Microsoft announced today that it plans to start releasing automatic Internet Explorer updates in the near future. Starting next month, Windows XP, Vista and 7 users in Australia and Brazil will begin experiencing the silent rollouts. It's worth noting that this change will only affect those who opt into automatic Windows Updates, but we imagine that represents a significant portion of users considering how annoying the Windows Update notifications can be. There's no word on when this will be available to customers in other regions.

Although Microsoft is forcefully nudging users to update their browser, running the latest version of IE isn't completely mandatory. "While the benefits of upgrading are numerous, we recognize that some organizations and individuals may want to opt-out and set their own upgrade pace," Microsoft said. You can avoid the browser updates by installing the IE8 or IE9 Automatic Update Blocker toolkits. What's more, if you've previously declined the installation of IE8 or IE9, you don't have to worry about Microsoft pulling a ninja update.

Outdated versions of Internet Explorer have long been the bane of Web developers' existence, so having a majority of users running the latest version should make their life a little easier. Naturally, streamlining the update process will also improve security and help keep clueless users safer while browsing the Internet. Microsoft points to its recent Security Intelligence Report, which found that less than 1% of attacks in the first half of 2011 used zero-day exploits while 99% used familiar techniques such as unpatched vulnerabilities.