Open Ballot: Is Firefox moving too quickly?

TuxRadar

Unless you've had your head stuck in a bucket of sand in a cave on Mars for the last few weeks (or you're running Chrome and don't care), you will have seen the furore surrounding Firefox 5. But it's nothing to do with features, the UI or anything like that - it's outrage that merely three months after Firefox 4, that older release is no longer supported. No bug fixes, no security fixes - nothing.

Now, Mozilla supporters say this is a good thing: the team can concentrate on new releases, accelerating the pace of development and bringing new features to home desktop users. But those deploying Firefox in the enterprise are fuming: they need to roll out updates carefully, checking for breakage with apps and extensions, and this break-neck pace is turning them to alternatives.

Let us know what you think for our next podcast: is Firefox moving too fast? Should the developers consider business users a bit more, or just focus on the home desktop?

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Your comments

Yes! No!

As a Debian user who sticks rigidly to the stable repositories this won't affect me at all!

More seriously, it does seem ridiculously fast for enterprise users - but if that's what Mozilla wants, that's what it will get. They will undoubtedly lose many users but I can't see the policy winning them many new users. It would be really interesting to see a breakdown of users by type.

Totally unrealistric

I can't think of a quicker way of losing any corporate support for the browser than jumping major versions like this. Watch the popularity of FF descend rapidly as it runs away into the version horizon leaving enterprise desktop policies and vendor certifications behind as it does.

Just plain daft; if anyone's moved to a sand cave on Mars, it's Mozilla.

Being on Arch, I roll with

Being on Arch, I roll with whichever updates come my way, whenever they come my way so it doesn't effect me.

And really? What's so different about having 4.1 instead of 5. There isn't anything drastically new in 5 as opposed to 4 and the update channels are the same (presumably for every user, you always get a notification that you're out of date).

In conclusion. I think they just want to compete with Chrome via the medium of numbers. I've lost count of where Chrome is (I'm on the dev channel) but my version is bumping approximately every week sooooo.... Yeah. I guess to the average consumer, if they see 'Firefox 4, Chrome 2,000,639, Opera 11 and ie 9' maybe Firefox looks like an 'underling'.

It's just numbers

Firefox 5.0 should be treated as 4.01. It's a silly versioning method but that doesn't matter.

You would never expect bug fixes to be released as version 4.0 would you? So instead of 4.01 you get 5.0. The new number shouldn't scare you, there is nothing new, a few fixes here and there. Just like any bug fix update you would install.

To be a bit clearer

When you were running Firefox 3.6.14 and 3.6.15 was released, did you expect to get bug fixes and keep version 3.6.14? that's silly. That is what 3.6.15 is for. Same with Firefox 4&5.

Going down...

Its a shame that mozilla is dropping support for corporate users. Word of mouth and experience count for a lot of the most common software we use. If I like how something works on my friends computers, I'll try it out and if they like something on my computer they'll try it out. But given that they dont support corporate customers any longer, I think when people get used to IE at work, they will propagate the same setup at home, and their family and friends may very well follow suite. I work in IT and most average non-techy users find it difficult to switch and learn new software (migrating my work place from IE8 to IE9 was a nightmare for IT support - the bookmarks bar had moved and the options menu had changed!!!)

Most people want a 'just-works' solution, instead of a 'bleeding edge, new changes every 6 weeks' solution. Coupled with firefox's memory leaks and slow startup on older hardware, this is a stake in the heart for mozilla. Just to clarify I am a long time supporter of firefox and its 'free the web' ethics and this new change of direction for the company on a rapid release drops a large customer base (namely corporations), who will prefer to stick with IE.

No security updates will be a problem

No security updates will be a problem on earlier editions, especially as updating isn't just one "press button" away in Linux. From a security point of view it looks like it will be better to surf with Chrome, especially if you are using a LTS edition of a distribution.

One good point I have noted though, whereas I couldn't see some of my eBilling information on the Virgin Media site with Firefox 3, this problem has gone away with Firefox 5.

Hey ho and on with Chrome!

Duh!

Firefox was the best known advertisement for free/open software we ever had. Who knows how many users FF brought into 'our' world in the past.

Their new approach -- flicking the finger towards the corporate user -- isn't just bad for Mozilla, but for the entire free/open software movement.

F'ing muppets.

A big product needs segmentation

Most companies do not try to sell the same product into all markets; they offer different versions of the same product for different markets or different products linked under a brand name.

Mozilla really needs to think about what Canonical has done with its LTS versions so that it can meet the needs of different types of customer.

After all one of the arguments for Windows at home has been that people had it at work - the same argument probably applies to Firefox and any FOSS product.

Is Firefox moving too

Is Firefox moving too quickly? Not on my box it ain't.

isnt similar to ...

Isnt it similar to Torvalds changing the kernel from 2.6.40 to 3.0? there used to be naming/numbering conventions, but apparently things are going to slow for some people so the higher ups are making faster moving numbers.

No, unless you missed some early maths lessons at school!

Everyone remembers learning 1, 2 & 3, but what about those other big numbers? Well, thankfully, I believe I can handle nos 4-10 without too much hassle (I can always use my fingers and thumbs if necessary), so version numbering seems (at the moment) fairly manageable. Infinity+1 might be a problem though.

However, your question isn't about version numbers, it's about whether the application itself is moving too quickly. If you're referring to the speed it is able to render webpages, then it can never be fast enough. If you're referring to the speed of Mozilla's development, then probably not.

Anyway, I've just started using Rekonq web-browser, and actually quite like that instead. So there.

It'll be fine

I think it's simply the change in numbering that's unnerving. In time upgrade from FF n to n+1 will be seen just like FF3.x to FF3.y.

It's hard to tell...

Since upgrading to Ubuntu 11.04 I've had Firefox crash so many times it's essentially too unreliable to use; whether
that's because Mr. Shuttleworth has decided to move towards making Chrome the default browser or because Firefox is moving too quickly, I can't tell. I'm relying more on Opera and Chrome. Pity! I used to like Firefox. Maybe it works on Mint?

Not supporting Firefox 4 is a stupid policy and the people supporting it remind of me of Unity lovers...it's their way or the highway.

Its my computer not yours!

For all updates regardless of how they are numbered:-

1) Keep the bug fixes separate from the modified functionality and UI changes. I always want the former, but I want freedom to choose with the latter. If that makes development harder then tough. Live with it because that's how the real world is. Everyone's requirements are different. One size never fits all.

2) Tell me in advance which of my extensions will no longer work and what the alternatives are. I can then decide to update, reject the update, or switch to another browser.

3) Slow down. Take a deep breath between versions. Make sure everything works as it should. Listen to feedback from users. Don't be too quick to rush into the next ego trip.

Stick to these rules and even commercial users won't care if you add a fraction, a whole number or pi to the power of e to each successive version number.

Is it really that bad for enterprise?

I'm not quite sure why this is so bad for enterprise. In my experience, most enterprise users of Firefox just get the updates via the regular automatic update system, which means that they're probably not going to be left out in the cold with regards to security patches and fixes. Are people suggesting that Firefox hold off on new releases for about as long as Microsoft did between IE6 and IE7, just because it "makes it easy for corporations"? Ridiculous.

One of the best things that browser vendors can do is to release often, as this prevents users from becoming too entrenched on a particular browser. Otherwise, you end up with an IE6-like situation. By forewarning developers that if they don't do it "right" in the first place, they're going to look silly in just a few months, the web can become better!

The version number isn't really important -- it's just what it is. If there's one thing that open source software has demonstrated clearly, it's that version numbers are meaningless. I use software that's been at 0.2 for years (and is stable). TeX's version numbers are based on Pi -- another decimal value is added for each new version. Firefox's just happens to be based on a simple numeric increase with each release.

As a side note, I find it curious that I don't see anyone getting upset that Thunderbird is moving to the same version numbering scheme.

Yes, in a word

While it's good to have regular point releases, major releases should be annual at most and should be supported for at least a few years. I know that Mozilla don't care about enterprise, but enterprise is the holy grail of market share. Firefox (and Chrome for that matter) will always be bit players for as long as they keep up this breakneck speed. Look forward to another few years of IE on top...

Who Knows

I've been watching this stuff since the early '70's. The rapid release cycle is annoying, but, it may simply be a way to walk away from endemic code problems. Or, it may be a move so unexpected that it attracts new users from the buzz. A move to the unexpected seems reasonable and possibly driven by marketing and not engineering. If you play to the geeks too long, you will lose the average Joe.

Keeping up with the Chromeses...

I think FF is simply going through a phase where they are just trying to get the public's PERCEPTION of FF changed.

New users are dazzled by the fact that Chrome is version god-knows-what-teen now, and they seem to have a new release every time you log into it. I would imagine that when they get to a comparably high version number, this will settle down a bit.

Frankly, I am NOT a fan of Chrome, and only use it occasionally to update Jolicloud (sorry, JoliOS now), and play Angry Birds when waiting for something to build or another long task to complete.

I am also annoyed (as others have mentioned) by the fact that FF upgrades seem to kill add-ins all the time, and as I only use 2 of them, I can only imagine how inconvenient it is for people who use a great deal of them.

While on the subject, I still am amazed about how people go on about chrome and how wonderful it is to have "so much real estate" in the browser window, and gush over the spartan design. Firstly, Opera is and has always been modular, and I have been running it with minimal toolbars for 3+ years. Secondly, hasn't anyone ever heard of the F11 key? DUH! Hello? McFly??? EVERY browser gives you full screen with a simple keystroke, and the right mouse button is your friend.

While I am touting the virtues of Opera, I will say that the first negative reaction I ever had to FF was when 4.0 came out, and they completely stole Opera's compact menu. They did not even bother to change it at all, save for the color, and the word "Firefox" in lieu of "Opera". I understand that projects borrow from one another all the time, but if plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery, the Mozilla team must think very highly of Opera indeed...

Steady, Stable, Reliable = Comfort

I only use Firefox on my personal PC and Yes, the new schedule is too fast. Main reason...updating to a new version is a minor project when it comes to the many add-ons I've grown accustomed to, and not something I feel like delving into every six weeks.

As for the versioning that too matters as most average users don't understand that version numbers are mostly meaningless. People don't just want stability and performance they also want the <i>perception</i> of steady, reliable progression. And it so happens, as others have pointed out, that in the case of Firefox especially average users matter.

...so too do corporate users for similar reasons.

Mozilla Are You for Real?????

Why doesn't Mozilla concentrate on the real issue the speed on GNU/Linux compared to Chromium on the same platform the difference is embarrassing.

Mozilla Are You for Real?????

Why doesn't Mozilla concentrate on the real issue the speed on GNU/Linux compared to Chromium on the same platform the difference is embarrassing.

It's a race!

It used to be first prize Internet Explorer, Second prize Firefox and third went to Opera. Just when FF seem to be winning against IE, along comes Chrome - quicker and shinier. They're worried that they'll end up 2nd again before they get acknowledged as first.

It is too fast

... IF they are dumping support for 'old' versions summarily, as they seem to be doing. It is really worrying for users of (for example) LTS distros for whom there is no 'one click' update option. They could go on using their 'old' FF for ages and not realise that there is anything wrong.

FF managers - if this really is to do with competing with Chrome/Chromium, then please stop and think! With its fantastic add-on ecosystem in addition to its all-round competence, I believe that FF has no need to do this as it has its own merits and virtues that are quite distinct from Chrome's, and will attract a different audience. By contrast, people like myself who depend upon several FF add-ons will constantly be worrying that one or another will break in such a rapidly rolling release cycle.

With regard to Enterprise users - echoing comments above, I am sure that Microsoft will be delighted!

Wait, what, is this really a question?

Last time I checked when they released 3.6 nobody complained about 3.5 being hung out to dry? When Chrome released version 12 were there screams from people about no more security fixes for 11?

No, quite simply because the next version is the security fix for the previous version. It's not a completely new version being released it's the next incremental release, just like always except now the numbering is different. As soon as silent updates are introduced then people are going to notice even less.

I've been away for a week and I come back to everyone screaming about this non-issue, lets just move on and thank the guys at Mozilla for making and continuing to improve what is a fantastic bit of free software.

compensating

Mozilla is trying like hades to look like they're doing something fresh and innovative every few months to compensate for months of stagnation earlier.

The place I work at is still using IE6, and not looking to upgrade to IE7 unless made to, much less looking at Firefox or Chrome. If they're a Windows/Oracle shop, they're not looking beyond Microsoft.

Not sure about this

I'm with "John" when he said "Mozilla really needs to think about what Canonical has done with its LTS versions so that it can meet the needs of different types of customer."

If Mozilla aren't going to do this, then I'd suggest that they need to maintain the current version and the most-recent previous version with security updates. So that's N and N-1, which isn't exactly novel.

Did Mozilla actually ask anyone about this, or did they "do a Unity" and just do it and to hell with the consequences?

If they keep this up then I can see me switching 100% to Chrome.

Yes

I think Mozilla has a bad case of Google envy. Firefox 5 should be more like Firefox 4.1, it doesn't deserve a whole number increment. First Google diluted the "beta" tag and now they are diluting the version numbers, and it seems like Mozilla wants to follow.

I don't want to see the day when Google Chrome 500 comes out, which if Google keeps up with release schedule isn't too far off.

It's only a number, after all

Its just a version number. I mean, when Firefox released their old system, it was about the same time schedule, but with .1, .2, .3 etc. added on to the end, so the business people had to decide to upgrade to the next .x released, or keep at the .0 release. This is just the same, and they can always do it the Ubuntu way, and upgrade every 3 or 4 releases to keep in touch. That way they can get testing, or they could employ Mozilla to help test.

And anyway, most of Their market is from the home user, the Facebook user, Mr I play Runescape, etc. so they are following the demand.

Maybe, they will maintain a separate branch where it is longer term and they just upgrade it every couple years, but keep the bugfixes going into it.

*Since Mike loves version numbers so much, what would he do in this situation, if he was part of Mozilla???????*

Too much too young?

Having jumped from 4 to 5 at work where I'm tied to that other OS, I've found out that a couple of my most useful add-ons don't work. That's sort of put me off!

It sort of looks like they've jumped the gun and turned us into beta testers again, not a good idea.

I have Chrome but am not that keen on it, guess I'll be looking for another browser then.

I really don't see the

I really don't see the problem going from 4 to 5 instead of from 3.5.13 to 3.5.14. And as far as support goes does anyone really expect x.x.1 to be supported when x.x.2 is out? The only real difference is that its faster to say "I'm using versions 5" rather then the old numbers.

This is no real change for the Enterprise

Enterprise and Firefox. That really in 99% of the cases means Windows. I'm in the packaging job for businesses.

There is no real change now when compared to before. Large organizations have rigid controlled platforms in which an application is not allowed to update itself. This way software is controlled on the network. The amount of work to release a new Firefox on the network which is basically a security update or a new version is exactly the same. In both cases you have to repackage the application, test it and then release it via a distribution tool.

I do think it's good that they focus more on features instead of putting long term support on older Firefox releases. Firefox 7 is already geared towards removing the large momory footprint of Firefox. So why would anyone use anything before 7 when 7 comes out?

Version numbers have meaning

I see so many comments on here that version numbers are meaningless and going from 4 to 5 is the same as going from 3.6.14 to 3.6.15. It's not. The versioning scheme of using dots came about to help convey what had changed. Usually it carries this meaning

major . minor . bug fix

Major changes can include breaking changes, like file format incompatibility, now rendering engine, etc. Minor changes might be some new menu item or whatever else that doesn't have the chance of breaking compatibility with the previous version. Bug fixes are just that.

The advantage to this system is that you can reasonably expect to install a non-major version of a product and nothing will break. Minor and bug fixes can be auto installed. Major changes are like a big caution sign, you better look out before installing this one.

In my opinion, Chrome and now Firefox, have diluted version numbers to carry no meaning, you better watch out with every version they release. Since Firefox touts its customizibility with extensions they're going to hurt themselves, because every new release of the browser has the potential of breaking every extension you have installed. Big mistake Firefox, stop being envious of Chrome and do you own thing.

The Sea of Monkeys

For those who grew up with Netscape Navigator, the Mozilla project used to have a "Mozilla Suite" up to version ~1.8-ish.

I'm not sure what were the politics behind the change, but that has now become the "SeaMonkey Project". For those looking for the same codebase, but with smaller version numbers, I suggest you look into it.

for me the main attraction of Firefox is the addons ecosystem

That's why I keep it as my primary browser.

But now I wonder how extension developers will keep up with Mozilla.

One of my primary add-ons historically was FEBE. It last worked with FF 3.6.

By the time FEBE works with Firefox 4, oops Firefox 5, er, I mean Firefox 6 .... once that developer has finally caught up, I fear Mozilla will break FEBE again for another six months.

I had no complaints with the old release cycle at all. They could still incorporate cool ideas from Chromium without releasing every week.

I don't see any shame in Mozilla admitting this release cycle is not a one size fits all proposition and resuming a more relaxed pace.

Firefox and movement

It's hard to answer this question.

First of all, how do we objectively measure how fast Firefox is moving to begin with? And how quickly is too quickly? Without answers to these basic questions up front, I am loath to offer an answer and risk being wrong on the internet. I mean, when I look at Firefox sitting on my desktop right now, its speed appears to be 0mph. Is that too quick?

Does any body still care?

With plenty of excellent alternatives to using this old stalwart.

No its not moving too quickly, the faster it moves the sooner it will jump ahead of the curve again. (or die)
But the chances of it jumping ahead of any curves any-time soon, seem remote at best.

Skip (lots of) numbers!

If they're that desperate to catch up, then why not skip some numbers (i.e jump straight to firefox 12)? Slackware skipped a version

Bad move!

Not a good move! I can see it loosing a lot of business users. Compare to Linus simplifying the Linux version number, which IMHO is now on the system that provides all the information you need and is nice and simple. FF5 should be 4.1.

3.6

I am staying with 3.6 for now, no point in upgrading and then again and again every new version number. I get updates for 3.6 in my Ubuntu, no problem.

Oh no they are going to break my browser again.

Whenever FF updates on either my Win or Linux OS it changes my settings. That silly tabs on top stuff, the fugitive menu, broken addons cost me time re-configuring to get rid off all the whiz bang new features. Once a year I can put up with it, but once every six weeks and I'm gone.

Security Updates vs Feature Updates

When Firefox 5.0 came out, it could have been called 4.1, and it wouldn't have made any difference whatsoever. The numbers are irrelevant. When 3.6 came out, it was different than 4.0 to 5.0 because security updates were still available for 3.5. SLES 10 didn't go to 3.6 until security updates were no longer available for 3.5.

What enterprises need, and has been said plenty of times is a browser version that for two whole years will receive Security updates with no feature improvements. Enterprises need to know that security holes are being closed, but that the applications that work on browser a.b.x will still work on a.b.y for all y.

People at home don't need to understand or care about this. Furthermore, Enterprises are quite willing to pay for this guarantee of security releases.

I don't even care if we continue to use Firefox, but I want an open source browser that has security updates for 2 years. My company is willing to pay for it, and it is essential to our internal applications.

Releasing feature bundles every few months, and refusing to continue security updates for the previous (only 3 month old) version of the browser is what has enterprises up in arms.

Never seen Firefox in a corporation

It's always IE in hospitals...and usually ie 6. They just recently updated to IE 8. I only wish hey would use firefox.

The average person still uses what comes as the default, even if it sucks.

SeaMonkey Mozilla Browswer

SeaMonkey may be a great alternative to Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla, you're being stupid

I agree with a lot of people here. It's a little nutty.

In a corporate world, it's difficult to support an every-other-week-changing browser at a mass level.

Sure IE may not be as great, but SCCM lets you manage fixes and updates for it and Shavlik can help with other 3rd party applications; but when integer changes in software such as this occur, making other pieces of it fail such as plug-ins and etc, it gets to be a real pain for administrators to manage at mass. Even managing people with their questions such as "what happened to my firefox?".

Thanks for the free software, but no thanks. I once applauded your efforts, and it was great (like four months ago when 4.0 came out) but as someone else said here, you really are riding that "google envy" train and in my opinion, you shouldn't need to.

tu'xp fun on side by side systems

in transition to gnu/linux, with the comfort and constancy of the common denominator, mazilla products.

let everyone build up morale with the version numbers.

warp 9, anyone? steady as she goes...

Complete BS for Web Developers

The versioning is now completely ridiculous! As a web developer I have to test and guarantee functionality in a whole variety of browsers. The defacto standard and large proportion of Firefox users are still, understandably, on 3.6. Firefox 4 was only released on March 22 of THIS year... so 8 months later we have 4 extra browsers (after version 4) to test it in!!!

If 5, 6, 7, and 8 were actually 4.5, 4.6, 4.7 and 4.8 respectively then I would've only needed to test "4.8" as users are generally more inclined to install patch updates as opposed to full version upgrades.

Note: yes I realise there are websites that provide testing services, but they are not without their flaws and nothing beats using the actual browser to test it in.

Broken add-ons everywhere

I guess I was just terrified about the idea of frequent update breaking my add-ons every few weeks, and had to constantly switch to lesser alternatives to keep-up with its pace.

I've switched completely to chrome at home since the release of FF5, and still uses FF4 at office. Since anyway I was left with less features with little improvement, why not pick up the faster one?

It's sad that the once greatest assets of FF are becoming the burden of its marching, or the other way around.

I'm really surprised to see the version is already 8 now, and up to version 12 are on the way! Guess what, I used to be crazy about FF1 to FF2, FF2 to FF3, and FF3 to FF4, but I don't care about it anymore.

Only one example

I use the orbitdownloader download manager with a firefox add-on very useful in some situation.
But the new non-sense numbering scheme has disabled definitively the add-on (still to the 5.0 version). What is the reason of this insulse new numbering scheme. The reason is maybe to show that firefox is the most new browser? I have to maintain 25 computers with windows system and I guess I will live firefox definitively...

Regards

Mozilla has lost self-control

Mozilla is losing all self-control. Firefox updates are becoming extremely sloppy. Most recently, they broke Yahoo Messenger in Yahoo Mail. There workaround doesn't work because they entirely broke the feature. Worse, in their arrogance they denied it's a problem and there is evidence they started deleting posts.

This isn't engineering anymore, it's just throwing code at things, crossing their fingers and hoping it works. It's sloppy and entirely driven by ego.

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