see a bunch of other programs also selected for installation.

In other words, you haven’t chosen to install those other programs but you’ll get them unless you explicitly un-check the little box for each program.

And those other programs are quite a lot – Messenger, Mail, Toolbar, Photo Gallery, Family Safety and, depending on your version of Windows, Desktop Search.

Here’s a screenshot of the installer that I ran, after I’d un-checked all those little boxes:


It’s pretty disingenuous to see a line of text that says “Select any additional products you want to install” when all of those products have already been pre-selected by the software developer. That really does upset some people.

I just find it irritating (or is that the same thing?).

Now I don’t happen to think that this is that big of a deal. It’s easy enough to uncheck those boxes – which means you need to pay close attention to the screens as they appear – and you move on.

But wouldn’t it be better if software publishers like Microsoft did it right from the start? If they didn’t offer you an installer for one product and then snuck in a bunch of other stuff that you didn’t opt in to get?

Isn’t this in the same yuk pile as spam email? You know, the stuff you get that offers you a link so you can opt out although you never opted in in the first place?

Microsoft, think of your total offering from the user’s point of view. You have a great product with WLW yet getting it onto your computer is not a good experience.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I install a program that also pre-selects other things, my automatic reaction is to de-select all that other stuff straightaway. That’s how I deal with the irritation.

Microsoft’s not the only guilty party. Others do it, too. Think about Real and Yahoo, for instance. Some are even worse – other apps actually get installed whether you want them or not.

Tom Raftery is one who has a strong view about this issue. While I don’t agree with Tom that this is an ethics issue, I do agree that it’s pretty poor behaviour that Microsoft ought to change.

And if it is common practice in the software business, as Microsoft’s Kris Hoet says, then here’s your chance, Microsoft, to take a lead and force a change, for your own products at least.

Your marketing people may not like it – and let’s face it, the auto-opt-you-in approach must be marketing driven – but it’s a good PR opportunity for you, apart from anything else.

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Communication Leader, Social Media Leader, Consultant, Digital Change Agent, Speaker with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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