Mozilla considers slower release cycle for Firefox

Mozilla has proposed another system for releasing versions of the Firefox browser. Under the cycle, identified as the 'Extended Support Release', the cycle for unveiling new versions of the browser would become more suited to corporate environments. At present, new versions of Firefox (standard builds) are released every six weeks, and now they are suggesting change again, as CNET reports.

In June, the company experienced backlash from different businesses due to the nature of the release cycle. The company responded by working on a compromise, through a group known as the 'Enterprise Working Group'. The result of the group's work has been this proposal. With ESR, Mozilla wants to capture the developing markets of both home users and slower-moving users. In a corporate environment, software is generally tested before being pushed to all workstations on the network, and therefore, the current system used for Firefox presents issues. It has to be constantly tested for updates, and therefore, Mozilla does not want to lose the business sector of the market.

Mozilla are aware that they cannot afford to release builds too slowly, but they can also no longer release them at an extreme pace without some form of compromise. If they move too slowly, Google is in a prime position to push Chrome as an alternative. If they move too slowly, users could easily be swayed back to Microsoft's Internet Explorer, with the promise that the browser is becoming more modernized.

And yet, despite the backlash from businesses, some minds at Mozilla have suggested the possibility of an even faster release cycle. It seems likely that the browser updates will become 'silent', much like Google Chrome. The idea behind an even faster, silent cycle stems from the anger and confusion over version numbers. With a silent cycle, developers could immediately add new functionality instead of delaying it until the release date, which could be anywhere up to six weeks after.

On September 21st, Mozilla's Kev Needham made an official post about the changes, as well as the ESR. An excerpt of his post, justifying the reasoning for another cycle is below, while the post can be read in its entirety here.

Since moving to a faster release process, Mozilla understands that some organizations are facing challenges in deploying Mozilla products in a managed environment.

Mozilla has already attracted some heat for changing the manner in which it deploys updates, though this controversy seems to have grown less frequently discussed as more users grow accustomed to the new releases.

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42 Comments

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They should have stuck with the .x version releases like they did in the 3.x days. That seemed to work well. Enterprises are more likely to jump to version 10.5 for example rather then 11. To them 10.5 is just an update to version 10.3 that's currently being run and 11 is a major version jump. Even though they come with the same updates and not much other changes. Not to mention the extension breakage issues.

Golly gee! Someone with a functioning brain realized that "quality trumps quantity." Make damn sure that any update has been thoroughly tested, and doesn't break something that used to work.

Idiots at Firefox HQ, the solution you want is simple:
POINT releases each six-eight weeks if you feel so inclined to compete with Chrome /by copying what they do/, and Version releases each six months more or less to keep a nice pace to everyone including home users and enterprises.

They're idiots. Their ESR is that model except instead of incrementing by major version number they're simply cherry-picking a specific build for enterprise use. They could not insult enterprises any worse than this nonsense.

Nas, think for a second. Enterprises don't want frequent updates, other people do. So ... do both. I don't see how that 'insults' enterprise.

One of the reasons the update cycle works for Chrome is that it's so stealthy. People don't even realize that it's happening. Now, that in itself has a lot of issues for some users I'm sure, but the unobtrusiveness is the key. It's just one extra annoyance that Firefox has to have a popup announcement to update, and forces you to restart the browser.

Forget Firefox which can't even fix it memory leaks and create separate process for each tab to avoid whole browser crash when one tab hangs up, it's almost dead, Google Chrome FTW!

jackkk1 said,
Forget Firefox which can't even fix it memory leaks and create separate process for each tab to avoid whole browser crash when one tab hangs up, it's almost dead, Google Chrome FTW!
I'll consider Chrome again when they do away with the unnecessary update process they run at startup.

LordBattleBeard said,
I'll consider Chrome again when they do away with the unnecessary update process they run at startup.

Do they bother you with notifications or something? Have you changed something in configuration? For me all updates runs silently, i don't even notice when chrome or flash player updates to new version.

killbot13 said,
Too late Mozilla, I already jumped ship from all the updates. I was a huge fan but now I am on Chrome and loving it.

You jumped from one rapid release cycle to another xD Chrome is updated just as frequently

thealexweb said,

You jumped from one rapid release cycle to another xD Chrome is updated just as frequently

Yes but there is little to no issues with the rapid release on Chrome.

hagjohn said,
Yes but there is little to no issues with the rapid release on Chrome.

The only thing I can think of that's particularly different is the addon update situation, and it's not that bad on Firefox (and improving).

Funny since I said that this is one of the reasons firefox isnt attractive to businesses with a tequila shot in my hand

Remember, this is a proposal, not a plan set in stone.

Also, as far as I can tell, this doesn't affect the main release scheduling - only adds an alternative 'long term' version of the browser for enterprise support (such as 3.6 is currently acting).

Which, honestly, makes a lot of sense.

Sounds good for enterprise users. Personally, I think the only problem with a fast release cycle is extension compatibility. Some have a hard time keeping up with updating them to keep flagging them as compatible. (no, extensions to sidestep compatibility checks are no solution except for power users and enthusiasts)

This is more of a problem with the extension system than the release cycle.

IIRC, they're working on a plan to drop integrated version numbering from compatibility.

lunarworks said,
This is more of a problem with the extension system than the release cycle.

IIRC, they're working on a plan to drop integrated version numbering from compatibility.

Would make a lot more sense. I have addons running on FF9 Nightly without any issues or major incompatibilities. Popular apps like adblock make a strong effort to stay updated even ahead of the curve. But the main problem comes with the part-time devs that create apps to perform very specific functions and tend to break easy when the code changes.

The release cycle for Firefox was fine before then started trying to mimic Chrome. I like Firefox but if they continue ignoring the valid criticism people/businesses are putting out their then I won't hesitate in dropping them.

Kirkburn said,
So, they're ignoring them by ... looking at proposals like the very subject of this article? That makes no sense.
"And yet, despite the backlash from businesses, some minds at Mozilla have suggested the possibility of an even faster release cycle."
Read --> comment. Thats how it works, try it.

Stopped using FF as my main browser because of all extensions not working with every new release.FF now is more like extenion\plugin-less browser.

I've been a long time fan of FF but have been trying out Chrome for the past couple of weeks due to extensions always getting broke on updates and so far with chrome every update I've had for it I've not had a single problem with extensions not working

Also FF6 is a lot slower compared to chrome, but FF comes out on top for less memory usage!

RasterMan said,
I've been a long time fan of FF but have been trying out Chrome for the past couple of weeks due to extensions always getting broke on updates and so far with chrome every update I've had for it I've not had a single problem with extensions not working

Also FF6 is a lot slower compared to chrome, but FF comes out on top for less memory usage!


Chrome is great in that aspect, but you cannot match the absolute usefulness and completeness of FF addons functionality.

If FF6 is giving you good memory usage, wait until FF8 gets final release. They reduced memory usage by almost a third for me, and in FF9 they are still patching a new leak or optimizing the code every week.

Mozilla project manager: "I keep hearing... the... f*cking numbers!"

Heh, the guys screwed up with the new all-the-same release cycle and now they're about to screw it up even more by trying to set it straight. A few screws loose. But it didn't have to be this way.

Didn't the guy in charge basically say 'screw businesses', now he's backtracking because businesses are leaving firefox.
Since FF5 all I've noticed FF to be is crap, every update adds stupid new 'features' that just **** everyone off and breaks every extension, half the extensions I used the authors have said they can't be bothered to update to support firefox 6 if they've got to redo them all every time a new release comes out every 6 weeks, and I agree.

No, extension authors don't need to redo them each release. Six weeks means it's unlikely that addons will have issues unless they're *really* complex or unlucky. (Most addons can be, and are, automatically bumped each release)

Every 6 weeks?!!

No wonder they can't get it right!!

That's sarcasm people!!

I had no idea it was updated that often though.

cork1958 said,
Every 6 weeks?!!

No wonder they can't get it right!!

That's sarcasm people!!

I had no idea it was updated that often though.

The development is actually 12 weeks (afaik). By the time FF 4 gets released, FF5 is already halfway through the development cycle and FF 6 development is starting. When 5 is ready 6 is halfway finished and 7 is starting, and so on...

Kirkburn said,
LauRoman, no. It is six weeks. Each version moves from Nightly->Aurora->Beta->Release every six weeks.

Meh, my phone messed my post up.

Anyway, each version of Firefox goes through 18 weeks of development. It's the releases that are 6 weeks apart.

This makes sense and is like the way Ubuntu deals with releases, i.e one version is marked as extended support for X amount of years.
However, If Firefox really is serious about business environments then they need to start supporting the tools that Windows admins use to manage software. Namely they need to release an official MSI installer and group policy support.
Yes alternatives exist (and I have those deployed at work..) but until they do it officially businesses will ignore it