Here comes the Ask Toolbar again

In a trend that is increasingly popular, Symantec will be bundling a version of the Ask Toolbar with the upcoming release of Norton 360. This will add to the plethora of toolbars already on people’s systems.

Donna is pissed and has added Symantec to the list of vendors barred from Calendar of Updates.

The toolbar incorporates Symnatec’s site checking, which in at least one test, did give me some odd results — Zango is whitelisted, while Kephyr.com, a legit site, is blacklisted.

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Whatever, chalk it up to beta software.

Ask has been on a tear to get their toolbar installed with leading companies, with their business development folks contacting everyone. The economics are strong — $1.00 per install, but despite the tempting money, there are quite a few companies that have turned them down flat — Bill P (one of a dying breed of high-integrity software execs) and Lavasoft among them.

Is Ask so terrible? Well, they have a history, which to their credit, has really been cleaned up. Perhaps it’s unfair that some of us in the business have long memories. But now that Symantec has effectively lowered the bar, expect a lot more of this type of bundling by companies anxious to add more dollars to a tight P&L. This type of thing certainly improves short-term results, but in the long term, it is brand-destructive.

I suppose some of the bigger questions are: a) should toolbars such as these be pre-selected during install, b) should your security product add more to your system than it needs to accomplish its goal of securing your system and c) should your security product push your searches toward a specific search provider that they have a monetary relationship with?

I suppose this debate will be raging for some time.