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Google to Alert Webmasters of New Software Versions

Google to Send Out Software Update Notifications

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Google is going to start letting webmasters know when the software they run on their site is outdated. Through Webmater Tools, Google will begin alerting users of new versions of software when they are released.

"One of the great things about working at Google is that we get to take advantage of an enormous amount of computing power to do some really cool things," says Patrick Chapman of Google’s Search Quality Team. "One idea we tried out was to let webmasters know about their potentially hackable websites. The initial effort was successful enough that we thought we would take it one step further by expanding our efforts to cover other types of web applications—for example, more content management systems (CMSs), forum/bulletin-board applications, stat-trackers, and so on."

Webmaster Tools Messages"This time, however, our goal is not just to isolate vulnerable or hackable software packages, but to also notify webmasters about newer versions of the software packages or plugins they’re running on their website," he continues. "For example, there might be a Drupal module or Joomla extension update available but some folks might not have upgraded."

One way Google identifies sites that need to be notified is by parsing source code of web pages that it crawls. Content management systems usually include generator meta tags that specify the version number. This helps Google figure out when sites aren’t running the latest version.

The company is encouraging developers to use such generator meta tags in their software if they are not already doing so. This, along with Google’s efforts, should theoretically keep their users using the most recent versions. That is Google’s goal, anyway.

Google says they will begin sending out notifications soon, but doesn’t give a more specific time. Do you think this is a good idea?

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Google to Alert Webmasters of New Software Versions
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  • http://www.sitebyjames.com James

    Wow… I guess that’s certainly interesting. Maybe they could start paying the webmasters to upgrade the websites? I think it’s a bad idea… not all website maintainers are permanent… Perhaps if they allowed people to opt in for the notification it would be something to consider, otherwise it sounds like unsolicited spam.

    Encouraging people to identify the software they are running is pointless… Should they also add additional meta tags for each insecure plug-in they install as well?

    I could understand if it was Google software… But not other people’s software. (Unless of course they opted in for the service.)

  • http://www.fireboss.net Article Directory

    Personally, I’m a fan of webmaster tools and knowing the version of software you are running on your website is likely not an invasive measure. Google is just providing people with free, useful services so their handy search box is readily available when you need it. Ultimately, I think they do a great job and use a number of their services both free and paid.

  • James

    I agree webmaster tools… they do provide some good service… After all they take precautions to kick people out the search results if their website is hosting malware.

    What I don’t agree with is the fact that it may encourage webmasters to post security related information to the web. Essentially people will be encouraged to post the blue prints on how to hack the server. Not such a big deal for those who own the website… but what about the rest of the culture who have freelancers or others build their website for them? What happens when they leave and the freelancers following Google Culture post sensitive information to the rest of the world.

    I think you should allow webmasters to choose if they want the service and warn them of the possible problems it may present in the future. People follow Google blindly… I think Google should at the very least take corporate and social responsibility with the matter and offer the service rather than push it.

    Why not focus on Linux… One breach at the kernel level will take out the whole rather than individual. What about co-ordinated security efforts on that end? What about that Andrew Morton guy who works at Google? Get him working on co-ordinating security efforts across the cloud vendors… That would be much more appropriate… jmo…

  • http://www.noobtalk.com/ Noob Talk

    Personally, I’m NOT a big fan of google tools in general. But I guess I’ll start using it since there are pretty nifty features for webmasters.