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Shipping changes that are enterprise-friendly

Shipping changes to enterprise customers requires some extra due-diligence.

Millions of users rely on Chromium browsers to do their job. For home use, we strive to make the browser as simple and safe as we can, by taking complex configurations off people's minds. However, in small and large enterprises, this is a task left to specialists who need their browser to fit in the complex puzzle of hardware and software that drives their organization. Enterprise customers:

  • Have complex and unique environments, supporting a wide range of apps and use cases for their users

  • Take time to adapt to changes, which may include testing and training

  • Incur large costs because of disruptive changes

Even changes that are not targeted for enterprises may still have an effect on them. (Non-exhaustive) examples:

  • Major UI changes

  • Changes that affect how the browser interacts with proxies, firewalls, certificates, network protocols, and common enterprise configurations

  • Changes that interact with policies, like changing default values

  • Changes to web technologies and implementation of specs, especially interventions (example) and deprecations

Any change that's likely to affect enterprises should follow these guidelines, easing the burden for IT admins managing their fleets, and reducing the number of changes that need to be reverted from the stable channel.

How to ship enterprise-friendly changes

1. Give enterprises visibility

  • If your change has a Chrome launch bug, it includes an enterprise review. The enterprise team will use this as an input to the enterprise release notes, so no action is required from you yet.

  • If your change does not have a Chrome launch bug with an enterprise review, describe your planned changes by joining and emailing the chromium-enterprise technical discussion group, at least 3 milestones (~3 months) prior to launch to stable, and sooner than that for highly disruptive changes. Include:

    • What is changing

    • Why it's changing

    • When it's expected to ship to stable

    • What enterprises will have to do in response if applicable (update server-side implementations to conform to a new standard, stop using an API...)

  • We will announce the changes in the "Coming Soon" section of the enterprise release notes before your change ships to stable and in the "This release" section when the change goes to stable. If you've announced the changes in the chromium-enterprise technical discussion group, or if it has a Chrome launch bug, the enterprise team will reach out to you to confirm the plan and the wording each time the release notes are written (don't worry if schedules have changed since last time; this is normal).

2. Give enterprises control

  • Include a policy to control the new change, where possible. The specifics depend on the exact change, but here's a best practice that works for most disruptive changes

    • Introduce a policy that can force the new behavior on or force the behavior off. If the policy is not set (i.e. for consumers), the behavior is defined by a Finch config.

      • The policy can be temporary. This is appropriate if eventually all users should have the new behavior (e.g. it's a security-positive change). Having a temporary policy mitigates unexpected incompatibilities in the enterprise, and gives IT admins extra time to adjust their environment if this was a surprise to them. If the policy is temporary:
        • Keep it at least 3 months after the change for small changes, or up to a year for major changes.
        • Specify in the policy description which milestone it will be removed when you introduce it.
        • Do not set a temporary policy to "deprecated" when you introduce it, even though it has an end milestone (this hides it from the documentation by default).
      • Consider introducing the policy a release before making any changes on default, so enterprises can opt-in to test it before the default behavior changes.
    • Roll out the change using Finch, following the standard launch process (e.g. process for blink). Any enterprise that's set the policy will not see any change, since the policy overrides the Finch config.

    • If the policy was only intended as a temporary escape hatch, remove it in the milestone communicated.

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