Why AIR Doesn’t Ask for Permission

Commenter Tek suggests that AIR should warn the user each time an application tries to do something potentially dangerous, like access the file system.

Here’s just a few reasons why we don’t do this:

  • It’s annoying. No one likes to deal with these dialogs all the time. And if everyone just suppresses them, then what’s the point?
  • It’s insufficient. Accessing the file system alone or the network alone is often ok, but approving the combination is sufficient to let someone upload all your data.
  • It’s unanswerable. Unless you wrote the application or studied its source code, you probably don’t have enough information to answer, anyway.
  • It’s broken. If you say no to any of these dialogs, the application will most likely stop working.

Ultimately, choosing to run a desktop application is about trust. Virus scanners, firewalls, and the like don’t ask you about what applications are doing because they’re trying to protect you from those applications. On the contrary, they’re notifying you about behavior that might be the result of software you didn’t install. That’s an altogether different question: if you didn’t install the software, say no!

9 Responses to Why AIR Doesn’t Ask for Permission

  1. All your points are well taken–but I think what you have is a false dichotomy. That is, I don’t believe there’s only “have no permissions” or “have annoying permissions”. For example, it seems totally feasible to have a dialog pop up with a “don’t ask again” option. Granted, you can probably make good arguments against this too. I’m just saying there’s more than just 2 options.

  2. Oliver Goldman says:

    Agreed, there are other options. There are even some that have restricted permissions without annoying dialogs.

  3. Roman Peters says:

    I think a dialog pop up with a “don’t ask again” is the best way to workout this issue.

  4. Tucker says:

    You could make it prompt you like MS Vista and then we would all be annoyed…-Tucker

  5. not only would “don’t ask again” be nice… but an easy way for users to manage all installed AIR apps to un-check the don’t ask again option. Zone Alarm has a good metaphor for this.

  6. Tek says:

    Oliver, another solution to the insufficient and unanswerable arguments is to forbid the application to access the file system, except folders or files that user have implicitly selected with the file system menu browser.It works with upload for the web browsers, it even works for Flash in the web browser (with FileReference) why not using the same in Air ?

  7. Tek says:

    Oliver, note that I have made a post on my blog regarding this : http://www.tekool.net/blog/2008/05/25/users-must-trust-air/

  8. Philippe says:

    At least, please make this dialog “pleasant”, not a frightening black and red thing.And localize the dialog (but I guess it is planned… isn’t it?).

  9. Tek says:

    Oliver, after careful consideration I finally agree with you. The solution to ask permission would have been valid only during the period when we cannot publish “restricted” application.What is important is not warnings in “unrestricted” mode but not to have warnings in “restricted” mode.You have been clear I haven’t. I have updated my blog to reflect my thoughts. Apologies for any unwanted noise.