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.'
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