Guillermo Esteves

I love Chrome’s automatic updates

Last night I signed up for Clicky Web Analytics, and looking around their site I saw that they offer market share stats for the major browsers (IE, Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Opera,) both in general, and split by browser version. Looking at Chrome's stats, I noticed something interesting in the graph:

Chrome market share

Thanks to Chrome's silent automatic updates, as soon as a new version is released, the previous one virtually disappears in a matter of days! I'm sure there are valid arguments against updating software automatically and silently, for example at organizations that need to control what software their employees use, or that need to test existing applications in new browser versions before deploying them; but from a developer's point of view I think it's awesome, because for all intents and purposes there's only one version of Chrome – the current one. Since older versions aren't a big concern, testing in Chrome becomes simpler and easier: there's no need to hunt down and keep multiple versions for testing.

Compare to Internet Explorer, where the four most recent versions coexist, so if it represents a major portion of your visits (and it probably does,) then you'll have to support at least two of them: Internet Explorer 8, for the large number of people still running Windows XP; and 9, for those running Windows Vista and 7. Unfortunately, unless dropping XP and Vista is an option, you'll probably have to keep supporting them even after Internet Explorer 10 comes out, since it won't support Windows Vista.

Internet Explorer market share

Safari's market share behaves a bit like IE's, inasmuch as it doesn't automatically update and the newest version coexists with the older one, but remarkably Safari 5.1 has already overtaken the previous version, just a month after its release with the launch of Lion. Still, until 5.0 is gone, testing in it might be problematic unless you have an older Mac nearby, or a Snow Leopard Server disc you can install in VMware Fusion or Parallels.

Safari market share

Firefox, meanwhile, behaves in a combination of both ways. After Firefox 4, which introduced automatic updates, it behaves like Chrome, with the previous version dropping off after a new release; but with a good number of users still on version 3.6, which didn't have automatic updates.

Firefox market share

And Opera… oh, who cares, I'm pretty sure Opera's market share is composed entirely of developers testing their sites in Opera.

Anyway, knowing that I can stop worrying about testing in older versions of Chrome (and to a much lesser degree, Firefox and Safari) personally makes my job much easier, but as usual, your mileage may vary. Let your own browser stats be your guide.


About Guillermo Esteves

Hello, there. I’m a Venezuelan-American web developer based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, right in the heart of Grand Teton National Park. I’ve been building websites for over 20 years, and I’m currently a Senior Engineering Manager at Vox Media, where I lead a team charged with building first-class editorial tools for journalists across the world. Previously at Vox, I’ve led multiple teams as engineering manager & lead engineer, including the Services team, bringing Chorus to newspapers such as the Chicago Sun-Times, Deseret News, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune; the Revenue Platforms team, helping build better advertising tools & products for our networks; and the Performance team, helping make our sites as fast as possible. I was also a Senior Front-End Engineer at The Verge, helping build a sweet, responsive, better performing site, as well as cool editorial features like Fanboys and The Verge 50.

In my free time, I’m also a wildlife & landscape photographer, and you can see some of my work on my website, All-Encompassing Trip. This year one of my photographs, Close Encounter at Antelope Flats, was chosen as one of the four highly commended photos in London’s Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year, People’s Choice Awards.

Elsewhere on the web

View my photography at All-Encompassing Trip, view it again (but smaller) on Instagram, check out my repos on Github, add me to your professional network (ugh) on LinkedIn, or email me at contact@gesteves.com.