Archive

Archive for the ‘Objective Criteria’ Category

A brief discourse on ‘Changing browsing experience’

In response to questions we’ve received from the software distribution and monetization industry, and following our blog announcing our browser modifier policy update, we’d like to provide some details on what we refer to in our policy as “changing browsing experience”.

For us, “changing browsing experience” means behaviors that modify the content of webpages.

We consider programs installed and running on a PC that make webpages look differently than they would on the same browser had those programs not been installed, to be programs that change browsing experience.  These programs are required to use the browsers’ extensibility models.

Browsers’ extensibility models ensure user choice and control.  Extensible browsers present consent prompts that ensure users are asked to grant permission for an extension to be enabled.  It is done using a consistent language and placement that is straightforward and clear.

By requiring programs that change browsing experience to use the extensibility models, we ensure that users are kept at the helm of their choice and control.  Programs can only make such alterations to webpages when users grant them the permission to do so, using the browsers’ consistent and reliable consent prompting.

Some programs modify browsing access in ways that don’t insert or change web content.  We don’t consider these as changing the browsing experience.

Examples of programs that modify browsing access include:

  • VPNs – software type that provides access
  • Parental control programs – software type that restricts access

If these programs don’t insert or change web content, then they are not changing browsing experiences. Therefore, they are not required to use the browsers’ extensibility models.

Our intent with this policy is clear: we are determined to protect our customers’ choice and browsing experience control.  The requirement to use the browsers’ supported extensibility models is an important pillar in achieving this goal.

 

Barak Shein and Michael Johnson

MMPC

A brief discourse on ‘Changing browsing experience’

In response to questions we’ve received from the software distribution and monetization industry, and following our blog announcing our browser modifier policy update, we’d like to provide some details on what we refer to in our policy as “changing browsing experience”.

For us, “changing browsing experience” means behaviors that modify the content of webpages.

We consider programs installed and running on a PC that make webpages look differently than they would on the same browser had those programs not been installed, to be programs that change browsing experience.  These programs are required to use the browsers’ extensibility models.

Browsers’ extensibility models ensure user choice and control.  Extensible browsers present consent prompts that ensure users are asked to grant permission for an extension to be enabled.  It is done using a consistent language and placement that is straightforward and clear.

By requiring programs that change browsing experience to use the extensibility models, we ensure that users are kept at the helm of their choice and control.  Programs can only make such alterations to webpages when users grant them the permission to do so, using the browsers’ consistent and reliable consent prompting.

Some programs modify browsing access in ways that don’t insert or change web content.  We don’t consider these as changing the browsing experience.

Examples of programs that modify browsing access include:

  • VPNs – software type that provides access
  • Parental control programs – software type that restricts access

If these programs don’t insert or change web content, then they are not changing browsing experiences. Therefore, they are not required to use the browsers’ extensibility models.

Our intent with this policy is clear: we are determined to protect our customers’ choice and browsing experience control.  The requirement to use the browsers’ supported extensibility models is an important pillar in achieving this goal.

 

Barak Shein and Michael Johnson

MMPC

Cleaners ought to be clean (and clear)

February 24th, 2016 No comments

There are many programs that purport to clean up and optimize system performance. While Microsoft does not endorse the use of these tools with Windows, we do not view them as unwanted or malicious.

Many programs in this category have a practice of providing a free version of their software that scans your system, presents the number of errors it found, and offers you to purchase the full version to remove these errors.

However, some programs run on your system and display only an aggregated sum number of errors, without disclosing to you what the errors are, which items they stem from, and what benefit will you get as a result of correcting them. This lack of disclosure deprives you of the clarity and transparency you need to determine the validity of what is being called out as errors, and of the value you can expect from the action the program is proposing to be taken.

This becomes even more accentuated when a free version of a program calls out errors and warnings, doesn’t provide you with any clarity as to what is wrong, and offers you to buy a premium version in order to fix the errors the free version found on your machine – albeit not letting you know with clear specificity what value you can expect from the purchase of the premium version of the program. This makes your purchasing decision arbitrary, and fear-based, rather than rational.

Another example of an unwanted behavior is when system cleaner/optimizer programs present Windows-created prefetch files (.pf) as errors, or encourage you to remove them. Prefetch files are created by the Windows operating system to improve its performance by reducing the load times of programs. They are not errors (or ‘junk’ as some cleaner/optimizer programs refer to them).  Such programs should neither mislead you to think these are errors or junk files, nor should they encourage you to remove these operating system created files from your system.

Our criteria states that you must be able to expect that the actions a system maintenance or optimization program takes towards system performance are actually beneficial. Unwanted behaviors include displaying exaggerated claims about the system’s health.

Accordingly, to be compliant with our objective criteria, programs must provide details that back up their claims, so that you have the ability to assess what the program found and deems to be errors, and determine if you’d like to take the program’s recommended actions.

Microsoft security products, such as Windows Defender for Windows 10, will continue to classify optimization programs that do not provide details as unwanted software, detect and remove them.

Barak Shein
MMPC