Should getting rid of unwanted software be this hard? Installing an update to AOL’s perfectly servicable IM software recently I selected not to use AOL as my default search client or install its equally redundant toolbar app during the update.

After rebooting Firefox I noticed AOL’s toolbar and address bar search had still somehow nestled itself in Firefox. Fear not, I thought, I will re-prioritise Google search manually, de-install the toolbar app and disable any plug-in elements.

It turned out that no amount of tinkering could remove AOL as the default search when entering a term in the address bar which is inconvenient because it simply resolves any term entered to its search homepage. Google, by contrast, will take the user straight to the domain.

The only way to nix AOL from this browser element is to open the prefs.js file using the about:config command and then reset keyword.URL to http://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=navclient&gfns=1&q=.

How many users will want to go that deep into such a basic function?

The maddening thing is that all AOL is doing is putting its own branding to Google search while claiming to filter its results more assiduously. That marginal filtering benefit is unproven - I could detect no difference in the returned searches. To the cynic it’s just a crafty way of making people stare at a company logo while delivering zero benefit.

Quite why AOL has to burrow so deeply into a user’s browser is beyond me, but it strikes me as counterproductive.  Anyone would think they didn’t want users deciding which search engine to use for themselves.

Perhaps the company’s search share of barely over 1 percent rankles with them but I’d still like to be able to install (and de-install) search according to my preferences not theirs.