Is MacKeeper Really A Scam?

This is a discussion on Is MacKeeper Really A Scam? within the Mac OS X forums, part of the Mac Software category; MacKeeper gets a bad rap, but what's really behind the controversy? MacKeeper is a strange piece of software. There’s may be no other app as ...

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    Is MacKeeper Really A Scam?

    MacKeeper gets a bad rap, but what's really behind the controversy?



    MacKeeper is a strange piece of software. There’s may be no other app as controversial in the Apple world. The application, which performs various janitorial duties on your hard drive, is loathed by a large segment of the Mac community. Check out any blog, site or forum that mentions it, and you’ll find hundreds of furious comments condemning MacKeeper and Zeobit, the company behind it. We discovered this ourselves earlier this month, when we offered a 50%-off deal on MacKeeper. Look at all those furious comments on the post.

    The complaints about MacKeeper are all over the shop: It’s a virus. It holds your machine hostage until you pay up. It can’t be completely removed if you decide to delete it. Instead of speeding up your computer, it slows it down. It erases your hard drive, deletes photos, and disappears documents. There are protests about MacKeeper’s annual subscription fees. Zeobit is slammed for seedy marketing tactics. It runs pop-under ads, plants sock-puppet reviews and encourages sleazy affiliate sites, critics say.

    But what’s really strange is that MacKeeper has been almost universally praised by professional reviewers. All week I’ve been checking out reviews on the Web and I can’t find a bad one.

    All the reviews praise the software for being well designed and easy to use. Macworld magazine calls it “a gem.” TUAW gives it a favorable review. Dave Hamilton of Backbeat Media, a Mac industry veteran, recently talked it up at Macworld Expo. None of the professional reviewers complain of slowed-down machines or deleted data.

    Given the comments on our deals post, I started researching Zeobit and MacKeeper. (Our deals, by the way, are determined by our partners, StackSocial.) I was alarmed that Cult of Mac might be promoting malware, but quickly became curious why such well-reviewed software gets such bad reviews from users. I reached out to Zeobit and Symantec, which publishes anti-virus and security software under the Norton brand.

    Jeremiah Fowler, Zeobit’s PR Director, said Mac security companies get a bad rap because Apple users generally believe there is no need for anti-virus products. The Mac is immune to malware, according to users, and therefore any company that sells security software is by definition a scam.

    “I personally believe it is just the nature of the business in the age of internet trolling and it is so easy for anyone with too much time on their hands to trash businesses or products online anonymously and with no repercussions,” he wrote in an email. “We have 150 employees and really do care about the products we make and the people who use them.”

    Symantec’s Mac Product Manager, Mike Romo, said the same thing: the company is criticized for the very idea of selling security products for the Mac. Users think they are utterly unnecessary and ruin the frictionless experience of OS X. “It’s a great community but it’s very vocal,” Romo said in a telephone interview. “It would be a lot easier to make a painting program or something.”

    Romo, who describes himself as a hard-core Mac user, said users voice similar complaints to those heard by Zeobit. However, he says the criticisms are like an urban myth — they are based on rumor and hearsay. “I ask them if they have used our product,” he said. “Ninety nine percent of the time, they have not.”

    “We’re used to gettting the hate,” he added,” but we love and believe in what we are doing.”

    Zeobit’s Fowler said the company has become a “forum punching bag” thanks to four things: a negative PR campaign from a rival company; Zeobit’s aggressive advertising tactics; out-of-control affiliates; and confusion among users between MacKeeper (legit software) and MacDefender (a Trojan). (See Fowler’s full note below.)

    While looking into Zeobit last week, I came to some of these same conclusions myself. Zeobit has earned a lot of notoriety for its advertising practices. It’s a very active and aggressive marketer. It runs online ads everywhere, including sneaky pop-unders. It parades scantily-clad booth babes at Macworld. The company also runs an affiliate program that appears to be widely abused. According to Fowler, the sleaziest Zeobit marketing comes from third parties that it has no control over.

    Some of the wilder accusations — that Zeobit is a hacker outfit that makes an insidious virus — are way off. The company was one of the sponsors of Macworld, which is as mainstream as a trade show gets. Apple sells a lite version of MacKeeper called 911 Bundle through the official Mac App Store, which is carefully vetted for malware.

    Likewise, Cult of Mac does not offer malware through our Deals program. As far as I can tell, MacKeeper is a legit piece of software run by a company whose sales and marketing tactics rub many in the Mac community the wrong way. It may not be for everyone, but MacKeeper is not a virus or a scam.


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