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Omaha Architecture Overview


This document aims to explain how the Omaha client implementation in Chrome for Android currently works at the point of handing the code base ownership over to the Omaha team.

For finding / solving issues that may arise, it might be a good idea to look at the class structure, the class diagram and the tables which describe which classes do what.

Core Flow


There are a few concepts used in this document, described below.

Install Event Request

Sent once the first time the user opens Chrome. This is a specially formed HTTP POST request.

If a user clears data for the Chrome application, this will be re-sent the next time the user opens Chrome.

Active Ping Request

Sent every 5 hours while Chrome is open.

Main Run Method

The main run method is what’s invoked every time the Omaha code is executed. It contains all the business logic for what to do at various stages. Each run is a one-off that is unable to store state in-memory (implementation detail), so it needs to read from disk before each run, and then store the updated state to disk when it’s done. Only one run is active at any one time.

Each invocation of the run method is either through a direct method call from the Chrome code base, or through a scheduled event.

This method runs on a background thread, so long running operations such as HTTP requests are synchronous.


There are two main timestamps we track during the main run method: When we should generate a request, and when we should POST a request we have previously generated.

Requests are generated at 5 hour intervals.

POSTs timestamps are calculated based on an exponential backoff.


The main run method OmahaBase#run, contains the core flow for what happens for interaction with Omaha, and the following provides an overview of the flow:

  1. Check if Omaha is enabled. If not, bail out.
  2. Restore previously stored state.
  3. Check if Chrome is currently being used. If so, create a new Active Ping Request if required.
    1. This is not required if there recently has been a request sent to the server.
    2. If the generated request is too old, a new request is generated.
    3. Creating a new requests resets the exponential backoff, and sets when to post to right now.
    4. If there is an available request, maybe execute it.
  4. If it is time to do the request, do the HTTP POST now, else schedule a request for when it’s supposed to be posted.
    1. If the request succeeded, and it was the Install Event Request, we generate another request, which is just the normal Active Ping Request, and then immediately try to post it. The Install Event Request is only ever sent once.
    2. Whenever we successfully finish an HTTP POST, we clear the current request.
  5. If necessary, schedule a run of itself again in the future.
    1. There are two things that requires rescheduling: Generating a new Active Ping Request, or retrying sending a request.
    2. If Chrome is constantly running and in the foreground, we send generate requests every OmahaBase#MS_BETWEEN_REQUESTS hours = 5 hours.
    3. The shortest delay of either retrying a request or generating a new request is the new timestamp we use to schedule another run of the main flow.
  6. Save current state to disk.


Omaha is initiated through the PowerBroadcastReceiver which is invoked when the screen is on and Chrome is in the foreground. Android might bring the Activity to the foreground when it wakes it up to do tasks, but the screen would then typically be off, so that provides an extra guard against that.

The PowerBroadcastReceiver then tells OmahaBase that a foreground session has started, which immediately triggers the OmahaService. The OmahaService then depending on the OS version either starts an IntentService called OmahaClient, or schedules a BackgroundTask with the Chrome BackgroundTaskScheduler for immediate scheduling (0ms delay).

Requests and Responses

The HTTP POST requests follow the Omaha Server Protocol V3, as outlined here:

Request Generation

The RequestGenerator generates the XML data for the HTTP POST request.

The code uses a separate appid for handsets and tablets, defined in an internal class.

The requestid is different for each request, but repeated attempts to POST a particular request does keep the requestid. The sessionid is kept around for the course of one run of the Omaha core flow. In practice this means that the initial install event request and the immediately following active ping request will have the same sessionid. Other requests will not share a session ID though, even though Chrome might have been alive between the requests.

Both the requestid and sessionid are randomly generated UUIDs, while the user-id is an MD5 hash of the device’s Android ID (Settings.Secure.ANDROID_ID), with an added salt. The Android ID is re-generated a device is factory reset, but kept around even if a user clears data for the Chrome application.

The <ping> tag will always have an active=”1” attribute because we fire pings only when Chrome has been started. Note that the <ping>’s a and r attributes are used only to differentiate between different users; since we are sending a unique ID per user, they are unnecessary.

Sending the request

The requests are sent using HttpURLConnection, which also receives the server’s XML response. The connection is created using the at the time of writing suggested way of creating it:

URL url = new URL(...);
HttpURLConnection connection = (HttpURLConnection) url.openConnection();

The connection and read timeout is 1 minute:


After checking that the server sent a 200 OK error code we pass it along to the parser.

Parsing the response

The ResponseParser parses the server’s XML for a <ping status=”ok” /> message and verifies other part of the declared protocol. If the process fails at any point, it is recorded and an attempt to resend it is scheduled.

Exponential Backoff

The delay between two post requests is calculated using the ExponentialBackoffScheduler. Except in the initial sending of both an install event request and active ping request, there is always a minimum delay between requests.

  • Delay between after a successful attempt: 1 hour
  • Delay after the kth cumulative failed attempt: 1 hour * randomInt(1, 2^k)
    • Minimum delay = 1 hour
    • Maximum delay after kth = 2^k * 1 hour
    • Absolute maximum delay = 6 hours


How the next event is scheduled depends on the version of the operating system. Android O added new constraints for what was allowed to run in the background, which lead to changing how we scheduled events on Android M+. Before Android M, an IntentService and AlarmManager is used, but on Android M+ we use BackgroundTaskScheduler which is a wrapper around JobScheduler for Android M+. We could have used BackgroundTaskScheduler for all operating systems, but that would unnecessarily add a dependency on Google Play services GcmNetworkManager for versions of the OS before Android M.

Class Structure

Class Diagram

Omaha Class Diagram


OmahaBase.javaCore class for all business logic. Requires a OmahaDelegate to interact with the system.

- Posts requests.
- Schedules new jobs.
- Stores and restores state.
OmahaDelegate.javaTop-level delegate. This is split out to simplify testing.
OmahaDelegateBase.javaBase implementation of delegate. Only ever extended by OmahaService$OmahaClientDelegate.

Request / Response

RequestData.javaRepresents parameters for a single XML request to send to the server.
RequestFailureException.javaDescribes error scenarios for connections to the Omaha update server.
RequestGenerator.javaBase class that generates XML requests to send to the Omaha server.

Note: This has an internal subclass which provides the data for the fields: brand, client, appid. The appid is different for tablet and handset only for historical reasons. Other fields describing the type of devices could have been used instead.
ResponseParser.javaParses XML responses from the Omaha Update Server.
StringSanitizer.javaSanitizes Strings sent to the Omaha server.
XMLParser.javaBreaks XML down into its constituent elements and attributes using a SAXParser.


ExponentialBackoffScheduler.javaManages a timer that implements exponential backoff for failed attempts.
OmahaClient.javaThe IntentService based implementation of the Omaha client.

Note: This class can not be renamed because it has is referred to by the system, and therefore possibly old intents, etc.
OmahaService.javaUses either AlarmManager or BackgroundTaskScheduler to schedule jobs.

Also contains OmahaClientDelegate. The delegate contains logic for scheduling using the AlarmManager or a BackgroundTask.


MarketURLGetter.javaGrabs the URL that points to the Google Play Store page for Chrome. Retrieved from the Omaha server.
UpdateMenuItemHelper.javaContains logic for whether the update menu item should be shown, whether the update toolbar badge should be shown, and UMA logging for the update menu item.
VersionNumber.javaUtility for dealing with Chrome version numbers (parsing, comparing, etc.).
VersionNumberGetter.javaStubbed class for getting version numbers from the rest of Chrome. Separated out to simplify unit testing.


The Omaha code is basically fully white-box tested, and the tests are typically on the form of change-detector tests, since this is a protocol that has existed for a long time, and should not change unless it is intentional.