Dark Pattern: Opt-in above the fold, but opt-out below the fold

One of my colleagues reminded me of a Dark Pattern employed by the installer for the media player for that internet protocol that got the rug pulled out from under it.

When you got to the shovelware portion of the installer, it showed you this:

We have partnered with other companies to bring you these valuable offers. Select the ones you wish to install.
LitWare Deluxe Trial Edition
By LitWare, Inc.
ProseWare Search Toolbar
By ProseWare, Inc.
Toy Shopping Toolbar
By TailSpin Toys


You see that everything is unchecked, so you click Next.

You have fallen into the trap.

Look at that scroll bar on the right hand side. It's scrolled only partway through the list. And if you had scrolled down the list, you would have seen this:

We have partnered with other companies to bring you these valuable offers. Select the ones you wish to install.
Toy Shopping Toolbar
By TailSpin Toys
Fabrikam Ad Network
By Fabrikam, Inc.
Web Speed Boost
By Trey Research, Inc.


That's right. All the items you could see without scrolling were unchecked by default, but everything else was checked by default.

As my colleague noted, "This may be one of the few times where it cost more to be placed below the fold."

Bonus reading: One of the pieces of bundled software was an app that wants to crash.

Comments (39)
  1. kantos says:

    Raymond, I would highly suggest closing comments on this post as it will likely become a referendum on windows 10’s own dark patterns (which are sadly numerous) even though they are not directly relevant to the post.

    1. Mark says:

      It will now you’ve steered the conversation in that direction at the first comment!

    2. Steve Friedl says:

      You mean like clicking the red X means agree?

    3. JAS says:

      Thanks for moderating, kantos. And you are…? And the rules are…?

      1. Kevin says:

        This whole issue was clearly spelled out in https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20070330-00/?p=27433/ and the fact that people continue harassing Raymond over random perceived problems with Windows is kind of depressing.

  2. Richard says:

    My wife noticed this exact dark pattern during the April Windows 10 update, in relation to the data collection that Windows 10 does.

    It was particularly bemusing as to why there were at least five different types of ambiguous checkbox.

    Would you mind poking the relevant people and reminding them that it’s Not Okay?

  3. Keith Patrick says:

    Quite sobering whenever I complain how badly the web experience is broken…the desktop was pretty broken as well.

    1. JAS says:

      I beg to differ. The desktop wasn’t broken, it was just incomplete. The gaps could never be filled in because everything was always done in committee. I think the split to mobile and web was the split of the committee. The noobs have left and now they’re drawing UIs in crayons elsewhere. We can make the desktop any beastly thing we want now, and answer to nobody.

      1. Have you seen some of the things websites do? Or even just their ads? Even if the framework was designed by committee, I assure you, people can and still find ways to make it do what they want.

  4. IanBoyd says:

    That software sounds like a real pain.

    1. Yukkuri says:

      It was indeed a Real Pain…

      1. Tanveer Badar says:

        It really played along, didn’t it?

      2. Of all the pains I’ve had, this was a real one.

  5. Claudio says:

    What? nobody is commenting on the incredibly rendered HTML dialog boxes? Come on, they look way cool for a bunch of tables and very little inline formatting. Nice job!

    1. Thomas Harte says:

      Sure: the ticks don’t appear in my RSS feeder, but everything else does. So this was momentarily a very confusing post. In my browser they look great!

      1. cheong00 says:

        The scrollbars does not look correct on IE11, though. “display: grid” is not supported there.

        1. Neil says:

          Why not use real scrollbars? Or indeed real checkboxes? For an added bonus, make the Next button alert the list of “chosen” software.

          1. I used to use real scroll bars and real buttons, but then weird things happened if you clicked the button.

    2. brliron says:

      The first thing I did when I got to this point of the article was to try dragging that scrollbar and clicking on those check boxes.

    3. Well, but it would be more semantically appropriate (and therefore, more accessible to screen readers and other tools) if the image was an SVG image. Indeed, tables are for tabular data.

  6. Martin says:

    Hi Raymond,
    the article from bonus reading contains your comment, giving us a link to http://register.microsoft.com/mswish/suggestion.asp to report bugs. This link is not valid any more. Is there a replacement link?
    Thank you.

    1. You can use the Feedback Hub app.

  7. IskandarMa says:

    That’s pretty common on Chinest Internet, many software installer brings you lots of rubbish tools or “anti malware” software, and the installer step full of language and graphical tricks, hardly to say you may or may not get rid of those thing.

    1. GL says:

      Haven’t been using software from China’s big names recently, but I heard that there were “不要取消选定以下你不想安装的软件” (do not uncheck software you would not like to install). To make things worse, some say some installers are asking questions adaptively, where, if the user is smart enough to “survive the first dialog”, the second dialog will specify the opposite meaning for checked/unchecked status than the first one but with the same initial checked/unchecked status, baiting the user to repeat “opting out the installation of additional software”.

  8. Microsoft did this exact same thing in Windows 8, with a twist: The scroll bars were hidden, unless the mouse was moved within the scrollable window.

    Suddenly, I received lots of support requests about being forced to sign in with a Microsoft account and certain privacy options not being available.

    1. Les Bartel says:

      And the hidden scroll bars are present in Win 10 as well. I consider this a bad ‘feature’. Very often the content doesn’t make use of the space vacated. Why not just leave the scroll bar there so I can see at a glance, at any time, how much of the content I have viewed vs what’s left? This ‘feature’ is also present in Android. Yuck

      1. Blame the UI designers. They seem to be of the opinion that scroll bars are “ugly” and should appear only when summoned.

        1. Believe me, Mr. Chen, we ARE blaming the UI designers … as well as the remainder of Microsoft developers. 😉 Including you. And not just for scroll bars!

        2. DWalker07 says:

          Somewhere, I think in Settings/Ease of Access, there’s a selector labeled “Automatically hide scroll bars in Windows”. This appeared in one of the recent build of Windows 10. You can turn off this “feature”. I am SO glad to see this.

        3. — They seem to be of the opinion that scroll bars are “ugly” …

          Scroll bars BECAME ugly with Windows 8. They were very beautiful in Windows 7. Actually, a deliberate attempt was made to make Windows 8 hideous.

        4. laonianren says:

          The trouble is, they are sometimes right. For example, the Windows 10 start menu looks terrible with a scrollbar down the middle, and the left hand pane is very obviously scrollable even without one. On the other hand, loads of Windows 10 dialogs are much less usable without a scrollbar. Windows 10 needs a third scrollbar option in addition to always show and always hide: always show except in cases where an actual human has reviewed the dialog and determined that removing the scrollbar will improve the appearance without sacrificing usability.

      2. Yeah, but they don’t cover the privacy-related items anymore.

        However, Windows 10 also does not ask for consent before installing crapware. It just does it. Some of those craps are competing with Microsoft products.

      3. Mark S says:

        I only recently realized you could scroll the “postpone for X days” list in Windows Update (10) and that it didn’t just go up to 8. I miss the quaint old notions of “discoverability” and “affordances”.

    2. GL says:

      The guidelines for Windows 8 said you should suggest scrollable content, perhaps by showing half-cropped content at the end of scrollable area. Yeah, I know guidelines are not always implementable.

      1. viila says:

        I’d like to know how the designers think that is possible, since the size of the content area will depend on the user’s screen size and window size… And since another trend is to have as much whitespace as possible, you can’t even see the crop if it happens inside whitespace area, so that is very narrow slice where that works.

  9. AberAber says:

    Why did the malware even bother asking you or trying to trick you here? If legally they had to do something, could’ve had small print in a giant Terms of Service with the line that it was also going to install these X things.

  10. Karl says:

    Another dark pattern I’ve seen was an installer with a non-linear wizard. If you ever went past the “yes please, install as much crap as possible” page, you could never return to it an uncheck any items, the back button went to the first page, and the next button went past the pup page.

  11. kc0rtez says:

    Reminds me of a program i tried to install and after a few dozen tries to find out how to get rid of the adwares it came with in the installer, i checked the download page and it had a whole different download link hidden within the lines which did not contain the ads. Maybe some developers should just quit software engineering and go for a marketing career.

  12. Arun Philip says:

    I wonder how many readers tried clicking the scroll arrows (or dragging the thumb) in Raymond’s mockup, only to realize it was just that?
    Knowing his HTML-fu, a part of me expected him to have actually done so, and was mildly disappointed.

    In any case, a very interesting anecdote.

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