Enterprise deployments have never been a key market for Firefox, Mozilla's director of the browser, Asa Dotzler, has said.
Dotzler's comments were made on Thursday, in response to criticism from IT managers who said the newly accelerated Firefox release schedule was causing problems for businesses trying to keep up with the rapid pace of the browser's development. Firefox 5 launched on Wednesday, just three months after the release of Firefox 4.
"We get about two million Firefox downloads per day from regular user types," Dotzler wrote, describing enterprise downloads as "really just a drop in the bucket, fractions of fractions of a percent of our user base".
"Enterprise has never been — and I'll argue, shouldn't be — a focus of ours. Until we run out of people who don't have sysadmins and enterprise deployment teams looking out for them, I can't imagine why we'd focus at all on the kinds of environments you care so much about," Dotzler continued.
The comments were made in response to a blog post from browser and web consultant Mike Kaply, who said developers welcomed the new release schedule, but it was making life difficult for organisations.
Kaply argued that companies "simply can't" work with major browser updates every six weeks, and that there was no longer a reasonable expectation that the updates would not break web apps, as had been the case with Mozilla's old system of security updates.
His opinions were echoed by those of John Walicki, the man in charge of deploying Firefox to 500,000 IBM employees. Walicki said he had worked with teams of people for several months preparing for the upgrade from Firefox 3.6 to 4.01 in the third quarter of 2011, but that the decision to end support for Firefox 4 with the launch of Firefox 5 is a major setback.
"The Firefox 4 EOL [end-of-life] is a kick in the stomach. I'm now in the terrible position of choosing to deploy a Firefox 4 release with potentially unpatched vulnerabilities, reset the test cycle for thousands of internal apps to validate Firefox 5 or stay on a patched Firefox 3.6.x.," Walicki wrote on Kaply's blog. "By the time I validate Firefox 5, what guarantee would I have that Firefox 5 won't go EOL when Firefox 6 is released?"
The Firefox 4 EOL [end-of-life] is a kick in the stomach.– John Walicki, IBM
In response to Walicki's worries about end-of-life support, Dotzler posted an unequivocal response.
"As for John's concern, 'by the time I validate Firefox 5, what guarantee would I have that Firefox 5 won't go EOL when Firefox 6 is released?' He has the opposite of guarantees that won't happen. He has my promise that it will happen. Firefox 6 will be the EOL of Firefox 5. And Firefox 7 will be the EOL for Firefox 6," Dotzler wrote.
Kev Needham, channel manager for Firefox, told ZDNet UK on Friday that the company's official position did not contradict Dotzler's comments. He said that, while Mozilla recognised the schedule may cause problems for companies with "effort-intensive certification policies", Mozilla is "geared toward delivering products that support the web as it is today".
Quick to jump into the fray, Ari Bixhorn, a member of the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft, posted an open letter to Walicki on his blog. In it, he encouraged IBM to migrate back to Internet Explorer as "enterprises have always been, and will always be, an important focus" for Microsoft, and the company will "support each version of Internet Explorer as long as the latest version of Windows that it runs on is supported".
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