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Google Details Successes of its Chrome Release Process

Google's Marc-Antoine Ruel, a software developer at Google, has providing some fascinating insight in the Chrome release process, an effort that he described as "upgrading 200 million users within 6 hours." Of course, it's not just about 6 hours and the time it takes the Chrome installed based to ping Google for updates and download and install the software. It's about the way Google has created an extremely well-oiled browser development mention that guarantees what users perceive to be a reliable delivery of a new browser every six weeks.

Ruel's document, which refers to a presentation he gave last month in Iceland, provides information on how Google reduces "friction" for its developers, for users, for the software and the delivery of security fixes.

Google is paranoid about the stability of its master branch. Ruel noted that most new features are directly developed on the master branch, but are disabled "just after forking a release branch if not stable worthy." Google has all experimental features available on its Canary channel. The developer channel sees fewer features as the "features that have no chance to go to stable in their current state are disabled," Ruel said. Developers will have to wait for the next release to get those features into the browser. He noted that the trunk of the browser is always kept in state of being "shippable" and there is "enough automated testing to continually prove that trunk is shippable."

Google refers to its release process as "pipelining releases" which aims to take a browser branch from the developer to the beta and the stable channel in six weeks. There are secondary processes which allows Google to do "dot releases" to introduce fixes in the beta and stable channel. Ruel said that each branch lives for only 18 weeks: "We don't care about any code that is more than 3 months old, which helps us tremendously to stay flexible on the code base refactoring."

He also explained that rapid releases help Google to introduce "gradual, gentle" upgrades over time, which makes the browser update process easier for users. Ruel walked around the still controversial automated browser update feature, but hinted that users value convenience and don't want to be bothered with unnecessary system messages, or system restarts after installation. As long as the software update remains convenient for the user, Google apparently believes that the automated update is seen as a benefit by users. As far as security updates are concerned, Google hopes for a "transparent" and "magical" effect for the user: " Subtle enough that most users won't realize but power users will act upon," Ruel said. "In both Google Chrome and ChromeOS, we decided to add a little green arrow when an update is ready to be installed."

  • nikorr
    Good reading.
    Reply
  • ztr
    Thus Chrome is successful with its rapid releases and FF on the other hand is.......
    Reply
  • Camikazi
    O good lord they are using the word magical to describe something now?
    Reply
  • soccerdocks
    This release process is why it actually makes sense for Google to increase its version number every six weeks, contrary to what most people on this site seem to believe.
    Reply
  • freggo
    Is there an actual technical reason why Chrome can not run on Win 2k?
    Firefox can, Opera can, SeaMonkey can...
    Or is M$ paying (or otherwise encouraging) companies to make their products incompatible with older OSes so they can force the sale of whatever OS they happen to be offering that day ?
    Reply
  • Ragnar-Kon
    ztrThus Chrome is successful with its rapid releases and FF on the other hand is.......Perhaps this isn't what the majority feels, but here is the difference for me:

    Google Chrome updates pretty much without my knowledge. I personally thought I was still running 11.x.x. Turns out (just checked) I'm running 16.0.912 and I had NO idea. Being an IT person, at first it was kind of scary that it updated itself without my knowledge, but Google has yet to break a core functionality, so I'm okay with it.

    Last time I used Firefox, it bugged me every moment it is running for an update. I know it sounds dumb but sometimes I just don't want to click the update button. When FireFox moved to a rapid release schedule, it was bugging me even more. That in combination with changing the interface from the classic 3.5 interface is the two major reasons why I switched to Chrome. Of course Firefox might now be doing silent updates for all I know, but too little too late for me. Now Chrome has me sucked in with features like Sync, Cloud Print, and the OmniBar.

    freggoIs there an actual technical reason why Chrome can not run on Win 2k?Don't get me wrong, Windows 2000 is a fantastic operating system, and is probably still my favorite version of Windows even with Windows 7. But common now... it is time to move on, it is 11 years old.
    As for why Chrome doesn't support Windows 2000, I would assume because Windows 2000 costs extra money and time to support. Since Windows 2000 has less than a quarter of a percent market share (<0.25%), they probably felt like it wasn't worth it. And actually, I agree with them.
    Reply
  • madooo12
    freggoIs there an actual technical reason why Chrome can not run on Win 2k?Firefox can, Opera can, SeaMonkey can...Or is M$ paying (or otherwise encouraging) companies to make their products incompatible with older OSes so they can force the sale of whatever OS they happen to be offering that day ?if this'll make MS loose, google would do it
    and if there is a cost to support win2k mozilla (non-profit), opera (low profit), and others support it
    Reply
  • JOSHSKORN
    I'll just be happy when we can all stop playing "Version Wars". I'm a bit tired of installing updates all of the time. That, and we need more 64-bit browsers to choose from, other than IE9 and Nightly, which you have to update...nightly.
    Reply
  • Benihana
    JOSHSKORNI'll just be happy when we can all stop playing "Version Wars". I'm a bit tired of installing updates all of the time. That, and we need more 64-bit browsers to choose from, other than IE9 and Nightly, which you have to update...nightly.Agreed, I'm still holding out for FireFox 64 myself. If nothing else, at least this way it can use more than 2.1 GB of RAM. ;)
    Reply
  • Christopher1
    BenihanaAgreed, I'm still holding out for FireFox 64 myself. If nothing else, at least this way it can use more than 2.1 GB of RAM.
    There is already a 'Firefox 64'. The Nightly version has a 64-bit release that works quite well, is compatible with all add-ons that I have tried, etc.
    Reply