Firefox’ rapid-release cycle needs to die

August 16, 2011

The rapid-release cycle Firefox is now on is pathetic. Please Mozilla, kill it now and put things back to the way they were.

Mozilla has released Firefox 6.0 today, just a month and a half after it released Firefox 5.0, which arrived barely three months after Firefox 4.0 dropped. This is all due to Mozilla switching to a rapid release development cycle which will see a new version of Firefox released every six weeks or so.

Ramping up the versions this quickly is utterly pointless. Firefox 6.0 contains very few new features, and none which the majority of users will notice. Instead, the 1,300 changes in the new release are mostly bug fixes which could have been quietly released without the fanfare of a whole new release with a flashing neon 6.0 trumpeting its arrival. This would be like Microsoft renaming Windows every time it released a bunch of patches. And we’d be using Windows 1,683 instead of Windows 7.

The decision to make the switch was taken in order to keep up with Google Chrome, which is already up to Version 15 despite being just a couple of years old. But Firefox has always been a leader, an adventurer, a product setting the tone rather than following a trend. And copying Mozilla seems both pointless and a little sad.

The problem is that Google Chrome has unseated Firefox as the newcomer that everyone wants to see do well. In the same way that Apple is now essentially Microsoft in all but name, Firefox is Internet Explorer; set in its ways and willing to conform rather than confront. Chrome has built a healthy market share, and Mozilla is panicking.

I’m still an avid Firefox user and intend to carry on being so for the time being. But if innovation is abandoned and replaced with imitation I may have to reconsider. And join the throng of people making the switch to Chrome. Or, God forbid, revert back to using Internet Explorer. Still, at least I’m not dumb enough to still use IE6.

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15 Responses to “Firefox’ rapid-release cycle needs to die”

  1. john.:

    “The rapid-release cycle Firefox is now on is pathetic. Please Mozilla, kill it now and put things back to the way they were.” Thank you Dave, this just what I want to say.I don’t understand why firefox need to follow the speed steps of google chrome.The new version always make part of my add-ons incompatible. I use Avant browser more and more now.

  2. Omar:

    I’m not on board with this rapid release cycle either. Firefox is still a developer’s browser and it will continue to be. They just have to remember where they came from instead of where everyone’s going.

  3. Mike:

    I agree with john. Every time they release a new version, half my add-ons stop working. This means that half my add-ons don’t work most of the time, as the developers are trying to play catch-up.

    It’s a damn nuisance, and I’m thinking of switching away from Firefox to Safari or Chrome.

    (Is there another browser that supports add-ons?)

  4. James:

    I second you all. I’m typically very cautious around major releases, and seeing v6 come out just a month after v5 is simply annoying and confusing.

    Not to mention Firebug and several other plugins just stopped working as a result. Big problem and a big fail from the firefox team.

  5. gm:

    I find updatinything on my computer is an unnecessary chore. Just dong some more than your competitor doesn’t make your product better.

  6. Mary:

    Honestly, why are you complaining about something as trivial as *version numbers*? Why write an entire *article* about this? I think it is wonderful that Mozilla is fully utilizing all its teams, and that we users are able to get these browser improvements even sooner than before! Would you prefer the Windows cycle, where a new product comes out every 2 years, is already out of date, and many of the teams are idle for most of the dev cycle? You can’t test a product that hasn’t been coded yet, you can’t test software that hasn’t been coded yet – these guys are just sitting around twiddling their thumbs, or taking vacation.

    Parallelizing is a wonderful thing. You can get results into the wild, where you can start fixing all those little bugs that only manifest themselves with millions of users.

    Oh, also, for you crotchety old users complaining about add-on compatibility – look! Rapid release means you only have to wait another month for all these problems to be fixed :)

    Sheesh. Live in the present already.

  7. Lewis:

    It’s not only that they do not want to lose market share to chrome, but rather they want to follow the same idiotic path which is a mind game actually of releasing a new version very quickly. The mind game is, to say: hey I am chrome 15. Safari you are on what? 5, wow you are already inferior. It’s a mind game that firefox feels like they must follow to “keep up” with chrome. I guess google does like to play mind games :-) Here’s one for you- ill not be the idiot and think you are so weak. Google stop playing the I am a good, open source, small guy card! Its not working… On another note, have a good day people! :-)

  8. Lewis:

    Oh and Mary that would be sweet if it actually helped a ton, but there are always things they can make like schedules. It’s mostly a mind tactic! It makes an illusion mostly. Don’t buy it from anyone!

  9. Myles:

    What I don’t get is why are they whole round numbers for every release? what happened to FF4.1, 4.2 etc? Is that now too geeky sounding for the common populace? I love that FF is keeping up to date faster. Yes we have seen FF 5.1 etc., but that’s the only decimal they use is .1 then they move to the next round number… its too much!!

  10. Scarey:

    I think it’s rather ridiculous that Firefox is emulating Chrome. I got irritated with the “features” in the newer Firefox versions, and decided to see what Chrome was like. I realized that all the new c4rap I hated in the new Firefox was taken from Chrome. Still, Firefox has nothing to worry about… Until they decide to open each tab in a new process (who thought this would be a good idea on any windows machine?). Then I’ll just switch to Opera, because it will be the only moderately non-infuriating browser left.

  11. hendoc:

    Half of my add ons won’t work because they can’t keep up with the new cycle. The add ons are why I use Firefox. Without them, I may as well use Google Chrome.

  12. John:

    Hear, hear. I use firefox for the extensions as well. tried chrome, but hated it. Let’s stop all the bull, mozilla!

  13. new music hip hop:

    I’m extremely impressed with your writing talents as neatly as with the format on your blog. Is that this a paid subject matter or did you modify it your self? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it?s rare to see a nice weblog like this one today..

  14. ginga:

    …think out of the box try Opera, it has add on’s blah d blah…

  15. James:

    The rapid release cycle is annoying and obnoxious. I too use Firefox because of the extensions, and half of them are broken at any given point now. I don’t blame extension developers who don’t feel like updating their creation every few weeks.

    Despite the risks, the constant updates annoyed me to the point that I disabled updating entirely. The additional security fixes are not worth the aggravation.

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