Multiprotocol IM App Digsby Has a Dark Side
Article by George Norman
On 14 Aug 2009
Digsby, for those of you that are not familiar with it, is a multiprotocol instant messaging application that comes with support for popular IM clients such as AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, and Facebook Chat. While the software does come with all sorts of handy features (some were revealed just the other day, when Build 61, r23477 was rolled out), it also comes with a long list of annoyances.

A Lifehacker report tipped us off about the less known side of Digsby, the dark side if you will. “The popular Digsby instant messenger client not only bundles half a dozen "optional" crapware applications, it's also using your computer to crawl the web, do stock market research, and more. It's time to uninstall. The only way you are definitely going to avoid greedy software developers exploiting you is to stick with open source, make sure to donate to your favorite open source projects, and stop installing software with bundled crapware. It's time to end the reign of bundled crapware. Uninstall Digsby,” says the Lifehacker post.


At first you might be tempted to think “wow, now that’s a pissed off blogger.” But as it turns out, if you pay attention during the installation process and read the License Agreement, you will come to the same conclusion I did – the Lifehacker report is accurate. Digsby does have a dark side.

Here are the things that will piss you off and potentially get you to uninstall the software. I say potentially, because after you read this you just might not care and keep using it. It’s your choice, and if in your eyes the functionality Digsby provides trumps the list of annoyances presented below, then by all means keep using it. So here goes:

- Digsby comes bundled with 6 pieces of junkware, so pay attention to the installation process and opt out if you do not want a new toolbar, or a software app that tracks your online activities so that it can present “offers” in a sidebar.
- Digsby also offers to change your browser’s homepage, so opt out of that one too. While this is an easily fixable issue, it is annoying when it happens.
- The "announcements" that you get from time to time, and that you cannot disable, are nothing more but ads.
- Digsby uses your processing power for their own gain. This is made clear in the License Agreement, but who takes the time to read it, right? If you just clicked next, next, next and did not notice the crapware or the fact that your homepage will be changed, then you surely did not take the time to read the EULA. Here’s what it says:

You agree to permit the Software to use the processing power of your computer when it is idle to run downloaded algorithms (mathematical equations) and code within a process. You understand that when the Software uses your computer, it likewise uses your CPU, bandwidth, and electrical power. The Software will use your computer to solve distributed computing problems, such as but not limited to, accelerating medical research projects, analyzing the stock market, searching the web, and finding the largest known prime number. This functionality is completely optional and you may disable it at any time.”

You could of course turn this off, but they don’t actually tell you how to do it. We do: the option to turn it off is hidden in the “Help” menu -> “Support Digsby” -> select "Disable" for "Help Digsby Conduct Research."

If you still want to get started with Digsby, you can download it here.

UPDATE: The editorial team decided to lower the Digsby rating after this news broke out.

UPDATE 2: The Digsby team has responded with a post on the official Digsby blog and with the release of Build 62.The build comes with these changes:
- "We are moving the entire “Support Digsby” section out of the “Help” menu and into the preferences window so the option to enable/disable the research module is easier to find
- Digsby will show a popup notification telling you about the module with a “Learn More” button which links to a page describing it in detail including instructions for how to enable/disable it. The popup will be “sticky” so it will not disappear until you click “Learn More” or “Close” to ensure that users don’t accidentally miss it."

Tags: Digsby, Multiprotocol, IM, Instant messaging
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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