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01 February 2008, 11:48

StopBadware initiative rates RealPlayer as "badware"

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The StopBadware campaign, a joint initiative of several IT companies and institutions, has rated RealPlayer as "badware". The consumer watchdog's classification includes spyware, malicious adware used by companies to track users' online habits, and malware used to inject targeted advertising on infected computers or obtain passwords.

StopBadware gave the rating to RealPlayer 10.5 because it doesn't fully disclose to users that the software also installs adware. The advertising component is RealPlayer's "Message Center". The end user licence agreement (EULA) for RealPlayer states that it provides useful updates, but Message Center displays adverts if users don't register their personal details with RealNetworks.

RealPlayer 11 does not inform users that it installs the Rhapsody player for RealNetworks' online music service, leaving it on the computer when RealPlayer is uninstalled. Neither the installer nor the uninstaller informs the user of the connection between RealPlayer and the Rhapsody player.

RealPlayer version 10.5 is installed via Mozilla's PlugIn Finder, while the current version 11 is available for download from the RealPlayer homepage. The StopBadware initiative recommends users not to install either version of RealPlayer until the vendor has responded to the criticism by providing a "clean" version of the program.

Users who want to listen to music in RealMedia format can use alternative players such as VLC Mediaplayer. But this player contains an as-yet unpatched security hole in its processing of real time data streams, so the software should not be used for processing RTSP data streams. Another alternative, the Real Alternative player, bundles RealPlayer's codecs without the vendor's permission, making it illegal.

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