I was checking out what version of Firefox I'm using and it was telling me that I'm on the 'release update channel'. So I googles "Update Channel" and I finds this seemingly antiquated MSDN article which has a confusing bit of ASP.NET pre-processed into the article to give you the sense that you both should not use this technology and should never have used this technology.

Microsoft Active Channel technology is obsolete as of Windows Internet Explorer 7 and should not be used. Users want an easy and convenient way to download and install new versions of software. Software Update Channels are specialized channels that you can use to notify users of software updates and also deliver and install the updates on their computers. Users who have downloaded your software and subscribed to your Software Update Channel are notified when new versions of your software become available. When notified of an update, users can click a gleaming icon representing your channel, which returns them to your download site so they can obtain the new version. Users can also choose to have software updates delivered and installed on their computers automatically.

Active Channel technology is obsolete as of Internet Explorer 7 and should not be used. This article introduces you to the terminology, benefits, and implementation of Software Update Channels. After reading this article, you will understand how easy it is for users to discover and interact with this technology, and you will know how to create your own Software Update Channels. Links to relevant overviews, references, and tutorials are provided at the end of the article.

So, I ask you. Is this still some sort of metaphor for getting software easily to your clients. If I store the info for my programs updates in a database, is there existing non-obsolete Microsofty technology that could take a generated XML file and tell people using my software that there are updates available and you should probably download them?


2 Answers 2


It means you are on the stable releases channel, you won't get any beta update.

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    That's the kind of answer I'd want if I were asking the question on Superuser, and it's useful info, but as a programmer, what is an update channel and what does it mean - is usually done via an SVN extension or a ISAPI plugin or just some sort of XML page that you've got to write custom code to understand? Dec 27, 2011 at 19:06
  • Well, you query the page for updates and state what channel you want to ask updates for. So it could be a simple get /updates/stable. Dec 27, 2011 at 19:08
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    @PeterTurner - Update channels is just a fancy word for a version control. There are many different ways to do it. For example Chrome has 3 channels, Firefox in the past had more then they do now, I believe they now only have 2 major channels ( current, future ). I wouldn't nock a perfectly valid response because you don't know what a software update channel is.
    – Ramhound
    Dec 27, 2011 at 19:49
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    @Ramhound I believe Firefox has 3 channels now - Release, Beta and Nightly Dec 27, 2011 at 21:30
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    @PeterTurner I believe I made a mistake about number of Mozilla's update channels - after further investigation there are 4 channels - Release, Beta, Aurora and Nightly. The Aurora update channel is the mix between the buggy Nightly version and more stable Beta version. Dec 28, 2011 at 8:15

Reflecting on your comments to @fabianhjr I will try to provide you with some more info about update channels in Mozilla applications.

The Mozilla wiki says the following about updates:

Firefox periodically checks the Mozilla.org update servers (AUS) for available updates. The update servers will return a manifest file (which is a simple XML file) over HTTPS that will point Firefox at the right update package to download.

More info about update channels can be found in a comments for a bug 302721:

Finally, the channel can be thought of as applying to the current branch. So, if the user has a build from the 1.5 branch, with a nightly channel, then they will receive nightly updatees of 1.5 branch builds. If they are using a beta channel, then they will receive updates to our 1.5.x release candidate builds.

For more info about the general update process of Mozilla applications look at Mozillazine.org and Mozilla Wiki checking for updates.

  • Thanks, even though I didn't want to talk about Firefox in particular, following some of those links showed me a few things about how this stuff might work. A dedicated autoupdate server with some sort of XML file Dec 27, 2011 at 22:18
  • @PeterTurner yes - and with update channel they are configuring from which server you will get that update manifest XML file. Dec 28, 2011 at 8:20

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