Firefox 3.7 dumped in favour of feature updates

Firefox

Mozilla has revamped its development schedule, dumping minor releases in favour of feature updates

Mozilla has dumped Firefox 3.7 from the release schedule, replacing it with regular features updates for version 3.6 of the browser.

Under its original plans, Mozilla would roll out Firefox 3.6 and 3.7 over the course of 2009, each bringing minor improvements to the browser. However, a steady stream of delays to Firefox 3.6 has rendered that goal unobtainable, forcing Mozilla to rethink its release.

As a result, Firefox 3.7 has been dropped and will be replaced with feature updates for Firefox 3.6 that will be rolled out with security updates. This should free up the team to work on the next major release, Firefox 4, slated for the last quarter of 2010, which is expected to follow the same development process.

I'm proud of how we challenged ourselves. We learned an awful lot about what slows down our schedule, and that will help us plan future releases

The first of the updates for Firefox 3.6 will be the separation of plug-in processes - such as Adobe's Flash - from the browser, which the foundation has been working on as part of its Electrolysis project. A similar technology is used in Google's Chrome, and prevents a single site from crashing the entire browser.

While the strategy of pushing out smaller Firefox releases over the course of the year may have failed, the company maintains that it was an experiment worth trying.

"I'm proud of how we challenged ourselves," Mike Beltzner, director of Firefox, told ComputerWorld. "We learned an awful lot about what slows down our schedule, and that will help us plan future releases."

"This will be a huge advantage to users. We were thinking earlier that the first time we would be able to add [plug-in separation] would be 3.7 in the middle of the year. But the change we need to make is very isolated, and has no effect on Web compatibility or add-on compatibility or on the user experience. So we thought, 'Why not deliver it as part of a minor update?'" He concluded.

Despite this, Beltzner maintains that significant changes to the browser - such as the interface overhaul planned for Firefox 4 - will remain the province of major launches.

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