Are auto updates really a good thing? More and more software is opting into auto updating so that the user doesn’t have to worry about it. In some cases I think this is good, in others I’m worried about negative side effects.
iOS 7 Auto Updates
In iOS 7 Apple introduced auto updates for apps. When there is an app update, they can update on their own without any user interaction.
Maybe it’s just because I’m a geek, but one of the things I love to do is see what has been updated in an app. When I see that there are updates I go through each app and look for features. Is this a major update or a minor one? Were new features added? If so, I’ll check them out.
I feel that if I let apps auto update, I’d miss out on the new features and functionality and that’s why I disabled the auto updates in iOS 7. Let me see what the developers have been doing and what new features are awaiting for me.
Overall, I think auto updating phone apps works well as there are a lot of people who never go in and update apps manually. This feature comes in extremely handy.
WordPress Auto Updates
WordPress is also introducing auto updates in WordPress 3.7. Plugins and WordPress core can then stay updated automatically. This sounds good, but it also scares me.
One of the biggest concerns here is that I’ve seen plugins that cause issues when updated. It’s not very often, but auto updating plugins could take down your site if a bad bug makes it into a plugin release.
Another big concern is around themes. All to often people download a theme, install it, and then customize it. If a child theme isn’t created, updating the theme will blow away all your changes made in the theme files.
Another concern is how it’s going to handle major version changes. Being a web developer, I know that the code I write will work perfectly with a specific version of WordPress, but when WordPress updates, all bets are off. Likely there won’t be issues, but its better to test things out than to just assume, blindly update, and have something go wrong.
On the flip side, one of the biggest security concerns with WordPress is outdated plugins and core files. If we can get people to update to WordPress 3.7, and leave the auto updates enabled, the security issues will diminish.
Overall Auto Updates Are Good
In the end, auto updating is good for the majority of people. Asking users to update means they need to do something. And when you ask them to do something, they have many questions and often do nothing at all. That’s why your parents Windows machine has 100 outstanding security updates.
Keeping people updated is a good thing, but continue to let us nerds opt out so we can see what updates we’re getting or control what auto updates.
Additionally, I think it’ll force software developers to do a better job at QAing their code before pushing it out. It’ll be an interesting transition, especially for WordPress, but one that will be beneficial in the long run.