Posted January 12, 2007 10:25 am by with 115 comments

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UPDATE: Here’s the official word from Yahoo spokesperson Terrell Karlsten. They’re claiming they don’t upgrade users to IE7 and their reasons for switching your settings? Everyone else does it.

Yahoo! Messenger’s update process does not download IE7 to a user’s computer. As part of the Yahoo! Messenger update process, people have the choice to download Yahoo! Toolbar, set as their homepage and set Yahoo! Search as their search engine. This is an industry-wide practice….IE7 is not bundled into the Yahoo! Messenger update process.

UPDATE 2: Jarrod’s added a comment that suggests that IE7 was not added as part of the download, as he first described to us. All other aspects described below are known to be accurate, including changing the default browser to IE, changing the default homepage to Yahoo and changing the default search engine to Yahoo. The post has been updated.


The power struggle between Yahoo and Google for your desktop just took an evil turn, with evidence that suggests Yahoo is covertly trying to switch Google search users without their explicit permission.

Over email, Jarrod Hunt of Text Link Brokers explained how a recent upgrade to Yahoo Messenger includes an innocuous “auto-update” option. When the user gives Yahoo permission to “update” – what they think is just Yahoo Messenger – the updater downloads IE 7 (which we already know to be buggy) and then proceeds to hijack many browser preferences – including search engine settings.

The updater’s first sneaky switch is to associate all web links to IE instead of the user’s default browser – in Jarrod’s case all links started opening in IE instead of Firefox. The next step in the process is an ambiguous error message saying your search settings have been changed and would you like to either “fix settings” or “allow change”. Thinking you are about to have your browser settings switched away from your default; most users – like Jarrod – will click “fix settings”. Upon doing so, they’ll find their homepage is now switched to Yahoo as the default!

Yahoo Highjacks Homepage

If you think that’s sneaky, wait until you see what happens next!

Not only does Yahoo hijack your homepage, it also switches IE’s default search engine to Yahoo, without permission. Jarrod didn’t even realize that this had changed until the Google Toolbar displayed a warning that an attempt had been made to switch the default search engine from Google to Yahoo.

Can you believe that such a battle is going on for your search settings? Is Yahoo deliberately using old-school spyware tactics to try and win new users, are they that desperate?

I’m emailing Yahoo for a response. Maybe they’ll blame Microsoft on this one, maybe it’s an isolated incident. Or, maybe it is what it is – a battle for your browser, which just turned a little more sinister.


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  • mad4

    Just another step in the road to Yahoo and MS partnering.

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  • prok

    When yahoo changes the default search engine hell brakes loose. When google does the same, everyone likes it.

  • I cant wait to see how this progresses over the next couple years.

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  • zgraves

    “Not only does the Yahoo download of IE 7 high-jack your homepage, it also switches IE’s default search engine to Yahoo, without permission.”

    You do realize you are downloading the Yahoo! version of IE7, you really didnt expect it to do that?

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  • Before you install the update, it clearly mentions in a side column what all it is going to do, and you have the choice doing a custom install.
    So sneaky, but not without your consent.

  • I don’t see where this is different from all the recent JRE (Sun java) updates that have the google toolbar autochecked.

  • S

    sensationalizing at it’s best! Oh yes, that’s how the site attracts readers.

  • Riley

    For some time now, I’ve distrusted Yahoo. Yahoo views users as prey, to be manipulated, prodded coerced, and sold.

    As such, this news doesn’t surprise me but instead merely reinforces my already negative opinion of that company as a gang of ethically malodorous slimeballs ready and willing to descend to the same sorts of “sales” techniques normally seen on the slimiest porno sites.

  • t

    I say up your med dosage a bit.

  • Llama

    Just as with almost ANY new installation, the program (and the program provider) are going to set themselves up to be the default. Google’s programs do the same when you download them and in ALL instances both providers allow for setup options that allow you to stop the change and even *and this one may be tricky* go back and change it yourself.

    Such an inconvenience.

  • Michael Savoy

    Ho hum. This is small potatoes compared to what the telcoms would do in the 80’s-90’s. They’d be “slamming” millions of phone accounts changing your long distance carrier without permission.

  • Mika Smith

    easy, wth has to do a instant messaging system instaling an explorer and changing your personal default settings, hum…

    isn’t supposed that it should work the other way??

  • Nate

    this is compelete rubbish. but hey, if it brings a traffic spike you’re all set i guess.

  • Nate – why is this rubbish? I would imagine that only 1% of Yahoo Messenger users are savvy enough to realize that Yahoo might switch settings. 99% will be duped into a switch they weren’t aware would happen.

    I know my parents and siblings would be fooled into accepting the default changes and then struggle to figure out how to switch back.

  • Sammy

    I installed Google Earth 4 this morning, following an article about its improved 3D building views. When the install was complete, it gave me two options at the final dialog: did I want to start Google Earth (preselected), and did I want to make Google my default search engine in IE (also preselected.)

    It was difficult to miss, right in the open like that. But I wonder if the two things are related.

  • A

    Doesn’t your blog software automatically check your spelling? It’s “hijack” (or, if you must, “highjack”), not “high-jack”.

  • That would be operator error – fixed the spelling. Thanks!

  • Guys,

    Let me make a quick point.

    The part that got me steamed about all of this is Yahoo upgrading Internet Explorer.

    I have used IE6 for a long time, for many reasons. I did not want to switch to IE7, be it with Yahoo’s settings or not.

    When I logged into Yahoo IM yesterday it gave me a simple message asking me to update my IM version to the new Yahoo Live. It asked me, as part of the upgrade, if I would like to use the Auto-update feature. Normally I am skittish at-best of auto-updates, but hey why not do it right?

    Well little did I know did they also planned on auto-updating Internet Explorer as well.

    I’m sure they mentioned it in there somewhere, but it was not obvious.

    And yes, I am a savvy internet user. It’s guaranteed that if I did, so would millions of others.

    I’m not saying that other companies don’t do this shit. And I’m not saying its the end of the world.

    But. it is being done none-the-less, and is definity news worthy.

    The other thing that really gave me kicks was to see the tug-of-war between the Google toolbar and Yahoo toolbar, trying to prevent eachother from making changes. It would have made a great comic strip.

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  • This is not exclusive. I had reported this long back on 19th December on my website at and also reported to the stopbadware group.

  • Kudos for pointing this out, Andy (saw you on top of Reddit, too – nice work!).

    I’d say that all’s fair in love and browser/search engine wars. I’m always concerned about Google’s domination of market share, and I hope this tactic, though a bit dirty, will help Yahoo! retrieve some of their share.

    Of course, with Google being equally dirty with their “OMG, No! Don’t change away from us!” it’s not likely to cause much of a switch, IMO.

  • The thing that really steamed me about this was that I was not upgrading to IE7 for multiple reasons.

    I upgraded to the new Yahoo IM because it is the IM we use for our internal ops.

    The message that popped up about enabling auto-update said nothing about also updating Internet Explorer.

    I was duped, and I’m sure there are plenty of others out there less internet savvy then I.

    I’m not saying that other companies don’t do this, just that this seemed particularly sneaky.

    The other funny part of it was watching the Google and Yahoo toolbars trying to prevent each other from changing setting. It was hilarious. One pop-up warning after the other. It would make a good comic strip.

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  • Jorge

    Why does Google have a program solely dedicated to checking whether their search engine is the default? If you manually change from Google, it does the same thing.

    I call FUD (a.k.a. bullshit) on this story.

  • Yahoo has always been a Hi-forced marketer. they might deliver your email to spamsters(just my opinion, since I got spam without ever giving out my email address at beginning signup). They allow bots in their chats, Advertising methods they use are IN-YOUR FACE. Google gmail and services do have advertising, but it is not offensive since they are useful programs that don’t overdo it(gmail,you can pause pointer over message and shows who’s it is from, Yahoo you can’t do that. That tells me Yahoo want’s you to open that spam because it is in Yahoo’s best interests. Your article does not suprise me.It is right on target.

  • Peter

    Google has chosen itself to be the guardian of the user’s search settings and even a manual change of the search settings brings up the dialog box. I think that is a bit “Evil” on Google’s part.

    The side column of the install clearly explains the consequences and I dont see it as “Dirty tactics” at all.

    To label this story as currently titled is just pure sensationalism….

  • I’d be more worried about Yahoo and other large internet companies and how they’ve been collaborating with the Chinese government and handing over details of dissidents and political opponents. This is nothing in comparison.

  • Huh?

    Why is this evil when Yahoo does it, but not when Google does it? It seems to me that they both do this.

    So what’s the story? Why the Yahoo bashing?

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  • Steve

    This is what happens when you download the new IE7 “optimized for Yahoo.” The standard version of IE7 from Microsoft’s site doesn’t do this. If you don’t want Yahoo to optimize your browser, then don’t download the Yahoo-optimized version, idiot!

  • DoNoEvil

    When Google “offers” to be your default search engine at least the request is in plain language and the options to decline are very clear.

    Yahoo is sneaky, crafty, duplicitous, help me find the words.

  • Steve

    How about deceitful, deceitful, devious, dishonest, double-dealing, furtive, indirect, shifty, slippery, snaky, stealthy, unconscionable, unethical, wily?

    When you download Yahoo’s version of IE7, that action alone implies that you want your browser to be optimized for Yahoo.

  • There are still a lot of people missing the point.

    I did not download IE7. Yahoo automatically downloaded it for me as part of their auto-update program for Yahoo Instant Messenger. And nowhere, upfront, does it say that when you agree to let yahoo auto-update its Instant Messsnger, does it say that it will update other programs like IE.

    But thats exactly what it did.

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  • Steve

    Ooooooh, ok. I guess I should have read the article more thoroughly. Apologies.

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  • Yahoo and Google have been doing this for years and years. This is not anything new. But now lets think about this for a second, Everybody is screaming about Yahoo making a few setting changes in your browser that you can easily change back but, Nobody seems to have a problem with google scanning your emails so they can serve you up with ads? Come on people, Sure what yahoo is doing might not be completely right, but google is just as bad if not worse. Google has become a straight up information whore, that knows more about what you do at your computer than you do! At least Yahoo smacks you in the face with it so your at least aware its happening.

  • Confirmed.
    YIM try to upgrade IE to IE7 (yahoo version) without permission and switch all settings from google to yahoo.

  • I have a problem with any company that pulls this crap, including Google, Microsoft and a hundred others. 🙂

    The point is that this is semi-new crap, and is worthy of being reported.

    I want to hear every time one of these companies makes a major move like this.

    It is important for people to hear about it.

    And for any of you doubting this was a major move think about the tens of millions of Yahoo Instant Messenger users that got “auto-upgraded”.

    I’m willing to bet that there were at least a few idiots like me that clicked on that seemingly harmless “Accept” button… It’s easy to assume that Yahoo & Microsoft gained millions of IE7/Yahoo users from this one stunt.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I can easily go through and switch everything back. but that’s not the point. I shouldn’t have too…

    This is only the start of the year. We will have plenty of things to report on!

  • Sean

    The point here, again, is that this is Yahoo Messenger, the chat function, doing a major screwing with the rest of your environment.

    There was another update problem a few weeks ago, which I didn’t partake in. This is a new update.

    This week’s Messenger Update window does not have a tickbox to say “leave me alone for a while about this update”.

    I agree that Yahoo has been getting uglier for a while now, but many people like the yahoo life.

    I agree that they are preying and underhanded in their tactics toward naive users.

  • xkrwlng

    yahoo is nub, lol

  • John

    This really seems so typical of the adjustments done by so many applications that share the browser, or use of certain file extensions.

    Google does some very sneaky things, such as their attempts at invasion of privacy, and I see very little of the outcry that I see for even the most minor questionable things that Yahoo or the original evil empire, Microsoft, does. Its a Conspiracy!!!!

    Some of you here should go back to your Google-shrines and continue worshiping your new God.

  • John,

    I’m sure Andy will be covering plenty of Google’s screw ups this year.

    The year is still young.

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  • Hey, Google does the same thing. In Firefox, their toolbar resets the RSS mime type to Google, instead of my default (thunderbird). Let he without rocks…

  • Brian,

    We can list 100 more ways Google has messed up. I personally hate the fact that I’m still using Google Analytics. If I wasn’t already a user of Urchin win it was switched to Google, I probably would have never have used it.

    Now I’m stuck with years of Analytics history in a program that takes me 3-6 hours to get updates from. I’m just now seeing the few clicks that trickled in from this post early this morning (over 6 hours ago).

    Anways, we can rant on Google another time.

    What ever happened to being able to bash a company for doing something shady, without having to bash all of its competitors too at the same time.

    There are plenty of stories out there talking about what Google and Microsoft have done thats been shady.

    It’s ok to bash just one company at a time folks…. 🙂

  • DaveC

    This story is a lie. Messenger does *NOT* install IE 7. If you look at the video below, you’ll see it installs the Yahoo! toolbar, changes the search engine setting, and changes the home page. That’s it. And of course you can turn them off if you choose.

    It seems odd to me that people are too lazy to click a button and a few checkboxes, but will spend the time to bitch about the evil install experience on a forum like this.

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  • Holy Crap DaveC,

    You’re right. I’m looking at the version number in IE. It’s still IE6. I assumed that the new “Tabs” I was seeing were because of an upgrade to IE7. I have had IE6 for years now, and did not plan on upgrading.

    The new tabs I am seeing are part of Yahoo’s new toolbar. Don’t I feel like an Ass.

    So it appears that the only story here is how clever they were to get me to “Agree” to letting them install their new Toolbar and messing with my Browser settings.

    So I guess I’m the fool for not over analyzing every little message Yahoo throws my way. I guess I just trusted that after 2 years of using their product they would treat me with a little more courtesy.

    Yahoo, Google, MSN… Please dont assume I want you to switch my browser settings everytime I download, or upgrade, one of your other tools.

    And if your going to make me go dig through custom settings in order to prevent you from changing all my shit, you should expect more rants like this.

  • Why is google informing the user when its search has been changed? Yahoo is guilty for this, but Google is also guilty for monitoring the default search page – I don’t care whether its for security or not – that uses memory (maybe a small amount, but polling still takes up memory).

    Plus Google isn’t doing this for our security, but moreso to ensure that it makes it trickier to change the default search page away from them. Toolbars suck, especially Google, Alexa and Yahoo bars. You don’t need them in this day and age – all browsers (IE, Firefox, Opera) have addons that can give you whatever feature you need and want.

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  • Gramage

    All these little toolbars and additonal thingies are useless garbage. Screen clutter. I see so many people’s computers with a bajillion icons all over the desktop for programs they do not use but were installed “as a courtesy” and oh-so-helpfully plastered shortcuts to themselves all over the place. Just a pain in the ass if you ask me.

  • yudhishtir

    What a suprise??

    What you are saying is done by Yahoo! has been the standard for a long time! nothing new here!

  • I guess that is Yahoo’s response to Google’s copying of their IE7 update page!!

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  • DPMiller

    @53. Soooo…lemme get this straight. A guy that has a career built around the internet didn’t even THINK to do “Help About” to confirm whether his browser was really updated or not before informing the world? Brilliant!!!! Typical of the blogosphere now. In the rush to link whore simple fact checking goes out the window. Good luck finding that credibility you just lost.

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  • DP,

    Yep, I got duped.

    1 up for Yahoo’s clever new toolbar and auto-update feature..

  • Bob

    i have had the problem of yahoo and google trying to be my search browser i am using msn and i find yahoo and google in my computer programs i deleat them as it it is sneaky way to gather more data.i feel they have enough info on me in ther data base why do the want to control other peaples choices

  • JustPassingThrough

    ALL of this reminds me of why I personally dumped the Windows platform years ago…

    I never see this problem on the LINUX or Mac machines I maintain; it’s only a problem on the Microsoft OS.

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  • Well I haven’t tried it really. I don’t like toolbars. But I tried Yahoo Messenger just before IE7 was released and it came with many bundled options. It sounds like Yahoo can’t believe someone really downloaded their software and they want to make the most out of it. It will be interesting to hear their comments.

  • Sadly, default search in Opera Mini was also suddenly changed to Yahoo a few days ago, without any prior notification and without an easy way to change it back.

  • I haven’t installed Yahoo Mess(enger) on this computer since I bought it a couple of months ago. But I experienced this on my last computer. A friend stayed with me for several days last year and during the visit decided to install Yahoo Messenger on my computer. I guess she figured that since we had used it to chat in the past, that I wouldn’t mind if she installed it. And normally I wouldn’t except she didn’t change any of the options during the install.

    Yep, I got the Yahoo Toolbar (that I don’t use). I got some crap for Yahoo mail (that I don’t use). I got three or four other things that I also un-installed via Ad/Remove Programs. I also had to change my default search engine back to Google (took me a little while to figure out.

    The most annoying thing, though, was some weird translation tips or something. When you hovered over some words in the browser, you would get a pop-up tip with some translation in a language I didn’t know. I have no idea exactly what it was and couldn’t figure out how to get rid of it. It stayed on my PC until it died a couple of months back.

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  • DPMiller

    I wouldn’t call it duped. I would call it jumping to conclusions without all the facts. Been using internet tools very long?

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  • this is ridiculous… I haven’t read thru all the comments but how can Yahoo think they can get away with this in the age of scrutiny?

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  • Here is intresting people… Lets talk

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  • Huh?

    “The point here, again, is that this is Yahoo Messenger, the chat function, doing a major screwing with the rest of your environment.



    Google does the EXACT SAME THING.

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  • I knew they were evil. It doesn’t stop there, you should see what they did to our account when we switched over to the Panama platform. We now have keywords in places they do not belong, ads without headlines and descriptions and new rules invoked upon our site. They have obviously turned into a puppet of Microsoft, and are willing to be Microsoft’s lap dog for a few extra searches. It is sad how a once promising company has stooped so low.

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  • Lol….
    I think the wars between google and the others are just starting to heat up.

    Who knows what they will start doing next


  • I would appreciate it if I could have a google home page without yahoo popping up over it

  • Patrick

    I use a mix of yahoo and Google. i will search with Google but i have a yahoo account. I did not like it though, when my homepage was changed and IE7 was installed.

  • WhoMe

    I just want to get rid of the advertising. Yeah, I know, Yahoo’s TOS doesn’t allow that. Regardless, I bet someone has written a blocker and I’m looking for one. If I don’t find one, I’m dumping YM and sticking with Trillian.

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  • Emily

    There is no power struggle between Google and Yahoo. The very concept in 2007 is a joke. Market share numbers alone reveal that (surprise lol) Google has won hands-down. Microsoft has kept Yahoo in business which is what last year’s “strategic partnership” was all about. Since that agreement and major cash payment to Yahoo, all of Yahoo’s important programs (except search) like IM are licensed from Microsoft; there’s little question that Microsoft will end up buying Yahoo ~ it’s just a matter of time. Google isn’t any angel but Yahoo’s behavior this past year make them look like one. Here’s the thing I like about Google most beside the fact that they’re the largest and most powerful software company on earth by market capitalization alone ~ (1) unlike anyone else, they have Microsoft’s respect (some would say fear lol); (2) unlike Yahoo or Microsoft, Google puts their TOS / EULA’s in plain language that even you and I can read ~ heck, 99.9% of ppl using Windows can’t even understand the what each of 3,000+ programs in Windows Vista Ultimate/Enterprise DO. XP wasn’t much better in the verbiage catagory. Microsoft and its baby clone Yahoo don’t want you to understand this stuff because if you did… well, you fill in the rest of that sentence from your own experience with Windows. Maybe you adore Windows and think Microsoft actually cares even the tiniest bit about you ~ fine, can you understand their TOS / EULA’s? My husband’s a corporate attorney and even he can’t. This to me is not a good sign of honorable intentions on Yahoo and Microsoft’s part. The one major difference between Yahoo and Microsoft is that Yahoo lies right to your face ~ at least Microsoft is shrewd enough to obfuscate the truth.

  • Emily

    ^^^sorry for typo, Microsoft of course is the largest software co, Google #2^^

  • dnn

    This is not a good idea, bad luck Yahoo!

  • The war between Yahoo and Goole was good for users.
    I was pleased with that.

  • You know, this isn’t much different to what the Google toolbar, or most of the other things that Google creates. They all let you import settings from other companies products in an automated fashion, but not export them to other programs.

  • Amy

    It’ll only get worse. At least Google uses clear language when they want real estate on your desktop. Yahoo uses “Microsoft-speak” the purpose of which is to confuse you and set Yahoo as default everything. Yahoo’s Microsoft strategic partnership wants to push IE on you ~ if you ask Yahoo customer service, they’ll acknowledge that their IM client works best with IE. You can just say no to all of them and set wikipedia or an search engine “without tracks” like ixquick as your default browser in FF.

  • when does the lawsuit start? Isn’t that where situations like this normally end up? Then everyone gets publicity and blog traffic.

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  • Yahoo! seems to do strange behaviors in the last decade! Every time they do this, they lose recognition and reputation…

  • Scott Jones

    Yahoo Search Marketing will do anything to take your $$$.

    They are very sneaky into getting you to pay big $$$ for each “click” without you even realizing it. 24 hours later…you’re down at least $50.00….even $100…on up…with nothing to show for it!

    Google Adwords and MSN are so much better!

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  • How is that related specifically to Google? If toolbar “fixes” settings it will change whatever search engine you have there.

  • Ken Shah

    they are ba****rds of the first degree,using such lowdown tactics,should be ashmed of on i swiched all my emails to lost its respect i hope others will follow my way soon.

  • joarc

    yahoo search has hijacked my firefox address bar (use to type in any word and firefox would go to the most obvious place or redirect to google). i’m pissed.

  • eyesonly

    Google are a front for all the 3 letter government agencies to spy on people. Since 911 Google has come from nowhere to a point where people now say google this and that like it’s mainstream language.

    Microshaft don’t care what you do as long as you buy their products. They are like Boyscouts compared to Googles agenda.

    For a clean search engine I use as I have for years.

  • john f.

    Hey folks, it’s not called highjacking when someone walks up to you and says “Do you mind if I have your car?” and you mindlessly answer affirmatively, step out, and hand them the keys. Not only is this story a complete lie (IE7 was never offered with Messenger), but most of you complaining about someone “highjacking” your settings were actually asked if you wanted this to happen and you happily clicked the “Yes” button without even bothering to discover what you were saying “yes” to. Wake up and take responsibility for your own mistakes.

  • Yea, well John I’d like to say that I mindlessly accepted Yahoo’s invasion like so many do and they wonder how they got all those toolbars etc. But that is not the case for me. Agreeing along the way I probably did BUT it wasn’t in plain view and had to of been hidden deep in the t&c’s which I am sure you would agree get scrolled through and seldom read from beginning to end. I appreciate what you are saying here but this is not the case for me and I am not a newbie. By the way, I still can’t get rid of Yahoo search from my address bar. I suppose if I spent weeks hovering in the forums I might get lucky with a fix. Any suggestions that would be more useful for people like me?

  • It is annoying with the two battling for your business every time u try to click on the internet. yahoo is much easier to use I believe!

  • Sarky Fish

    I’m an older person with little computer knowledge, Recently, Yahoo hijacked Firefox on my computer and wiped out Google. It’s theft and shoplifting as far as I’m concerned. As a computer novice it took hours and help from others to fix the problems that Yahoo created. It felt like elder abuse, a term I’ve never much cared for, but there it was: young geeks in Silicon Valley forcing older people do do something they did not want to do. I am contacting state and federal representatives to voice my complaint.

  • Eamonn Sterley

    Google always allows me to reload the pages I was on before shutting down. Now I have to search in history every single time to get the pages back thanks to Yahoo. Amazing what one gets away with given enough resources and legal loopholes. It is next to impossible to get Google default back.

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