If you’ve grown weary of the near-constant warnings about Java lately, and their effect on your ability to print coupons, relief is on the way. Two of the major printable coupon providers are as frustrated as you are, and they’re making plans to give up on the troubled technology altogether. Coupon Network is already working on an alternative, and SmartSource isn’t far behind.
Java has long promoted itself as “a technology you likely use every day without noticing.” But everyone noticed last month, when no less than the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about Java’s security vulnerabilities, and recommended that computer users disable it until “adequate updates are available” (read: “Java: Good For Coupons, Bad For Your Computer”). Since then, Java has issued a number of updates, frustrating and not necessarily reassuring couponers who rely on Java to print from most of the major printable coupon sites.
The last straw for Coupon Network appeared to be Apple’s decision to “blacklist” Java – on two different occasions – and disable it on Macs pending another security upgrade. “As a result, Mac computers will not be able to print coupons from CouponNetwork.com, as our site currently requires Java in order to do so,” Coupon Network said in a statement. “Our tech team is actively working on building a new plugin which will allow printing from a Mac without the need for Java.” But it’s not just for the benefit of Mac users. A spokesperson confirmed to Coupons in the News that “we are updating the plugin itself, to no longer require Java.”
SmartSource is looking to make a similar move. “We don’t think the Java problems are going to go away,” Henri Lellouche, Senior Vice President, SmartSource Digital told Coupons in the News. “We are looking at a number of other ways of doing this.” He could not give a time frame on when a change might occur, since SmartSource is only in the early stages of looking at alternatives. But he indicated that the introduction of a new plugin that does not require Java will most likely happen, one way or another. In the meantime, SmartSource is keeping up with Java updates as they roll out, and is requiring users to download the latest version before they can print.
RedPlum remains a holdout. “We have no plans to switch our coupon printer from Java, as it continues to be a safe and secure way to deliver printable coupons,” a spokesperson for parent company Valassis told Coupons in the News. “In general, where Java is concerned, our advice continues to be that consumers keep their Java current with the latest version available and only run Java applets from sites they trust.”
All of the printable coupon sites emphasize that printing coupons is safe, and their sites are secure. The real concern with Java is that, if you have it enabled and visit a compromised website, cyberattackers may be able to exploit vulnerabilities in the Java plugin and seize control of your computer. So technically, yes, it’s safe to visit and print from your favorite trusted printable coupon sites – the problem could come up after you leave those sites. Many coupon users, either fearful that they may stumble upon a compromised website, or just plain confused about all the warnings, have disabled Java altogether, giving up the ability to print coupons at all.
And presumably that’s affecting business for the printable coupon providers. “We have not seen a dropoff in our weekly prints,” SmartSource‘s Lellouche maintains. RedPlum and Coupon Network didn’t elaborate on that point, but Coupon Network did field a number of complaints and questions from Mac users who haven’t been able to print at all.
CommonKindness, a relative newcomer to the printable coupon scene, appears to be a few steps behind the others. It only recently upgraded its site to require the very Java-based system that Coupon Network and SmartSource are now ready to abandon. And, given the recent concerns about Java, a CommonKindness news release issued last week struck some as a bit tone deaf. “CommonKindness.com Announces Industry-Leading Coupon Security Measures” was not an announcement that it’s abandoning Java, but a notice that its printable coupons now contain security features like new images, bar codes and the name of the coupon user printed on the coupon itself.
And then there’s Coupons.com. The oldest and largest printable coupon site doesn’t use Java at all. And lately, they’re becoming proud of saying so. The company has not commented officially, but a customer service representative has commented on this and other sites about the recent Java concerns. “While all of our peers in the print-at-home coupon business in the U.S. have opted to use Java, Coupons.com has not,” wrote Greg of Coupons.com. “Java is not a secure enough technology to use for delivery of printable coupons.” Instead, Coupons.com uses its own customized coupon printing plugin.
But there are drawbacks to that approach as well. Until recently perhaps, most computers already had Java installed, so you didn’t have to download anything new to print most coupons. But first-time users of Coupons.com do have to download their plugin. And many users don’t have the necessary permission to do so on the computer they’re using.
Say, for instance, you’re printing coupons at work. Now, don’t deny it, we know that (many of) you have done it, and SmartSource knows it too. Lellouche says most activity on SmartSource.com occurs between 10am and 2pm, Monday through Friday. It can’t all be due to stay-at-home moms. Using a plugin that denies people the ability to print from work could result in fewer coupons printed, less revenue for the coupon providers and fewer sales for the manufacturers (never mind the increased productivity, if workers were actually working instead of printing coupons). “Java was the best alternative” to a customized plugin, Lellouche said.
And now it’s not. In a perfect world, we could print coupons without having to download anything at all. But that would mean the coupon providers would have no way to set limits on how many coupons can be printed. And if you think Java has caused chaos, just think about the alternative.