Google Chrome Leads Browser Upgrades Through Mandatory Updates
Despite the fact that IE6 is supposed to be deader than dead, it doesn't mean that people have stopped using it. Microsoft has struggled to persuade its users to upgrade to later versions, while Firefox has had rapid success in driving 3.6 upgrades. But both browsers take a backseat to Chrome.
According to Royal Pingdom, Google Chrome is relatively close to a 100% success rate in pushing users to new versions of Chrome. The difference? Google doesn't ask users whether they want to upgrade or not.
While Firefox prompts users to upgrade to later versions, and has been effective at convincing users to drop unsupported versions (less than 5% are still using versions older than Firefox 3.5), users still have a choice. Microsoft also gives users the option of opting out of updates. Chrome is designed to simply update itself in the background without asking user permission. Pretty much the same way Google pushes out updates to all of its products, except that this one happens to reside on a user's machine.
So far, I haven't run into a problem with Chrome updates, but I have to wonder if this is a good thing long-term. Most of the software on my machine comes from the Linux distribution I'm running at any given time. You can configure automatic security updates for many distros, but I prefer to do it manually. Nothing like having an update gone wrong take your machine down, but that'd be even worse if you weren't planning to run an update.
If the mandatory option doesn't appeal to you, don't run Chrome. Google won't give users the option of making updates optional. If you prefer to have some control over your browser updates, either choose Firefox or go with the Chromium builds from the open source project.
For the bulk of home users, the Google Chrome approach is probably the right one. But it's annoying that Google doesn't give users who understand the implications the ability to turn off updates. It also seems likely to hinder adoption in enterprise environments when and if Google starts to target those customers. Few IT managers are going to want to standardize on a package that will randomly introduce (and possibly remove) new features. What do you think? Are you comfortable with Google making unannounced updates, or should the company follow a more traditional update path for its desktop software?