Firefox 10 Launches Tuesday

Mozilla developers have given the green light to ship Firefox 10 on Tuesday.

Notes from a Mozilla meeting last week said that the upgrade was on for January 31, the next ship date in the every-six-week schedule that the company adopted last year. (See also "Firefox 12 Tab Features May Have Been Prematurely Hyped.")

The new version includes one of the first components of Firefox's planned silent update mechanism: The browser automatically disables incompatible add-ons and marks all others as compatible.

Add-ons that work with Firefox 4 or later will be marked as compatible in Firefox 10, Mozilla said.

Complaints about incompatible add-ons have been common since Mozilla shifted to the faster release schedule, as add-on developers have been slow to revamp their code or at least mark their extensions as suitable for the newest browser.

Mozilla began automatically marking add-ons as compatible back in March 2011 when it launched Firefox 4, but limited that move to extensions distributed through its own website; the new feature in Firefox 10 does the same for all add-ons, including those not available from Mozilla.

According to the company, extensions offered outside its own download store account for 75 percent of all add-ons.

"Add-on compatibility has always been a huge barrier to releasing more often, so it was critical we have a plan that wouldn't leave add-ons or users behind," Justin Scott, who leads Mozilla's add-on team, said in a September 2011 blog post . "For this new [rapid-release] system to work, we wanted a compatibility process that didn't require developers to lift a finger unless their add-on was one of the few broken."

As Scott hinted, automatic add-on compatibility is one of several features Mozilla is working on so it can offer "silent updates" that upgrade Firefox in the background and without any user interaction. Other parts of the service will debut in future versions of the browser.

Mozilla's current plans are to complete silent update with Firefox 13, now set to launch on June 5.

Also on Tuesday, Mozilla will ship Firefox 3.6.26, a security update for that two-year-old browser. This week's update will be followed by two more before Firefox 3.6 is retired from support in late April.

Firefox 10 will also be the first edition in the Extended Support Release (ESR) line that Mozilla has created for enterprises that cannot -- or will not -- upgrade every six weeks. Firefox ESR will be upgraded every 42 weeks, or seven times slower than the "standard" build of the browser.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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