Firefox 4 and 7 to be released before 2011: Too much, too soon?

Summary:Mozilla will attempt, according to a draft roadmap, to bring out Firefox 4, 5, 6 and 7 by the end of this year. Is Mozilla really aiming to bring out four major browser versions or is it just 'fudging the numbers' to maintain competition?

A draft proposal for the Firefox roadmap shows that at least four versions of Firefox, one of the worlds most used browsers, will be released this year.

Firefox 4 will of course bring an entirely new user interface while catching up with rival browsers. Firefox 5 will include 64-bit support on Windows and improve the account manager. Firefox 6 will optimise JavaScript and support future versions of Mac OS X, improve HTML5 and CSS3 rendering, and Firefox 7 will break down operations into separate processes. The full roadmap can be found here.

But will Mozilla really bring out four new major versions of Firefox, or is it just fudging the numbers?

There is an argument that Mozilla are splitting down the development process either into traditional, much faster milestones, progressing from Firefox 4 to Firefox 7. Considering the previous versions, it has taken nearly 3 years to get from Firefox 3 to 4, though it took Microsoft nearly half a decade to get from Windows XP to Windows Vista.

These things take time, and most consumers are adjusted to a particular kind of lifecycle: major milestones are given different names and numbers, and minor revisions are split into numbered subdivisions.

Or, Mozilla is taking an entirely different approach and getting rid of the number subdivision like Firefox 3.1 to 3.2 and going with a 'major milestone' number each time instead. If so, consistency could be a problem to the end user, and seemingly upgrading to a brand new browser every quarter could be confusing and unsettling.

The fact of the matter is that people don't like change. Younger users in particular, tempted by newer, cleaner browsers like Chrome, might be persuaded to make that leap if they feel too much is changing too quickly.

Granted, some people enjoy a new operating system or a new version of a product to see the brand new shiny features and user interface. It can be clean, fresh and exciting. But then others complain on mass when a social network changes a layout or implements a new feature. There is seemingly no correlation and no way to determine what will work and what will not.

If Mozilla can get the balance right and not alienate the end user, then it can probably maintain what marketshare it has in the browsing arena.

Topics: Browser

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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