Not putting up with shit

Here’s a billion-dollar question: Why are Windows users besieged by security exploits, but Mac users are not?

John Gruber states that “Mac users don’t tolerate shit”: the reason that there is no adware or spyware for Macs is not that “Windows has a bigger market share“, but that “If some ‘freeware’ software for the Mac surreptitiously installed some sort of adware/spyware/crapware, there’d be reports all over the Mac web within days. Uninstallation instructions would be posted (and thus made available to all via Google), and the developer who shipped the app would be excoriated.”

I agree. Exactly the same arguments work for Linux, too, which doesn’t have any adware or spyware or crapware either.

The reason this works is because there is a Mac community, in the same way as there is a Linux community. There simply aren’t all that many Mac users who use their machine for everything that they do and don’t read Mac websites in some way. There are, I don’t doubt, plenty of people at work using Macs who don’t, but then using a machine at work is not the same at all as using one at home; for one, it’s considerably unlikely that you’d install a filesharing application on it.

Take a glance at my own personal home of the moron – a page which attracts posters who want to be rich and famous. How many of those people are using Macs or Linux? There’s a big class of people out there who I forget about, who see their computer as a thing with which they can talk to their friends with MSN, who read their email with Hotmail, who characterise problems as “My Windows is broken“. As Gruber says, “Many Windows users are simply resigned to the fact that their computers contain software that is not under their control…They’ll tolerate an annoying application that badgers them with pop-up ads“. People who have chosen to use a Mac are not like this, but they’ve made some kind of decision about their choice of technology, and that kind of choice is unknown to the people posting to my “how to be rich and famous” page. They don’t even know that there are choices. Since, by definition, anyone using a Mac has to have made a specific choice to do so (since Windows is the default, with its 90% market share) they are, also by definition, not part of a group who don’t know about choice in technology.

If the Mac and Linux had users like that, then I think that there would be crapware for the Mac and Linux. Currently, they do not, but I fear we are rather complacent. Gruber talks about how Windows crapware that wants to launch automatically can hide itself in a myriad places, and the Mac has no equivalent for most of those places. I’ll be honest, I doubt that that’s true; there are probably more places (Run and RunOnce in the Registry, win.ini, the Startup folder, autoexec.bat) but not that many more. Moreover, quite possibly most Mac users do not know about the places on the Mac where autostarting crapware can hide, but they would have enough nous to know that there was a place where it would be, even if they don’t know where that place is. To people without even that level of technical knowledge, trying to explain what a folder is is an exercise in complexity. Trying to explain what the Registry is is an exercise in futility.

What if crapware installed a link to itself in your own .bashrc? Does that only get run when you start the Terminal? How easy would it be to explain that to Mac users without Unix knowledge?
I think that both the Mac and Linux have a better setup than Windows, and that they are inherently less vulnerable to crapware in general. However, I also think people are mistaking “there isn’t any at the moment” for “they are totally invulnerable“, and that’s not the case, and if either had 90% market share (or even 50% market share; I’ll settle for splitting the market with Mac people, that’ll do) then we’d discover just how invulnerable they are.

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