Mozilla to enterprise customers: "Drop dead"

The Mozilla Corporation shipped Firefox 5 this week, almost exactly three months after it shipped Firefox 4. New releases are due every six weeks. So what does Mozilla say to reassure enterprise customers who are worried about testing and deployment of Firefox? "Go away. We don't need you."
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

The Mozilla Corporation shipped Firefox 5 this week, almost exactly three months after it shipped Firefox 4.

Does that seem like an insane tempo? Ha! Fasten your seatbelts, because Mozilla plans to ship Firefox 6 in exactly six weeks, with Firefox 7 six weeks after that, and Firefox 8 … well, you get the idea. Not coincidentally, that release schedule perfectly matches up with browser archrival Google Chrome.

At that pace, in June 2014, a mere three years from now, Firefox will be on version 29.

If you’d prefer to opt out of that breakneck development cycle, Mozilla has some guidance for you: Fuggedaboutit.

Remarkably, that is Mozilla’s direct, uncensored response to its corporate partners.

If you are even considering migrating your business to Firefox, I strongly recommend you read two recent blog posts by consultant Mike Kaply.

Kaply, whose consulting company specializes in customizing Firefox for enterprises, calls the new rapid-release policy “a really bad idea.” The worst part is that with each new release, Mozilla is completely dropping support for the previous one.

Unlike consumers, who are thrilled at the chance to install new code every six weeks, enterprises crave stability:

Companies simply can’t turn around major browser updates in six weeks (and each one of these is a major update). With security releases, there was a reasonable expectation that web applications wouldn’t break as a result of changes. With these releases, there is no such expectation. So a full test cycle needs to be run with every release. By the time this cycle is completed and the browser is piloted and deployed, another version of Firefox would already be released so they’d already be behind.

In a follow-up post, Kaply quotes two fellow enterprise admins who are extremely worried about their ability to support Firefox.

So, has Mozilla reached out to Kaply to reassure him that they’ve got his back? No. In fact, Firefox evangelist Asa Dotzler showed up in the comments of Kaply’s post to tell him, bluntly, that he can expect zero support:

Mike, you do realize that we get about 2 million Firefox downloads per day from regular user types, right? Your “big numbers” here are 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.

Some 14 hours later, after Kaply argues that Mozilla should “throw a few resources at [the problem] and try to solve it,” Dotzler doubles down:

A minute spent making a corporate user happy can better be spent making many regular users happy. I’d much rather Mozilla spending its limited resources looking out for the billions of users that don’t have enterprise support systems already taking care of them.

You hear that, enterprise admins? You don’t count, and Mozilla has no intention of supporting your extensive investments in testing browser releases before deployment. And if you think that’s just a misunderstanding, Dotzler wants to make it very, very clear that Mozilla is serious:

As for John’s concern, “By the time I validate Firefox 5, what guarantee would I have that Firefox 5 won’t go EOL [end of life] 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.

Back in March, when Firefox 4 was released, I looked at the browser space and concluded that Microsoft and Google were in a superb position to squeeze Firefox into irrelevance.

I didn’t count on Mozilla actively participating in its own annihilation.

In a world that will increasingly be defined by HTML5 apps, providing a stable channel for businesses is crucial. The response from other enterprise-focused customers in that thread is scathing.

Meanwhile, I hear maniacal laughter and sighs of relief coming out of Redmond, where Internet Explorer has just solidified its once-shaky position at the top of the enterprise heap.

Update: As of June 24, 2011, less than six weeks before the scheduled release of Firefox 5, this is the published product roadmap for that release:

  • TBD
  • TBD
  • TBD
  • ...anything that improves responsiveness and is ready
  • ...anything that improves stability and is ready
  • ...anything that polishes the user interface and is ready
  • ...anything else serving product priorities and is ready

That's also the "roadmap" for versions 6 and 7, both due before the end of the year. If you're developing on the Mozilla platform, is that enough information for you?


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