Excellent, in-depth analysis
October 16, 2000 3:05 PM   Subscribe

Excellent, in-depth analysis of "spyware" used by insidious and horrible software entities such as RealPlayer. Written by my hero and yours, Steve Gibson.
posted by Succa (13 comments total)
The analysis says nothing about RealPlayer. The GUID transmission problem he's describing is something "RealDownload" does. RealPlayer has enough problems already - please don't give it any more!

posted by Mars Saxman at 4:29 PM on October 16, 2000

Well, whatever. I should have said "RealNetworks". Either way, it sucks.
posted by Succa at 4:46 PM on October 16, 2000

Besides, doesn't RealPlayer use this anyway?
posted by Succa at 4:57 PM on October 16, 2000

none of this would be so infuriating if real networks just came right out and said yes we are tracking you. "we control the horizontal, we control the vertical, for the next hour we will control everything you see and hear...."
succa is right. it sucks.

posted by daddyray at 8:12 PM on October 16, 2000

I'd almost agree to their crazy terms if they could make a version that didn't constantly crash or freeze up. Or maybe not.

Switch to unix. The unix player is (almost) completely a different program.

posted by Mars Saxman at 10:59 PM on October 16, 2000

It doesn't seem fair to the end user that the only way to get a good, stable, non-Big Brother copy of Real software is to switch to UNIX.

I'm from the "spade is a spade" school of software development. A media player should do exactly that: it should play media. It should not suggest media to play, nor should it keep track of the media that you do play.

If I had any say, I'd vote RealPlayer as the worst piece of software ever. It it absolutely ridiculous.

posted by Succa at 9:25 AM on October 17, 2000

Keep in mind, folks, that this kind of tracking allows businesses to see who is comparison shopping - and if they'll still buy when the price "magically" jumps by 5 or ten dollars next time you visit the site!

go ahead - try joining Expedia, checking a flight, leaving, then check it again! Chances are it'll jump several dollars. Happened to me not ten minutes ago.

If you check your cookies, you'll notice Expedia leaves a GUID identifier, same as Real does...

posted by salsamander at 9:54 AM on October 17, 2000

salsa: Curiosity and a sense of fair play means I have to ask. Did you kill the cookie and check the flight price again? Did the number of tickets go down, and therefore demand go up?

I'm happy to believe that price jumping is taking place, but I'd like to see all possible explanations exhausted.

Otherwise, I'm with Succa.
posted by cCranium at 1:31 PM on October 17, 2000

You know, I could kill people with a pen. I could strangle someone with a shoelace.

But really, what could RealNetworks do with all this data? Build even crappier software?
posted by solistrato at 7:37 PM on October 17, 2000

cCranium: I've checked every option I know about. Cleared the cookie file for Netscape, re-booted, went to Expedia (how many cookies does a site need to set?!) and searched:
Raleigh-Durham to Indianapolis on Midway Airlines, Dec 23rd to Jan. 2nd, round trip.
price upon 1st visit to Expedia, logged in with cookies accepted: 206.25

Price upon 2nd visit, same airports and times, same settings: 216.25

Price at 3rd visit, same and same, : 226.25

Price quoted me by Midway Airlines (direct call to 1-800 number): 206.25

Price quoted by Expedia this morning, cookies cleared, no login: 206.25

My apologies to succa for the slightly-off topic-ness.
I do agree that the interests of Utility and Marketing should not clash. Until someone devises a method of streaming media that doesn't have a for-profit backer, we'll have to put up with Marketing's persistent and near-abusive "use tax" - the information they can gather and use about you.
posted by salsamander at 7:01 AM on October 18, 2000

salsamander: That's just plain disturbing, thanks for going through the hassle for me.
posted by cCranium at 8:32 AM on October 18, 2000

salsamander: I tried expedia.com this morning after I read your comment and now again after lunch and found a United Airlines flight that went DOWN in price from $157.00 to $ 146.00 for a common destination of mine. I then checked in Mozilla (without logging in / no previous cookie) and it showed the flight for $110.00! Something strange going on here.
posted by mutagen at 1:01 PM on October 18, 2000

And oddly enough, I checked with the logged in browser right after posting that and got $110.00 for that same flight. Logged in, cookies and all. Ineptitude? Ripoff? Either way, I don't trust them anymore.
posted by mutagen at 6:14 PM on October 18, 2000

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