Firefox 5 was launched as planned and on schedule this week–and also marked the “end of life” for support of Firefox 4. Mozilla’s rapid release schedule, and the strategy to essentially make each new release a requirement to continue support paint Firefox into a corner where only loyal hobbyists can reliably use the browser.
The latest flagship version of the Mozilla Web browser comes a mere two months after the official release of Firefox 4, and also marks the end of official support for Firefox 4. From Mozilla’s perspective, the “security patch” for Firefox 4 is to upgrade to Firefox 5. We can assume that in another couple months when Firefox 6 emerges, that Firefox 5 will suffer the same fate.
Were you hoping for a patch or update to address the security concerns with WebGL in Firefox? Well, if you are using Firefox 4, don’t hold your breath. The “fix” for the WebGL issues in Firefox 4 is to upgrade to Firefox 5.
For consumers, it probably won’t be a big deal. Firefox 5 is more like Firefox 4.1, or Firefox with some minor tweaks and updates. Compared with Firefox 4, Firefox 5 is the sort of update that many users would just automatically enable, and–if it weren’t for the new version number–might barely notice. I know that Internet Explorer gets a cumulative update patch every Patch Tuesday, and it automatically installs on my PC and I never give it a second thought.
For companies and organizations, though, it is another story. The lasting, tenacious, endurance of Internet Explorer 6 is a testament to how stubborn some IT departments can be about moving to a new version of a browser.
Organizations interested in Firefox 4 might not even be done deploying the browser, and now it is already obsolete. Does Mozilla expect IT admins to halt deployment of Firefox 4 and switch gears to implement Firefox 5? Does Mozilla think that IT departments need to pick up the pace and rush deployment of Firefox 5 so they can get some use out of it before it is rendered obsolete by Firefox 6 in August?
One reader, AgentF, commented on my article about Mozilla’s rapid release strategy to say, “One of the reasons I haven’t fully adopted Chrome is because of the regularly scheduled major releases. It’s hard trying to help out clients if they all have different versions of the software,” adding, “The web doesn’t drastically change every few months to warrant major releases.”
Mozilla has shot Firefox in the foot. The result will be that Mozilla will continue to churn the market share of Firefox loyalists–Firefox 4 will plummet, and Firefox 5 will climb to the top…until Firefox 6. Rinse and repeat. Basically, the same percentage that use Firefox and switch from FF4 to FF5 will be the users likely to jump from FF5 to FF6.
The rest of the world–particularly companies–however, will shy away from the Mozilla browser because forcing users to upgrade every two months to keep up with the latest release just to maintain basic support and security updates is too much of a commitment.