One thing I hate more than ad-ware bundled in software installations is authors who think they can stop it being optional and attempt to force these ad-ware installations on consumer machines (essentially blackmail).
Not only is this illogical in many ways but it is also very annoying for the consumer (I will come on to how in a bit).
My wife is a teacher at a primary school and she frequently uses the many resources available on the web-site Twinkl.
Not long ago, the authors of Twinkl decided that resources could no longer be downloaded without the new ‘Twinkl Toolbar’ (Annoying bar from now on).
The ‘reasoning’ the authors put behind the ‘forced’ installation of the Annoying bar is because of costs to maintain the website.
However, there are many flaws in this justification as well as the technicalities and how it is implemented.
Problems with the Annoying bar
- The authors of Twinkl attempt to justify the forced installation of the toolbar by stating the costs of maintaining the website. However they are making the problem worse for them selves due to the fact that the toolbar sends several requests to the Twinkl website every time the browser is launched – even if the user is not visiting the Twinkl website
- Twinkl is a fruitful website for school teachers – school teachers at 95% of schools will not be able to install the toolbar due to the requirement of administrator privileges on the machine they are using
- The toolbar contacts external websites with usage statistics without your prior permission… see:
- The toolbar automatically subscribes and attempts to incorporate it self with external weather forecasting services as well as Facebook – again, without prior knowledge of the user.
Getting around the Annoying bar installation
Fortunately, getting access to the resources on Twinkl without installing the Annoying bar is possible and quite easy (I was hoping for more of a challenge!)
After sniffing the network traffic with Wireshark, I noticed that every time I launched the browser, the Annoying bar was attempting to contact the Twinkl page:
So basically, visiting the URL below will tell Twinkl that you have the browser, even if you don’t:
- All you have to do is visit the above link and continue looking for the resources you want on the web-site – you shouldn’t be asked to download the Annoying toolbar.
Moral of the story?
Don’t get me wrong, I 100% support the authors of the website and what they’re doing (in terms of the invaluable resources they provide to the primary education teachers); I just don’t agree with the new download restrictions put in place.
Some points to note:
- Do not force people to install adware on their machines. If we wanted a bloated toolbar, it certainly wouldn’t be from Twinkl/Conduit.
- Think of the alternative flows before trying to make every-one download the toolbar… the majority of schools do not give teachers administrator privileges on the machines.
- If the aim of the toolbar is to help with the web-site costs, how does the toolbar help with the bandwidth if it’s hitting the website even when the user is not on Twinkl.co.uk?
- Would it not make more sense putting a donation page on the website rather than jumping straight into the deep end?