Downside to Automatic Updates

On the Debug 24.1 with Daniel Jalkut, Ryan Nielsen, and John Siracusa as guests, they talked quite a bit about what is going to happen with software updates in the future. I recommend both Debug 24 and 24.1 for a really great discussion around many things Apple and software development in general.

However, their almost wholesale support of automatic updates for everything scares me quite a bit. It isn’t surprising really because as a person who is excited about progress in technology myself I usually ride the edge as much as possible, but I think there are some things not considered by people who either are used to running the latest version of everything or have a vested interest in having people on the latest version of everything.

  • Automatic updates will allow developers and companies to push controversial features without people having the opportunity to keep an older version until everything cools off. Tweetie-turned-Twitter for iOS is a great example of this. If people were not able to keep their older version of Twitter for iOS, then you would have had to wait until it blew over or just grin and bear it because it is updated and you have no choice.
  • The idea of “tough luck” being the default answer for people who are automatically pushed to new versions seems like a user-hostile-but-developer-friendly way of handling things.
  • Being able to support anything goes out the window. If everything automatically updates then you no longer are able to keep anything stable. We already deal with this often with web applications and it is a pain (probably the greatest point of pain).

This is the part where people often scream “but this is the future, just deal with it” … and I smile, nod, and then think quietly to myself why.

As humans we seem to have a serious issue with thinking that something newer automatically is better. For whatever reason we think progress is always a good thing instead of always being a compromise each and every time and maybe, just maybe, it isn’t always a good thing.

We don’t always make things better. We don’t always get it right the second time around. It is entirely possible that the choices you are making today are worse in some very important ways and we need to live with that.

The every-present  feeling that we need to keep pushing forward faster and faster and into more areas is entirely human. However, we need to always be aware that while we might think we’re doing something awesome … we might just be wrong.