Google to Alert Webmasters of New Software Versions

    November 21, 2009
    Chris Crum

Google is going to start letting webmasters know when the software they run on their site is outdated.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?

Related Articles:

> Google Ditches PageRank in Webmaster Tools

> Google Alters Site Verification in Webmaster Tools

> Microsoft Takes Users Behind Bing