MVP firestorm

Posted: October 11, 2006 in Uncategorized
It’s all over the ‘net: a person (aka "Patchou") who develops an add-on program for MSN/Windows Live Messenger (known as "Messenger Plus") was given MVP status by Microsoft last week…then had it stripped away just a couple of days later. The result was a flamewar that pitted respectable, highly regarded, technical people in the MVP program against thousands of unknown, non-technical morons who use the add-on.
 
The reason the MVP status was stripped away was simplistic: his add-on bundles an adware product. But it’s not any ordinary adware, it’s LOP (owned by C2Media) which historically is one of the most vile malware programs ever written…and is designed to allow C2Media advertisers to force-feed inappropriate advertisements, and sometimes to install spyware, other adware and trojans, usually by tricking you, but sometimes even without your knowledge (drive-by installs). LOP has infected millions of machines over the years, and for many people, is nearly impossible to get rid of. In fact, if you use anti-spyware programs to remove it after Plus installs it, they not only won’t work, but they will break LOP’s uninstall routine…believe it or not, C2Media designed it this way intentionally. You may as well just format at that point, you’re toast. But there’s no way for the majority of computer users to know that programs designed to remove malware will actually screw up their machines.
 
But Patchou-lovers think it was unfair to strip away this highly esteemed award. The common lame-ass argument they use is that you can choose not to install the LOP adware while installing Messenger Plus. Tell that to my former neighbor, morons: last year her 14-year-old son convinced her to install Messenger Plus, and then she was calling me because her machine was almost unusable: it slowed to a crawl, and IE windows were launching for no apparent reason with advertisements for very unacceptable things. And this was her work laptop. Thank goodness I knew the proper way to get rid of it, cuz if she tried herself, she would have been in a world of hurt.
 
You see, during Plus install, Patchou calls the adware a "sponsor program". He actually uses the word "adware", but he does not say it’s LOP, nor does he say how bad your computing experience will become. In fact, he uses guilt to persuade you into installing LOP. The option not to install LOP is worded as, "I refuse to give my support". Well, guess what…pushing guilt at people who barely know how to use a mouse actually works sometimes, and these "n00bs" don’t even know the difference between a virus and a worm. My neighbor is far more technically knowledgable than anyone in my family, but didn’t realize that she should "refuse to give her support" during install.
 
Several months ago, an 8-year MVP veteran who specializes in malware posted this experience when "accepting to give support" to Patchou. Scary stuff. Of course, Patchou lovers want proof (naturally, they are not about to confirm themselves…they know what will happen, they just aren’t willing to publicly accept it).
 
So then the Patchou-lovers argue, "If they don’t read what they are about to install, it’s their fault". Consider the source: these morons don’t RTFM, and they don’t read EULAs or readme files either…they are simply well aware already what the "sponsor program" will do to their machines and know not to install it themselves. Handy argument to show themselves as supposedly more technically savvy than the other 90% of the computer users around the world.
 
Patchou-lovers are quick to attack people who call LOP "spyware", saying it’s only adware. However, many professional security companies such as CA label LOP as spyware, while others like F-Secure label it as malware…LOP meets nearly all the criteria for any of the three labels. And I think the professionals know a little more about security than a bunch of morons.
 
Patchou-lovers are commenting all over the place that he deserves this award. Um…why? I personally have never seen him commenting at Neowin or mess.be to help others with Messenger. Even on his own forums, I’ve only seen him help people with Plus…not Messenger. And his programming skillz are lax…every build of Messenger released until the final beta of v8.0 required a new build release of Plus…his program always broke, and the Messenger team never did anything to cause it to break intentionally.
 
The sad side-effect is the large number of people who are now calling the MVP program a joke. People are making comments about how MS is handing out the awards "like candy", or asking why MS would make Patchou an MVP with the knowledge that he bundles adware.
 
The Messenger team has always had a bit of disdain for Patchou, actually for numerous things above and beyond bundling LOP. This award never should have even been considered. And now that the MVP program has gotten a very public black eye, the question is no longer why Patchou had his award stripped…the question is who the hell got him that award in the first place?
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