StopBadware claims RealPlayer 10.5 fails to "accurately and completely disclose the fact that it installs advertising software on" a user's computer. It also claims RealPlayer 11 is badware because it "does not disclose the fact that it installs Rhapsody Player Engine software, and fails to remove this software when RealPlayer is uninstalled."
Ryan Luckin, spokesperson for RealNetworks, insists that both versions of RealPlayer are not badware, but acknowledges mistakes and user misconceptions exist in both products. He says changes will be made to both version of RealPlayer in response to the StopBadware.org classification. "Neither versions of RealPlayer put users at risk. They aren't malware or install third-party programs on your PC," Luckin says.
According to StopBadware.org's definition of badware it is "malicious software that tracks your moves online and feeds that information back to shady marketing groups so that they can ambush you with targeted ads."
According to Luckin in RealPlayer 10.5 StopBadware.org takes issue with the Message Center feature that pops up messages from the system tray. Messages typically displayed are ones that advertise available RealNetworks' content to listen to or watch and the availability of software updates to the program itself. The Message Center feature is on by default when RealPlayer 10.5 is installed. Luckin says future version of RealPlayer will prompt the user first to activate Message Center. Luckin says the feature shouldn't be considered advertising because no third-party ads are displayed in Message Center alerts.
The issue with RealPlayer 11 is when you uninstall the program it doesn't completely remove all aspects of the program - namely the software (Rhapsody Player Engine software) to view content encoded using the Rhapsody format. Luckin concedes StopBadware.com's point and acknowledges the Rhapsody ActiveX control is left behind when un-installing RealPlayer 11.
Luckin says RealNetworks now agrees with StopBadware.org that all aspects of the program should be removed. "That was a mistake, and we are going to correct it," Luckin says. He was unable to say when and how RealNetworks would change the un-install behavior of RealPlayer 11.
StopBadware.org is a nonprofit consumer organization that is sponsored by Google, Lenovo, PayPal, VeriSign, and Sun Microsystems. Earlier this month RealNetworks faced allegations by security experts its RealPlayer software had a critical flaw and left users vulnerable to hackers.