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johnon.com  Competitive Web & SEO
September 3rd, 2008 by john andrews

Google Chrome Bait ‘n Switch?

Update: Google has changed it’s Agreement to eliminate some of what is mentioned here, and since Google Chrome was released last week there have been at least two security vulnerabilities exposed. So if you downloaded Google Chrome last week and want to keep using it, be sure and re-download or otherwise upgrade to get the patches.

Yesterday I tried downloading Google Chrome and couldn’t…. the “Download” button just launched a Windows installer. I already had it installed, I wanted to download the file. Huh. I copied the “terms of use” to a file to look at it closely later. Obviously Google has made available a windows binary for the initial release, and since I heard “open source open sourceopen source” during the webinar, I can assume the source code is available somewhere. I’d find it later.

I twittered a comment about that and Danny Sullivan replied about how Open Source is a happy term and all good and such. Clearly he is also cautious of Google… he knows he must be, although like me I’m sure he’s cautiously optimistic. We don’t hate Google nor do we want them to prove themselves evil.

I replied to Danny that the term “open source” means nothing more than that the code is available to be seen. A company can sell proprietary “open source” software, but license it so it cannot be modified or adapted or re-used or distributed etc. The controls on use and distribution are in the license, not the availability of source code.

This morning my buddy Stefan sent me the gizmodo link that shows Google’s license for the Windows binary known as “Chrome”:

you might want to take a closer peek at the end user license agreement you didn’t pay any attention to when downloading and installing it. Because according to what you agreed to, Google owns everything you publish and create while using Chrome.

The offending text from the Google license includes:

By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services…You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above license.

Wow (that’s what Stefan said, too). It seems Google is pulling a Bait ‘n Switch with Chrome.

Chrome” is the licensed distribution that Google has put behind that “download now” button, and which everyone agreed to yesterday. “Chromium” is an open-sourced version, which Google has placed into code.google.com.

Of course everyone will end up with Google Chrome installed, not Google Chromium. If you follow the links, Chromium is for developers who can “get involved” and “contribute” and compile their own binaries.

Bait and Switch is the practice of offering something attractive to draw an audience of consumers, to which you then sell an alternative. Bait and Switch doesn’t have to be a covert, deceptive process, although it usually is because the bait and switch practice can cause considerable ill will when boldly done.

Google spoke so much about “open source” yesterday. Google promotes “Google Chrome” and “Chromium” which I believe are confusingly similar to consumers. Google will of course benefit from the marketplace confusion as people simply refer to it as “the Google browser”. Based on the download process, Virtually everyone will get Chrome, the one that hands over the rights to all content. Who amongst you can compile the source code?

I’m impressed and annoyed at the same time, a sensation I am learning to associate with companies like Enron and Verizon and Comcast and Google.

I think I understand why the Big Guns were in yesterday’s webinar… Larry and Sergey. This project is HUGE for Google. Wow.

Note: End-user License Agreements like this (EULA’s) haven’t faired well under court scrutiny thus far, but also haven’t been tested much. They certainly influence things.

Note: When Mozilla got greedy and switched retro-actively from non-profit to for-profit, their “open source” was re-compiled and distributed by the SeaMonkey project, leaving out many of the more burdensome “features” that had been added in by the for-profit Mozillers. Despite easy availability of SeaMonkey (Firefox), hardly anyone uses it. We can expect the same “success” for a similarly benevolent compiling of Chromium. If anyone suggests that “it’s open source! You can change whatever you don’t like!” it’s sort of like the used car salesman saying “the boss won’t let me write it on company letterhead, but I can personally guarantee this car is a good car for you“. Caveat emptor, even if it is “free”.

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September 2nd, 2008 by john andrews

Google Chrome and Your Privacy

Update: If you landed here for information on Google Chrome, you may want to read a more recent post “Google Chrome: Bait and Switch“.

Google released Google Chrome today, their new web browser. Why?

While you ponder that question, I note that the data clearing “Clear browsing data…” link in the Google Chrome Tools menu does not actually clear your browsing history. Your browsing history is stored in an SQLite database in the file “History”. Mine was located in Documents and settings, Local Settings, Application data, Google, Chrome, User data, History. There are also files Visited Links and Archived History, which I didn’t inspect. Clicking that “Clear browsing data…” link does not empty that database. Clicking on “History” and clicking “delete History” also does not clear that database.

Since Google has been spending so much energy assuring us that Chrome is a safe and benovolent contribution to the web, I thought I’d help out the cause and highlight this observation on privacy issues.

Personally I didn’t like that my Chrome installation automatically imported bookmarks and such from IE and/or Firefox, without asking me if that is what I wanted. I would have said no.

When I launched Chrome I was given a list of “recent” web links which were actually associated with a confidential project from many months ago (not so secret any more, if they are displayed like recommended links in the right side “ad column” of a Google-branded browser window). Oh sure it was only for me, and yes it was in my bookmark file, but that’s not the point. I don’t display my bookmark file on the sidebar of my open browser window. I suppose it was a good thing Google did, because it made me wonder “how did THAT get in there?

Chrome is a very interesting project, and I can see why Google built it and why they may have been eager to release it today. But as with all things Google, be careful. That’s not conspiracy thinking, and if anyone suggests it is, trust them even less.

By the way just delete that database file and Google will make a new (empty) one the next time you launch Chrome.

Update: in the comments, a few people noted that the bookmark import is an option. I checked and confirmed it is an option to turn off the import from IE, but it is turned on by default.

Update: When I uninstalled Google Chrome, it sent data to Google that may be reporting on my operating system (“crversion=0.2.149.27&os=5.1.2600” ). I’m not sure what crversion and os mean to Google in this context (Adobe uses crversion for “crash report version”).

Update: I notice that the history database that is not deleted when you tell Chrome to forget the history, is also not deleted when you uninstall Google Chrome.

Update: I wonder how I can actually download Chrome? The button at google.com/chrome says “download” but it actually launches an installer app. When I cancelled that process (since I already had Chrome installed), Firefox crashed. I just wanted to download Google Chrome, not install it again.

Update: Chrome Privacy Guard clears Google’s stored user ID everytime you use chrome. I haven’t looked at the source code.

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