Generating fake outrage over Silverlight

Dave Murdock is shocked – shocked! – that no one is outraged over Microsoft’s attempts to push Silverlight via Surely, he insists, this "horrendous user experience"  should make us all "cry out in agony." And oh, by the way, it means that this behavior by Microsoft is just as bad as Apple’s attempt to shove the buggy, insecure Safari browser onto Windows PCs even when the users didn’t ask for it.

Here’s the crux of Dave’s complaint:

It is unavoidable. Think Emperor Palpatine’s voice from Return of the Jedi. No matter where on Microsoft’s site you go to, MSDN, Mactopia, Sysinternals, you are going to get prompted to install Silverlight.

You can’t ignore it. No matter how many times you click the X on the prompt, go back to the Microsoft site later, you are going to get prompted again. Over and over and over again.

Uh, Dave? One word: cookies.

The reason I’m not outraged is because I allow Microsoft’s website to set a single cookie that tells it I said no to the Silverlight prompt. Here, see for yourself, using the cookie viewer in Firefox:


With that cookie set, you won’t be prompted again. I just tried it. One click on the X ("No, thanks, I don’t want Silverlight right now.") and I don’t see that dialog box again.

Sounds like someone has their security software set a little too tight. Meanwhile, Apple just offered the latest version of Safari to me along with yet another iTunes+QuickTime update, even after I specifically excluded Safari the last time I ran Apple Software Update. Now, that’s outrageous.

11 thoughts on “Generating fake outrage over Silverlight

  1. And this is somehow different from Adobe’s site with Flash?
    (insert heavy sarcasm)

    There is a difference in my book from a browser plug-in and a full blown software install.

    The question is, why not install Silverlight? Is it a MS bias or is there another legitimate reason?

    It doesn’t bother me to add any plug-in from a major software developer whether it is MS, Adobe, Apple, or Sun.

    It does bother me when you have opt out installs from these companies riding the backs of their plug-ins. (Java, Adobe, Apple)

    I think a wrong tree is being barked at.

  2. Ed,

    Seriously, you don’t think I wished they were using a cookie? I have done nothing to block cookies from being set by I just scrubbed through all the IE 7 options, only default I think I have changed was disabling the phishing filter, though with so many options in so many places, hard to know for sure. I’ll update my post with more information on my IE 7 settings.

    As I have said before on my blog, Apple doesn’t get a pass on the Safari install issue just because Microsoft has some equally or worse bad installation experience. Perhaps I have a unique situation and there is something wrong with my near vanilla IE 7 install that prevents cookies from from being saved. But this has been an annoyance for over a month.

    As for you getting offered another version of Safari, you know full well that Apple updated Safari, and they are offering you a new version. You ignored the 3.1 release, they released 3.1.1. You could make the additional argument about what the ignore flag should do (major, minor versions, the product entirely), but you didn’t say that. Even if the cookie for Silverlight worked for me, as yours worked, yours is going to expire on May 23rd, so at a minimum you are going to get prompted again after that date.

  3. Dave, I don’t care how many times Apple updates Safari. I don’t want it. I told them I don’t want it, and they ignored my wishes. I was just visiting some friends last week, and noticed that both of them had Safari installed on their computers. I asked them why, and they told me that it came with the latest updates to iTunes. Did they want it? No, they said. It doesn’t work with the sites they go to every day. So now they have a bunch of crappy insecure code on their system.

    As the previous commenter noted, there is a huge difference between being offered a browser plug-in and a full-scale browser app. Meanwhile, you might want to figure out why your copy of IE7 isn’t working properly before blaming it on Evil Microsoft.

  4. I take a completely different stance than Dave Murdock, if Microsoft wasn’t using Silverlight and pushing it to all Windows machines I’d be highly disappointed.

    If this is truely Microsoft’s solution for rich client-side internactions and media streaming then I fully expect them to stand behind it by using it a 100% on all their web properties and automatically pushing it to all Windows machines. As a developer I want to know it has good coverage before I start producing Silverlight applications and from a consumer stand-point I really could care less, in fact Dave Murdock’s concern is anatham to a good consumer experience. On a Windows machine you fully expect that the first time you go to a Microsoft site that it’ll work perfectly, which means pushing Silverlight as soon as possible via Update.

    It’d be like going to the Adobe Flash site but everything is done in just DHTML. That would pretty much say, “we have zero faith in our product.”

    Oddly enough as a Windows user I fully support the Apple model, where they control all that you see and hear in order to provide the consumer with a solid, out-of-box experience with everything under the sun bundled together.

  5. I think Silverlight is a good thing and I’m looking forward to the day when I can watch Netflix Instantly on Windows, OS X, or Unbuntu.

  6. (I’m going a little off topic then returning to the topic).

    I wasn’t a fan of IE7 when it first arrived. I didn’t like the Command Bar; I’ve been using the menus for years and I had to get used to using the buttons on the tool bar. It also seemed that everything was at the opposite ends; the buttons for Favorites and Add Favorites on the left; the refresh and close buttons are away from the back and forward buttons. So, I gave Firefox a shot.

    When I first experienced Firefox, I found some sites I frequent to not display correctly. I then learned that I had to download the plugins that would normally be enabled in IE7. Even after downloading the plugins, I still had issues with Firefox displaying sites I frequent. Granted, Firefox is faster than IE in displaying a page, but not fast enough to consider switching. After using Firefox for about a month, I returned to IE7.

    My point is: I tried an alternative to IE7, but I like IE7’s Favorites, the RSS feed, the tabbed browsing, and I’ve actually configured the command bar to my liking. So when I hear that Safari isn’t displaying pages, I’ve concluded that IE7 is still the best browser in the market. As for security, I’ve been to the security test pages and the best it can do is cause GPF’s (which is bad from a developers point of view – no error trapping). I’ve never experienced any issues with IE7 and security.

    On another note, I’ve used IE7Pro as a plugin, and it has helped a little, especially in the area of tabbed browsing and user-agent string selection. However, I have FF, Opera, and I was going to get Safari until Ed stated above that it doesn’t work with sites his friends view every day. So, I’ll keep the big three and use IE7 as a primary.

    Oh, I have installed Silverlight and it is very nice. I enjoy the new download site, IE7Pro’s session recovery page, and the overall experience with Microsoft’s site. The KB site is awesome.

  7. Ed,

    It’s too bad that you have chosen to take such a negative tone. It was a completely valid possibility that my cookies weren’t working, but I had discounted that because, as you can see in this screenshot linked from my original post in the top left hand corner (Welcome Dave), MSDN knows who I am.

    I have dug into this issue and accepting cookies are certainly not the problem. Before I explain to you how to reproduce what I see, and before I blog the whole thing, let me address some of your specific criticisms.

    Again, Apple didn’t ignore your wishes, Software Update ignored that specific version of Safari, 3.1. When 3.1.1 was released, that is a new version. You may wish it ignored Safari forever, any version, but that’s pretty unrealistic. In my experience, no updated/installer that offers an option to install something, even optional, offers an option and UI to ignore the current update and all related or future updates. The optional Silverlight install offered through Microsoft Update says “Don’t show this update again”, not “Don’t show this update again, or any future versions of this update”.

    Now to reproduce exactly what I see. First, all 3 browsers see the exact same Silverlight install experience (the exact same popup), and receive the same no-nag for a month cookie if you go to and click “No Thanks (X)”. I as a general rule, have absolutely no reason to go to the top level Microsoft site, instead I go to specific sites like MSDN and Sysinternals. Which is how I NEVER got the cookie. But when you follow my pattern, and don’t go to, you don’t get the same Silverlight prompt experience, the screen itself is different (there is no “No Thanks” text next to the X) and none of these sites set a cookie to not show you the screen again. Also, they only show the Silverlight prompt if you are using IE 7, not FireFox or Safari.
    0. If you have been to any of the URLs I link below, wait for the session to expire. I don’t know the timer obviously, but could be 15 minutes to an hour.
    1. If IE 7 is open, close it. Make sure no IE 7 process is running.
    2. Open IE 7.
    3. Since IE 7 doesn’t offer granular cookie deletion, delete cookies. If you have a tool that allows you to remove individual cookies, you could remove the one that has the internet address “Cookie:[username]”
    4. Point it to either of the following URLs (their may be more, I am not crawling all of * to figure this out):
    5. You see the prompt I screen grabbed for my original blog article:
    6. This cycle will repeat itself over and over. That is unless you go to and click “No Thanks” on that particular Silverlight install prompt.

    The probability that I have done anything to cause this is pretty low. Instead, it seems much more likely, nearly obvious, that there are distinct Silverlight prompt and cooking procedures based on what part of the site, and what browser, you are accessing the site with.

    Thanks Ed for helping me debug this with your original Firefox cookie screenshot. But as I said before, the cookie expires in 1 month, how can I ignore Silverlight forever when using * Clearly, Microsoft is going to “ignore my wishes” in 30 days when that cookie self-destructs. You can’t decry Apple offering you new versions of Safari, when Microsoft will offer you the same version of Silverlight no matter what you do. Either aggressive install tactics for new software are bad, or they are acceptable. Addressing Shawn’s point. It can’t be acceptable just because you want Silverlight to get out there. So what that Silverlight is Microsoft’s rich media platform? That is entirely beside the point. Would it matter if you thought of Safari as Apple’s rich media platform? Obviously not.

    FYI, I am trying to keep a development virtual machine clean for compatibility reasons with target deployment environments, none of which should have Silverlight.

  8. i don’t understand what Dave’s gripe is. if i go to a site that has flash objects embedded on the page and i don’t have flash installed i get a prompt saying i need to to view the object. and i get this on ever page that has flash.

    now with the apple software it’s their update software you can’t even hide the other crap they try and push down your throat.
    it’s checked by default. it is on your computer and all apple would have to do is like Microsoft does on windows update let you hide the updates you don’t want and everything that is optional is unchecked by default.

    so i just don’t see how Dave can compare this to apple trying to sneak unwanted software on your computer.

  9. The issue is that not everyone visits directly.
    Also it’s annoying. You wont be aware of this if you install it.
    How do you stop the silverlight pop up permanantly? Edit the cookie?
    Can there not be a ‘don’t ask me again’ link – that’s the issue here.

  10. Also noteable. Not having silverlight on MS site is not akin to not having flash on a site with embedded flash content. The silverlight nag is different in that you have to click it to proceed, it’s intrusive. Surely you can see why it bothers some people, and the difference between content not loading because you don’t have a plugin (flash) and a pop over your browser hindering browsing a webpage?

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