Firefox offers slower release cycle for business

23 Sep 2011

Mozilla looks to make it easier for businesses to use Firefox

Mozilla has unveiled plans to slow down its release schedule to help out businesses.

The Firefox maker sped up its release cycle to six-weekly iterations, following the lead of Google's Chrome, earlier this year.

The move sparked complaints from business users, who found it difficult to keep up and had problems with the version they were on reaching end-of-life and no longer getting security updates.

That wasn't helped by Mozilla community coordinator Asa Dotzler saying: "A minute spent making a corporate user happy can better be spent making many regular users happy."

Over time, and ESR will be less secure than the regular release of Firefox

The situation highlighted the difference between corporate user, that need longer to upgrade, and consumers.

"These groups — which include small & medium business, enterprise, academic, and government — want to continue to offer Mozilla products to their users, but they need a version of Firefox that gives them a longer support tail than what we currently offer," Mozilla said.

In response, the open-source development group started the Mozilla Enterprise User Working Group. Just a few weeks in, and it's already looking at creating an extended release cycle.

Essentially, business users would use an "Extended Support Release" version, which would be maintained for seven standard update cycles, meaning corporate users would only have to upgrade once every 42 weeks.

At that point, there would be a two cycle overlap between the new version and the old one before it is killed off, giving companies 12 weeks to sort out their upgrades.

ESR plans

If all goes to plan, the first ESR will arrive with Firefox 8 or 9. Companies that don't like the plan won't be left with any other options, however, as Firefox 3.6 - which is still being supported - will be moved to end of life after the first ESR, so corporate users must move to the new system.

Security problems

The solution fixes some problems, but raises others - notably in security.

"The ESR will not have the benefit of large scale testing by nightly and beta groups," Mozilla warned. "As a result, the potential for the introduction of bugs which affect ESR users will be greater, and that risk needs to be understood and accepted by groups that deploy it."

Mozilla said it would encourage organisations to help out by getting involved with testing the ESR.

"Over time, and ESR will be less secure than the regular release of Firefox, as new functionality will not be added at the same pace as Firefox, and only high-risk/impact security patches will be backported," Mozilla added. "It is important that organisations deploying this software understand and accept this."

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