Thomas Duebendorfer Google Switzerland GmbH and Stefan Frei Communication Systems Group, ETH Zurich, Switzerland looked into the performance of Web browser update mechanisms. The analysis of anonymized Google Web server logs allowed us to compare and rank the update strategies deployed by Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Opera.
Thomas Duebendorfer and Stefan Frei found considerable differences in the performance of the update techniques deployed by each browser by measuring the share of the latest minor version within the same major version during the first 21 days after its release.
We recommend any software vendor to seriously consider deploying silent updates as this benefits both the vendor and the user, especially for widely used attack-exposed applications like Web browsers and browser plug-ins.
The paper provides empirical data to evaluate different software update strategies.
In this paper we analyze the effectiveness of different Web browser update mechanisms; from Google Chrome's silent update mechanism to Opera's update requiring a full re-installation.
We use anonymized logs from Google's world wide distributed Web servers. An analysis of the logged HTTP user-agent strings that Web browsers report when requesting any Web page is used to measure the daily browser version shares in active use.
Our measurements prove that silent updates and little dependency on the underlying operating system are most effective to get users of Web browsers to surf the Web with the latest browser version. However, there is still room for improvement as we found. Google Chrome's advantageous silent update mechanism has been open sourced in April 2009.