Yahoo Dons A Black Hat?

    January 12, 2007

Competition between Yahoo and its competitors has been pretty fierce at times, and any number of onlookers have compared it to a war or a fight. Now it appears as if Yahoo has thrown the cyber equivalent of a “low blow”: The company may be trying to trick users into abandoning Firefox and Google.

In a post on the Marketing Pilgrim blog, Andy Beal detailed one user’s troubling experience. It all started after the fellow downloaded Yahoo Messenger and enabled its auto-update function. “The updater’s first sneaky switch is to associate all web links to IE 7 instead of the user’s default browser – in Jarrod’s case all links started opening in IE 7 instead of Firefox,” Beal wrote.

Next comes “an ambiguous error message saying your search settings have been changed and would you like to either ‘fix settings’ or ‘allow change,'” Beal continued. “Thinking you are about to have your browser settings switched away from your default, most users – like Jarrod – will click ‘fix settings’. Upon doing so, they’ll find their homepage is now switched to Yahoo as the default!”

Yahoo Messenger’s auto-update tool had one last dirty trick up its sleeve: “it also switches IE’s default search engine to Yahoo, without permission.”

Beal’s story has already created something of an uproar, and it’s only a few hours old. Yahoo appears poised to take a serious PR hit over the issue, although many people are still waiting for a statement from the company.

Joe of Techdirt may have summed it up best: “It’s not clear yet whether this was an isolated incident, or whether Yahoo has some sort of legitimate explanation, but if it has no defense, then it’s a pretty bad and invasive tactic for a company of its stature to be using.”

UPDATE: Yahoo spokesman Terrell Karlsten provided a statement on the matter in an e-mail to WebProNews. “Yahoo! Messenger’s update process does not download IE7 to a user’s computer,” he wrote. “As part of the Yahoo! Messenger update process, people have the choice to download Yahoo! Toolbar, set as their homepage and set Yahoo! Search as their search engine. This is an industry-wide practice . . . . IE7 is not bundled into the Yahoo! Messenger update process.”

And an update from Marketing Pilgrim, as well: “Jarrod’s added a comment that suggests that IE7 was not added as part of the download, as he first described to us. All other aspects described below are known to be accurate, including changing the default browser to IE, changing the default homepage to Yahoo and changing the default search engine to Yahoo.”


Add to | Digg | Reddit | Furl

Bookmark WebProNews:

Doug is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest eBusiness news.