Microsoft wants its Windows users to be using the latest and greatest versions of the Internet Explorer web browser. So far, that has been easier said than done.
Today Microsoft announced its intention to provide a 'silent' updating mechanism for Internet Explorer. The silent updating approach updates users without the need for additional manual interaction. The silent updating approach was first pioneered by Google Chrome and is soon set to be adopted by Mozilla's Firefox as well.
"For consumers, the safety benefits are one of the key reasons that the industry has been moving towards automatic updates as the norm," Ryan Gavin, General Manager, Internet Explorer Business and Marketing wrote in a blog post. "This is increasingly important since the biggest online threat these days is socially engineered malware, which typically targets outdated software like Web browsers."
The move to a silent updating approach is being applauded by security experts.
"Being on the newest possible Internet Explorer (IE8 on WIndows XP, IE9 on Vista/Win7) brings a significant increase in security and robustness to malware infections due to better architecture, sandboxing and the included URL filtering feature," Qualys CTO, Wolfgang Kandek noted in a blog post.
There is also at least one study that has attempted to prove that silent updates keep users more up to date. A 2009 study from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology's Stefan Frei and Google's Thomas Duebendorfer concluded that after that after 21 days of a Google Chrome release, 97 percent of users were updated to the latest version.
Microsoft is not immediately making silent updates available to all users around the world. The plan is to make the silent updating available in early 2012. Microsoft will be rolling out the service in a phased geographical approach beginning with users in Australia and Brazil.
While Microsoft's intention is to update as many users as possible to the newest versions of IE, they aren't going to force the change on those that don't want it. Gavin noted that users that have blocked IE8 or IE9 updates before, via Windows Update, will not automatically be opted into the new silent updating. As well, Microsoft will enable users to block the automatic updates so they can update on their own when ready.
Microsoft's silent updating feature could potentially debut before rival Mozilla Firefox is able to get a similar feature out the door. Mozilla had originally targeted silent updating for inclusion in Firefox 10, but has now pushed the timeline out to the Firefox 11 release. The next major Firefox release is Firefox 9 set for release on December 20th.