Mozilla moving towards 'transparent' Firefox versioning

Mozilla moving towards 'transparent' Firefox versioning

Summary: One of Mozilla's ideas for giving Firefox a leg-up against Chrome is to make version numbering less of an issue.

TOPICS: Browser, Google

Mozilla has outlined its plans for Firefox in 2012, and one of the plans on the table is for version numbering to become more 'transparent.'

Mozilla is currently locked in a battle with Google for the number two spot in terms of market share. One of the companies ideas for giving Firefox a leg-up against Chrome is to make version numbering less of an issue, moving away from 'Firefox X.x' and instead just thinking of the browser as just 'Firefox.'

Robert Nyman, technical evangelist for Mozilla, has the details:

Version numbers will play a lesser and lesser role for users, but they will still matter to web developers, IT administrators and similar. The reason for having major version number bumps (e.g. version 6 to 7, 7 to 8, etc) is that new versions have had cases of non-backward compatible APIs, and the version number have been there to signal that it is not a minor release or maintenance update.

From a branding perspective, it will likely more go into being just Firefox, and that versioning will be more transparent.

Sounds familiar? It should do, because this is a similar strategy to that employed by Google with its Chrome browser. Chrome is Chrome, and while version numbers are there available to those who want them, I'm certain that most Chrome users don't know and don't care about what version they are running.

It's not just transparent versioning that Mozilla wants to copy from the Google Chrome playbook. The company also wants to introduce silent updating.

To cater to update fatigue, updates will now be downloaded and installed silently in the background. It means that startup and shutdown of the web browser won't be affected by installation routines. Additionally, the What's New page displayed after an update can now be displayed depending if there is important information needed to be displayed to the end user. Silent updates are currently planned to land in Firefox 13.

Another issue that Mozilla wants to tackle is add-on compatibility. One of the biggest problems with updating Firefox is that is that add-ons can break or stop working until they are updated by the developer, and then updated in Firefox by the end user.

Most issues with add-ons are purely down to how they are coded for browser version numbers and essentially there's nothing wrong with running the add-on in a later version of Firefox. Starting with Firefox 10, all add-ons that were compatible with Firefox 4 of higher will be enabled by default in Firefox, reducing the scope for problems for the end user. This should help make updating the browser (especially if it is going to happen in the background) less painful.

Full details of what Mozilla have planned are available in the roadmap document. There are some interesting ideas outlined in there, such as:

  • Proof of concept for Firefox in Windows 8 Metro
  • Automatic Session Restore with Tabs on Demand
  • Next generation JavaScript engine codenamed IonMonkey
  • Built-in PDF viewer
  • Search hijack prevention

Lots of interesting stuff in the pipeline.

Image credit: Mozilla.


Topics: Browser, Google

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  • No no no!

    Not another program that's going to go around UAC? Microsoft implemented UAC so we knew as users that something wants to modify the system protected files, directories and/or registry entries.

    I like to confirm that I install something. Please MS stop applications from going around UAC!!!!

    That was why I uninstalled Chrome from my machine, I want to know what is being installed!
    • I don't get it

      Do you turn off Windows Automated Updates as well?
      Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Do you turn off Windows Automated Updates as well?

        Well, if you had a Windows Update that `bricked` a machine in a business, and someone standing around playing `pocket pool` because they could not get any work done; that answer would be [b]YES!!!![/b]

        I don't need my boss screaming about `losing money` because the computers don't [b]work.[/b] Updates can be scheduled when we are not busy.
      • If Firefox bricks your system with an update

        well... there's likely something else really wrong with your computer.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • What kind of a stupid question is that?

        [i]Do you turn off Windows Automated Updates as well?[/i]

        What kind of a stupid question is that? Did he say he wanted WAU turned off?

    • It won't mess with the system

      They will either run from %appdata% (your user profile) or use a custom system service just for updating it.
    • Don't have to use auto-update

      Firefox lets you turn off auto-update, or set it to just tell you when an update is available (which is the setting I use). I'm running a Nightly development build, which has the silent updater, but it does nothing the way I've got it configured.

      Not hard to change this setting - click Options > Advanced > Update and check the appropriate box.
    • Agreed

      Agreed. I can't say a Firefox UAC prompt once every 4-6 weeks is remotely annoying. It's not as if it appears every day.

      That said, I cannot think of any reason I wouldn't want to keep my Firefox installation up to date.

      The trouble is though, that people will just click No on the update. For the average user, silent auto-updates are best.
  • Hi

    Version numbers had never been an issue.
    DUH !

    I absolutely refused to follow all the recent Firefox mad rush and reckless updating of version numbers.

    That is why I am still at FF version 4.01.

    If your program is truly solid and good. The version numbers are secondary and not important.

    • I don't understand...

      ...why people stick to version 4.0 and not update. The later versions fix bugs, security holes, and add HTML5/CSS3 compliance. Barring some cannot-live-without add-on that doesn't work with a later version, why wouldn't you update? I don't understand people who refuse to update for the sake of refusing to update. Can you at least provide a reasonable, logical reason?
  • Firefox numbering system

    I personally like the numbering system, since you can avoid the updates if they threaten to disable one of you favorite add ons. On some of my versions of FF, I have the Google Toolbar, but on my main one, it disappeared in a recent update. Why they would want to disable a toolbar that so many people have installed and count on defies my logic. I am getting frustrated by Mozilla's hurry up Offense that leaves holes in the product. The Calender program for Thunderbird supposedly updates, but rather than just turning Thunderbird off and then on again, if you want to calender to work, you have to turn the system off and turn it back on. This is the kind of thing that happens when you are in too much of a hurry and don't have the manpower to do it right.
  • Great job on the research

    The information that you quoted and based your article on is old. Quite old in fact.
    Mozilla stopped promoting Firefox with version numbers a while ago.
    I believe when 4.0 was released.
    Didn't you see the large text after the paragraph that you quoted?
    "Firefox in 2012"

    "Sounds familiar? It should do, because this is a similar strategy to that employed by Google with its Chrome browser."
    "It???s not just transparent versioning that Mozilla wants to copy from the Google Chrome playbook. "

    All browser makers get ideas from each other, however, and you should research this, many features that Chrome has were initially planned for Firefox, and created by Mozilla but Google got them out quicker so perhaps rapid release isn't such a bad thing after all is it?
    Plus, Mozilla works in the open for all to see and benefit from. Like Chrome has.

    "Starting with Firefox 10, all add-ons that were compatible with Firefox 4 of higher will be enabled by default"

    That too is old news. We're at Firefox 11.

    By the way, what exactly does "It should do" mean.

    I wouldn't have taken the time to shred your article apart if you had been a little kinder, and, I figured that you really needed the help.

    ZDNet authors sure like to try and make Firefox and Mozilla look weak.
    I only come here to set the record straight. Otherwise, I don't bother anymore.
    Too bad too, it was once a really great site. I loved it.
    Ken Saunders
  • Problem with Firefox updates

    While it is good that Mozilla is working to keep Firefox up to date by developing security and performance improvements, they come at a potentially significant cost.

    Mozilla does not do a good job of working cooperatively with IT security companies in order to ensure the continued compatibility of Firefox with security programs. One case in point: Mozilla has done a very poor job of cooperating with Symantec on making sure that Norton security features continue to be compatible with new versions of Firefox, or that Norton can develop updates to provide new versions of their security features to be compatible with new versions of Firefox. As a result, users with current versions of Firefox can no longer use the Identity Safe feature of Norton security products.

    Mozilla has also done a poor job of coordinating with the developers of popular add-ons developed specifically for Firefox so that the add-ons will continue to function with new versions of Firefox. For example, the Better Privacy add-on, a very widely used add-on which is one of the reasons users prefer Firefox to other browsers, no longer functions with the newest update to Firefox.

    Personally, I prefer Firefox to other browsers. I appreciate Mozilla's efforts to keep Firefox up to date. I just wish that their updates didn't disable IT security features and add-ons quite so often.