Web & communication software

The Web's Most Annoying Apps

Java Plug-In

The Flash plug-in story repeats with the Java plug-in, which seems to require a new update about twice a week. When you’re moving at Web speed, the sudden roadblock can be a jolt. Stopping what you’re doing (and possibly losing your train of thought in the process) to go to some site just to update some stupid plug-in is, well, frustrating. “It annoys me so much,” writes Kimbo Fonseca Raz on the Facebook page. “It wastes my time updating them so that I can run the Web sites!”

The ASK Toolbar

“The ASK toolbar that installs itself over and over again on Firefox and can't be stopped from coming back apparently,” says PCWorld editor Anne McDonald. “Evil!”

Many PC users say they've found this out the hard way. The Ask toolbar is bundled with a number of free software packages, such as those from Nero. The toolbar is integrated into the installer software and becomes part of your browser once you install the free software on your PC. The invading app may also change your browser’s default home page to Ask.com, and changes your default search engine to Ask.

Some users report that It’s very hard for the operating system to completely get rid of the Ask toolbar. In fact, someone created a special tool to perform that specific task.

McDonald is right: The Ask toolbar is evil, but apparently perfectly legal.

UPDATE: A spokeswoman from Ask.com's parent company, IAC, claims that users are given a chance to opt out of the toolbar install. "During the installation process, the user will see a window asking if they want to install the Ask toolbar," says a Nero spokeswoman in an email to PCWorld. "If the user elects not to install it, no toolbar will be installed on the user’s machine," she says.

Wrong.

To test this I installed the free Nero BurnLite10 software. A screen in the set-up wizard lets you uncheck the boxes for "make Ask my default browser search provider" and "set my homepage to Ask.com" but it does not give you an opportunity to opt out of installing the Ask toolbar. After you've unchecked the two boxes, you think you have opted out of the install, but you really haven't. After I rebooted the computer, the Ask toolbar appeared at the top of my Firefox browser window. I ran though the normal "uninstall program" routine in Windows 7, and fortunately the toolbar went away and did not immediately come back.

MyWebSearch Toolbar

This toolbar goes beyond annoying into the realm of downright scary. “My worst is the MyWebSearch toolbar,” says reader Richard Parsons. “That thing destroys computers! I spent hours trying to get rid of it, but a little bit of it always comes back after a restart.” The horror.

If you discover this scourge on your hard drive, quickly douse your PC in gasoline and set it aflame. Then bury the charred remains in a lead-lined casket far beneath the surface of the earth.

Not really. Just follow these helpful instructions from eHow.

UPDATE: The IAC spokeswoman claims that the MyWebSearch toolbar (owned by IAC company Mindspark) can also easily be removed using the normal uninstall routine in Windows. I was too afraid of contamination to test this.

QuickTime

As noted above, Apple constantly tries to get users to update or upgrade the QuickTime media player client, in sneaky ways if necessary.

On my work PC, QuickTime has somehow managed to become the default image viewer. So whenever time I click an image, QuickTime launches and then demands that I explain just when I plan to upgrade to “Pro.” Grrrrrrrrr.

And there’s more. “The last time I installed QuickTime on my Win7 machine, it would automatically re-add itself to the Start-Up Programs list every time I ran the program,” says PCWorld editorial assistant Alex Wawro.

Desperate Social Networking Services

Several of our readers have complained about would-be social networking sites like Plaxo and Classmates.com. In a desperate attempt to get you to their site, these services play on a basic human need by promising you that someone from your past (or your future) is trying to contact you at their site.

Of course, if you take the bait and click the link in the e-mail message, you’ll usually find out that the person searching for you is somebody you don’t know and don’t want to reconnect with, or is some attractive person of the opposite sex who simply doesn't exist.

You may have some of your own “most annoying apps.” We’d like to know about them. So please fire away in the comments below, and let us know the specific things the app does that drive you nuts.

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