Google opens update software to scrutiny

By releasing the Google Update software as open-source software, Google opens to allay concerns about what, exactly, the program is up to when it phones home.

In an attempt to better show what its software is up to, Google has released the source code of its Google Update software, a project code-named Omaha that can automatically install new versions of programs, including the Chrome browser and Google Earth .

"Some users can be surprised to find this program running, and at Google, we don't like disappointing our users. We've been working hard to address these concerns, and releasing the source code for Omaha is our attempt to make the purpose of Google Update totally transparent," Myles Jordan of Google's software engineering team and Michael Smith of its product management team said in a blog post Friday.

Google believes in automatic updates of software so security vulnerabilities can be patched quickly, and Google Update is the tool that permits automatic downloading and installation of a new version in the background so it's ready to run the next time the program is launched.

Sharing source code can allay concerns about what exactly software is up to, but Google also hopes that others will be able to use Omaha.

"Keeping software up-to-date is hard. So if you're thinking of developing your own auto-updater, or have already started, we hope that the code we are releasing today will be helpful to you," the Google employees said.

The company also released an Omaha developer guide for those wishing to use the software. Omaha is governed by the Apache License 2.0, Google's preferred open-source software license.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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