Mozilla goes version number crazy

By June 2012 Mozilla wants Firefox 13 to be in the hands of users and version 16 available on the nightly channel.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Just when Mozilla was starting to see sense over the whole nonsense about removing the Firefox version number from the place where everyone on the planet expect to find it, we now get word that there will be a new Firefox version every six weeks until June 2012.

Asa Dotzler, Firefox Product Manager, posted this over on his blog:

Click to enlarge

So, by June 2012 Firefox will be on version 13 with version 16 being available on the nightly channel.

What's going to be in version 13? Who knows, because even Mozilla's own roadmap only goes up to version 10!

So Mozilla has a plan to release a browser but as yet has no idea what will be in that browser, meaning that it has no reason to plan it's release.

Whaaaaaa ... ????

Mitchell Baker, Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, tries to justify Mozilla's rapid release process in a post over on her blog:

Before Mozilla instituted the rapid release process, we would sometimes have new capabilities ready for nearly a year before we could deliver them to people. Web developers would have to wait that year to be able to make their applications better.

She does, however, acknowledge that there are difficulties that need resolving:

As my colleague Brendan is fond of saying, "There is no free lunch." This means we need to listen carefully to those who are experiencing difficulties. We need to be creative and try to find practical ways of alleviating these difficulties if we can. This is true for the enterprise use case, and it's true for the add-on experience. I know that's not a perfect answer, and it's not a promise that we can meet everyone's needs perfectly. Despite this, I believe the rapid release process is the right direction.

I really don't know what to make of this. The only explanation I have is that folks over at Mozilla have version number envy. Pushing this level of rapid development process (or rapid version number inflation, which is what I see it as) on users, developers and enterprise is just crazy. Sure, Mozilla has feature that it wants to push into the browser as fast as possible, but it's also pushing new bugs to replace the old, fixed, bugs. Most of the time the new bugs and features don't outweigh having the old bugs fixed. Most people are happy with having bug fixes drip-fed to them but don't want to have new features and interface changes forced upon them every few weeks (those that do want continuous updates opt for Google Chrome). It's also pushing out UI changes and updated rendering engines which cause hassles.

Another aspect that makes this version number race even more crazy/stupid/pathetic is that it extends well beyond the current roadmap ... it's version number bumping for the sake of version number bumping. Seriously, this makes no sense whatsoever. It seems like a crazy, frenzied release schedule that only benefits Mozilla's desire to get Firefox in double-digit version numbers.

Here's the deal ... I don't want the headache of an update every six weeks, especially is that extends out into mid 2012. Seriously. Maybe the best thing to do is wait until version 13 or 16 or whatever and hope that's a complete browser that Mozilla is happy with and we'll then have some stability. Alternatively, why doesn't Mozilla adopt a rolling release schedule but offer long term support for certain releases?

It seems to me that Mozilla has a case of bad version number envy and nothing - users, developers, enterprise - will get in the way of boosting the version numbers into the stratosphere. Just as with the whole debate about removing version numbers, Mozilla seems to have forgotten that a lot of people have come to use Firefox, and is now pushing ridiculous hassles onto users that offer no benefit to the user.

I'm glad that Chrome and Chromium exists and that IE9 is pretty decent, because it means that I no longer need to bother with Firefox.

Editorial standards