The Chromium Chronicle #16: Updating Google Apps on Desktop

Episode 16: by Anjali Doneria in Bellevue, WA (January 2021)
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Ever wondered how Chrome keeps itself up-to-date on your desktop? Or how updates are served to Chromebooks, Chromecast, or Android? Wait no more! Read on to understand how Google Update works to serve regular updates to your devices.

Google Update is the tool for managing desktop (Mac and Windows) client install and update processes. It's not just for Chrome! This tool serves updates via Auto-Update Server (also known as Omaha Server).

On Windows, Google Update works both as an installer and updater for Google apps, while on Mac, Keystone is designed to centrally update all Mac software that Google ships; it is installed by the software it updates during install or first launch.

Overview of how Omaha works

The update process is controlled by rules in Omaha Configuration Language. The following example shows an update for Chrome extensions update checks:

Update {
  # UpdatedVersion and subsequent Pair MUST be provided for chrome responses
  UpdatedVersion: ""
  Pair: {Tag: "version" Value: "{updated_version}" }
  Codebase: "{updated_version}/item.crx"

Once you are done creating/changing your config, it can be deployed on Omaha Server. Alternatively, you can use Release Manager to automatically upload binaries to, generate and deploy the Omaha config. And voila, your desktop app is now ready to serve updates through Google Update!