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Vintage Ask toolbar is malware – and we'll kill Jeeves, says Microsoft

Redmond, in the butler's bedroom, with the iron pipe

Older versions of the Ask toolbar, the bane of many a computer user over the years, has been declared persona non grata by Microsoft, and Redmond says its security software will now kill it on sight.

In a June 11 update to its Malware Protection Center site, Microsoft states that older versions of the toolbar, which set itself up as a browser's homepage and redirected all searches through Ask's engine, now contravene Redmond's policies. The latest build is fine, but older Ask toolbars will be hunted down and deleted.

"Older versions of software can restrict or limit your control over your search provider. It can prevent you from disabling or modifying your search provider," said Microsoft's advisory. "This software poses a high threat to your PC."

Ask confirmed to The Reg that its current toolbar is "fully compliant with Microsoft policies" and that its software should automatically update to the latest version every time the browser is opened. A spokeswoman said only one per cent of Ask's user base is affected by the change.

Internet monitoring firm NetMarketShare reports that Ask – best know for its Jeeves butler logo back in the day – today has 0.26 per cent of the global search engine market.

The bulk of this comes thanks to Java, because for years every Java update for PCs asks if the user would like to install Ask's toolbar. Many a computer user has unthinkingly clicked through and installed the toolbar. Those running Java on OS X have been getting the same opportunity to experience the joy that is Ask's toolbar since March.

The bulk of these installations are likely to be short-lived. When stacked up against Google or Bing, Ask is very much an also-ran in terms of market share, but it's still reasonably profitable, otherwise owners IAC would have let it die a long time ago. ®

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