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Mozilla: Firefox 4 will be our last big release


By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 28 Feb 2011 at 15:17

Mozilla will copy Google's frequent browser updates, pushing out features when they're ready rather than wait for big releases, executives said today.

Last year, Google announced Chrome would be updated every six weeks, regardless of whether major changes were being rolled out.

Earlier this month, Mozilla's own roadmap promised Firefox would hit version 7 by the end of the year.

"This [Firefox 4] is the last big release we're going to do," Jay Sullivan, vice president of product at Mozilla, told PC Pro. "We are going to do smaller, quicker releases."

What we want to do is get the power into users' hands more quickly

"What we want to do is get the power into users' hands more quickly," he said. "For example, the video tag was shippable in June - we should have shipped it. Meanwhile, we're waiting for this whole package. Why wouldn't we ship the video tag when it's ready?"

"We're moving on web time now, and we've been shipping a little bit on desktop time," he admitted. "It's not necessary, so we're undergoing some process changes, and we'll do smaller bundles more quickly."

More betas for Firefox

That process change is also why Firefox 4 has had 12 betas ahead of the release candidate, which is expected to arrive within weeks.

"We changed the way we do betas," Sullivan said. "We used to do three or four big betas, now we do betas every three weeks. The number sounds big, but why is there Chrome 9? Because they do fewer features but more releases. So we did fewer features per beta, but more betas. The number's not that meaningful."

Despite missing an expected November delivery, he said Firefox 4 hadn't been in development for all that long.

"I don't think it's taken a long time," he said. "We set out what Firefox 4 was in May of 2010, and did our first beta in July, and have been going from there."

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User comments

Good Move

I'm no fan of Google whose approach often seems to be de-stabilising other players rather than ever delivering a final product, but the regular incremental update is a great way to go.

This approach has some limitations when it comes to delivering a major upgrade (you can't do a major update incrementally!)

By wittgenfrog on 28 Feb 2011

LTS Release

they could do with an Long Term Service Release like ubuntu then for those of us who move at desktop pace and IT departments who need a more stable release to roll out can opt for that one. otherwise you won't know when to put your stake in the ground.

By SimonCorlett on 28 Feb 2011


(Particularly in response to wittgenfrog).

For all Google's "Beta" tags, I have rarely experienced issues, but primarily cutting edge features not available elsewhere - so why shouldn't they destabilise others?. If their "Beta" products are this good, why do they need to release a "final" one?

By halsteadk on 28 Feb 2011

LTS stands for Long Term Support.

By Lestibournes on 1 Mar 2011

How will this affect add-on/plug-in support?

With their previous releases I'd end up with 4-6 that weren't compatible with the new iteration and had to wait a couple of weeks for them to be updated.

By Phoomeister on 1 Mar 2011


Why do IT departments need an LTS release? The normal argument is that it is easier to support a single version, but auto update solves that.

By tirons1 on 1 Mar 2011


you may allow your PC's to run auto update but at enterprise level and in some medium sized business's with a proper IT policy and locked down machines auto update is not allowed. what happens if an update stops an internal system working as it should. granted the internal system may be badly written but it was working before. updates need to be tested and lists need to be checked off before rolling out into a live environment.

This is one of the reasons I.E. still has a large user base.

By SimonCorlett on 1 Mar 2011

@SimonCorlett - It's also one of the reasons why IE*6* still has such a large user base!

By halsteadk on 1 Mar 2011

You're not kidding

I work for a very large technology-based corp and, when one

By Throbinevans on 1 Mar 2011

Oooops, fat fingers. Carrying on....

When one of the corporate IT types visited my tech office the other day and came across a load of our development boxes running Chrome, IE9 Beta and (shock horror) Win7, his brains nearly jumped out of his ears. After some smelling salts, a nice cuppa and an explanation that the machines weren't on the corp network, but on our own fat pipe used for customer demos, he got his pulse back down to 200bpm.

By Throbinevans on 1 Mar 2011

Better security

Perhaps this means Firefox will keep pace with Chromes faster response to security threats too.

Secuina scans all last year showed Chrome to be most fleet of foot in this regard by weeks in some cases.

Overall though this seems to be a response to IE9 and Mozilla trying to re-focus toward staying well ahead. It makes sense because MS / IE tend to be tied to the longer LTS release principle.

By Gindylow on 3 Mar 2011


I think MS's old formula is so tiresome and clunky, it deserves to be relegated to history: why must we re-learn how to use our browsers every time MS feels a need to look fresh and new? Frankly it’s a pain, all this shuffling the buttons around, for the sake of looking new. I hate it frankly, and the majority of user do - I suspect. Hurrah Google for thinking “convenience” par excellence.

By Steve_long on 6 Mar 2011

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