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Google Update goes open source for privacy

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From the 'open source means better privacy?' files:

If you run any number of different Google apps (desktop, Chrome etc) on Windows than you've got GoogleUpdate.exe running in the background as a system process.  What GoogleUpdate.exe is supposed to do is continuosly check with Google for updates and then download them when available. It's a little thing, but it is something that has raised privacy concerns -- what exactly is Google sending back and forth?

In order to deal with those privacy issues, Google announced late last week that it was open sourcing the updated as project Omaha.

"We're releasing the source code for Omaha in addition to recent enhancements to Omaha functionality, to provide both transparency and control around the update process," Google's engineers wrote in a blog post."Since Google Update is always running on your system, there's no simple way to stop it, and since it's a fundamental part of the Google software that needs it, it's not explicitly installed. 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."

The source code is already up on Google Code , and is being made available under an Apache 2.0 open source license. Google has also gone a step further and is providing a developers guide  to actually get Omaha up and running.

While I applaud Google's efforts in openning up Omaha from a privacy point of view, there are still some issues in my opinion. For one, it's yet another updater on Windows. If every single vendor has their own updater (and many do) that adds a tremendous amount of resource overhead to a PC. I've advocated in the past that Windows should adopt a Linux type package repository system for a unified update process.

From a broader update point of view, it will be interesting to see if other Windows software vendors adopt Omaha as their own updating tool. If they do, perhaps in time it could become the basis for the unified updater that Windows so clearly (and desperately) needs.

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