Firefox 4, 5, 6 … that’s too fast

It didn’t take long: Just 60 days after the release of version 4 Firefox 5 is available for download since yesterday. There aren’t many obvious changes for the “ordinary” web user, but for us web-designers the inclusion of CSS3 animations is really big news. This will undoubtedly be the impetus for a wide-spread use of this technique – be it good or bad.

As much as I welcome these fast updates as much I think that this is not the right way to do it for Mozilla. Firefox users are used to the fact that they get a big update with every version number. But this time that didn’t happen. If you aren’t explicitly aware of the changes you really won’t notice them. So where is the benefit for someone who uses Firefox to just browse the web and nothing else? Equal to zero. And if I am this user I ask myself why I should update to Firefox 5 now, or Firefox 6 in three month (which is the promoted period between new versions)? I would not do it.

However things are quite different at the inventor of this “rapid-release-model” called Chrome. People are accustomed to these steady, often only minor, updates there. But the true success lies within the auto-update functionality. If you want users to update a product you have to do it for them. Just proclaiming “hey, Firefox 5 is here, please download it (and oh, by the way, you won’t notice any difference)” isn’t enough. Besides that I even didn’t get a notice in Firefox 4 that there is a new version available.

So, if Mozilla is really serious about this “rapid-release-model” they either have to switch on auto-update by default or go back to point numbers at the the version numbers. Because else nobody will care about it. Maybe to provide an obvious benefit for users to update is also a way, but that won’t happen every three month. I am really curious where this will lead to. Hopefully Mozilla will not face plant it.

  • alain

    Totally agree with that !
    The automatic update should come along with the new version policy !
    Otherwise they will create their own fragmentation ! That’s bad.

  • Dan

    I agree too. So, in 4 years will these browsers be version 100? Doesn’t that seem odd?

    • Vasco

      A new version every 3 months means 4 (or 3, depends) increases a year. In 4 years, we’ll be in version 21 or 22.

      Anyway, I got your point. It seems odd anyhow.

  • Herit Shah

    well the thing at mozilla currently is that, since several years they were highly slow in version numbers, like from FF 3.2 to 3.5 and 3.6 took almost months!!
    and later they realized that other browsers are reaching a reasonable mark of version 10 and more so its being too cheesy and slow in incrementing version numbers. they should actually release 3.2 to 3.3 directly instead of 3.2.1.

    so when they finally got this point, they thought of reaching to version 7 by this sept-oct, and then they will slow down this rapid upgradation and make things normal. so it was just a temporary boost to reach version 7 and setting things to normal.
    Source: Discussion with Mozilla developers. (Mark, Dave, etc…)

    • Christian Krammer

      Thanks for the info. Do you have a link or a source for that?

    • Jojo

      I had thought that this was probably the case, but now it is kind of unreasonable. 16.0.1? really? thats to big, I hope they change there update style soon.

  • Matt

    Not only is the change in major versions unnecessary and just a marketing ploy, it affects all the add-ons since they have to rebuild the extension everytime a major new version is released. For some extensions this takes a while and as a result the “major upgrade” is more of an annoyance than a welcome change.

    • cmon

      yes i agree: it affects all the add-ons since they have to rebuild the extension everytime a major new version is released.

      i use foxytunes and takes 3 months for the developer to update so i cannot use firefox any longer so i am using chrome instead with yahoo media player addon … sad

  • Michel

    Firefox 6 crashes 500% more than Firefox 5. It’s so unstable I had to finally in-install it, and then revert to FF 5.0.1… now things are much better.

    I’ll wait for FF 6.0.1 or 6.0.2 before trying latest Firefox again.

    Fast development is not always quality development, and latest builds of Firefox (which look like beta releases, not stable versions) prove that…

    Big fan of the orange fox, but really, they should do things well, not fast. (Chrome developers are funny, on the other hand… new major release every couple of weeks. That’s not the proper way to do things, either. If Microsoft did things the same way we’d be at Windows 143 or 166 today, and not at Win7 SP1…)

    • David

      And 1000% more than 3.6, without sounding like a philistine!! Having finally upgraded to 5 after much ridicule from my coworkers, FF6 pops up nanoseconds after I finish my install so I bumped straight to that…and locks up more than I’d care to mention!

      Its not so much a great shame to water down the browser version numbers with three ‘major’ in the space of a year as it is to confuse techies and consumers alike with what the final ‘best’ version number is. Fork your development if you need agnostic platforms for improvements.

      Bigger Number != Better Version

  • John

    A very interesting blog and comment thread…. It seems Firefox was playing the marketing game in all this, without thinking about more important issues like stability and add-on compatibility. I’m going to wait a while before I bother with FF6. Let’em hammer out their problems on their own time, LOL.

  • Siju George

    I too share the same opinion. Major victims of this Firefox movement is the IT departments where admins need to check compatibility of inhouse software with every Firefox versions plus the security problems.

  • JoJo

    It’s definitely a marketing scheme. Internet Explorer is v9, FF is v5, so IE must be better! That is likely the logic of the dumb users out there. FF v7 just released! Crazy. I see them getting up to match the version number of IE and then keeping pace with them.

  • Brandon

    A great alternative to Mozilla FireFox would be Mozilla SeaMonkey. It releases at a reasonable rate.

  • Adrian

    I’m fed up with changing versions all time, besides firefox behavior has been worst since its update to version 5. I don’t know if someone else has experimented that firefox hangs when you have some tabs or you load a heavy page. Unfortunately I will have to change to Chrome, they are offering a better browser!

  • Luan

    It’s my head or Firefox crashes the container flash more often?

    Christian Kramer, you’re very good at it :D!

  • Man

    Sweet, now it’s version 8.

  • bbq

    Sweeter! Now it’s version 9.

  • bbq

    I think they gradually will use 10, 20, 30… to name the version

    • Christian Krammer

      I think they will stop to use versions numbers shortly – at least that’s what I have read. Otherwise this whole issue will become ridiculous in no time.

  • The French Marketer

    So it took 5 years to go from version 2.0 to 3.6…
    and then in less than one year – 2011 – we’ve blasted from 4.0 to 9.0 ?

    If they keep up the pace (or even accelerate… why not ?), it’s going to be very funny anytime now…

    And in the meanwhile, I still can’t get more than 3 or so large flash objects to display before the Flash container checks out altogether (brand new computer)… ridiculous.


  • Otavio Petry

    It’s already ridiculous!
    Now we’ve got version 11.0, and the browser it’s getting slower…
    Still the best browser for developers, but to use it for general purposes, you’ve got to be a huge fan!

  • Venkata Haranath Yakkali

    I landed this page after google search , firefox rapid updates, i was curious why is firefox updating so fast….any how i moved to chrome from firefox, which is faster and had addons like firefox.

  • Nomad

    Now version 16!! this is really ridiculous. monkey fox

  • Jacob Gregory

    Yea i agree it is pretty bad at the moment. By the end of 2012 they plan to be over version 20… What is with that?!?!

    Check out this official wiki link for FF…

    Basically they have up to version 22 already planned and every 6 weeks they want to re-release a newer version. This makes no sense to me. It would appear that Chrome and FF are having a battle out to get the highest version number these days. What do you guys have to say about the Browser war?


    • Christian Krammer

      Didn’t they say sometime in the past that version numbers will be abandoned and it’s just “Firefox”? Hope they pull it off.