The new amateuristic release strategy of Firefox


I have been using Firefox since it was called Phoenix (version 0.5). I’ve witnessed all the effort that has been put into making this web browser a success. It is still the only web browser I can fully trust. Suddenly, earlier this year, the Mozilla Foundation decided to change the release strategy of the project for obvious marketing reasons and release several major versions within a short period of time. It was inevitable that such a change of release cycles would introduce numerous incompatibility issues with the available extensions. Such problems should have been solved before switching release strategies.

Today I happened to browse the tech section of Digg and stumbled upon this news item about the release of Firefox 7. Some of the comments pretty much summarize my feelings about the new release strategy:

– Wtf I just installed 6….
– I just installed 5.
– Once the version number is up to 50 in a short amount of time, it will become a joke, and future releases will be ignored.
– Firefox is killing themselves is what they’re doing. People use Firefox for the plugins, every new version installation kills all plugins. After I install this, there’s technically no reason for me to use Firefox over Chrome anymore. Why doesn’t Mozilla understand this???
– Pro tip: People aren’t switching from Firefox to Chrome because it’s got a “better” version number, guys.

I would add that it is not necessary to go through all the numbers from 5 to 14 to catch up with Chrome in terms of major version numbers. These could be just skipped and go straight to 14!

PS: The Firefox extension of a software I had paid for had stopped working since the FF3 -> FF4 upgrade. A workaround was released by the company for FF4, but as soon as FF5 came out it stopped working again. I’ll be straight. I’d rather use Internet Explorer or Chrome or Opera instead of asking the company for a workaround every time the Mozilla folks roll out a new major release of Firefox.

The new amateuristic release strategy of Firefox by George Notaras is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Licensing Information.
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About George Notaras

George Notaras is the editor of G-Loaded Journal, a technical blog about Free and Open-Source Software. George, among other things, is an enthusiast self-taught GNU/Linux system administrator. He has created this web site to share the IT knowledge and experience he has gained over the years with other people. George primarily uses CentOS and Fedora. He has also developed some open-source software projects in his spare time.

7 responses on “The new amateuristic release strategy of Firefox

  1. comzeradd Permalink →

    You are actually wrong on everything :)

    The new release strategy is an engineering decision, not a marketing one. It’s a way to adopt more rapidly new features. (Remember how long we’ve been waiting for the FF4).
    See here a list of features and technologies that users will experience in the near future, just because of the new release strategy.

    As for the extensions thing… well it was time for a breakthrough and it was inevitable to break backwards compatibility. From now on all add-on developers should use Jetpack, so their extensions keep running regardless of the FF version ;)

    1. George Notaras Post authorPermalink →

      All I say is that they rushed to switch to the new release strategy without first making sure that the transition would be smooth for the users. Hence the amateuristic. Why the rush? Jetpack should be used for a while (> year), so as to give extension developers enough time to adopt it. After the major extension developers had switched, then they could change the release strategy. But, in this case, marketing was the real reason for the rush to switch strategies. There is no other explanation that makes sense…

  2. George Notaras Post authorPermalink →

    @kazetsukai: I didn’t say I prefer IE over Firefox. What I really said is that, if Firefox upgrades continue to give me a hard time with the extensions I use, I wouldn’t mind switching to another web browser that lets me do my job uninterrupted, even a closed-source one like IE. I use the web browser to accomplish various tasks. There is no reason valid enough to justify the time that is wasted while dealing with extension incompatibilities because of the new release strategy. I’m sure the enterprise world won’t approve this new release strategy.

  3. Chuck Jones Permalink →

    Seriously Mozilla, let’s ease off on the updates. Every day my wife complains that she has to update *AGAIN* just to be able to surf the web. I turned off auto updates to stop her complaining. I downgraded to 3.6 as my favorite password automator isn’t interested in running with the bulls and neither am I …

  4. Phoenix Permalink →

    There’s something to be said for allowing your users to choose! Look at Ubuntu. They’ve fixed the worst aspect of Debian (*long* release cycles) and they deliver releases every six months. However, they also create LTS (long term support) releases for customers (e.g. enterprise) who don’t want to be on a release treadmill.

    If Mozilla wants to push out new releases more frequently, it would really be nice if they could commit to patching security holes in a given release (“LTS”) so that users and extension developers have a stable platform to rely on. Those that want bleeding edge features can jump on the release treadmill.

    Instead what they’ve effectively done is forced users into testing beta releases, even though they’re not called that.

  5. Stunt Permalink →

    Like you I’ve been with FF since Phoenix days.

    The whole Firefox/Thunderbird release strategy is a joke. Some addons disable every time, and most of the time reading the release notes they’ve barely added anything – so who does it benefit.

    Chrome can manage to update dozens of times and never once have I noticed, cared or has an addon broken. So they should take a leaf out of G’s book and only enable the crazy “but it goes upto 11” updating scheme only when they’ve figured out how to a) Do it entirely invisibly, and b) Never break an addon.

    Whilst I’m whinging why, oh why, does TB now include a full blown instance of FF browser, complete with plugins and addons. I know I need to process HTML emails, but really just use the basic engine – with no extra junk. Isn’t the bloat of Communicator what prompted the separation in the first place, with an aim to have superfluous stuff in addons?

  6. Abercrombie Permalink →

    I don’t advocate with IE and firefox. I usually use a web browser to complete the various tasks. Without any reason is invalid, proved to be the is a waste of time, deal with extended because the new version not compatible with strategy.