Mozilla Announces Plans for Rapid-fire Firefox Releases
One of the best lessons in software development to have come from the open source movement is the rapid release cycle, and now the folks at Mozilla appear to be catching on to the trend, as the company has stated that it plans to release a whopping four versions of Firefox this year. In a roadmap for Firefox, "Ship Firefox 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the 2011 calendar year," appears as a prominent goal for Mozilla. (Firefox 4 has not shipped yet, but is imminent.) Without a doubt, Mozilla is responding to Google, which seems to update the Chrome browser about every two months.
There are many ways to approach release cycles. Some software houses simply don't pronounce a product shippable until it's deemed by this or that code maven to be fully cooked. That can be dangerous, though. For example, during the long debacle that Microsoft suffered under with Windows Vista, Apple upgraded its operating system more than six times without any updates from Microsoft during the same period. Likewise, many versions of Linux are now on time-based release cycles, with new versions appearing several times a year.
Mozilla's roadmap clearly states that to stay competitive with Firefox it must: "deliver [those] technology improvements quickly to our user base." In other words, Mozilla, which has historically taken more than a year to deliver major new versions of its browser (Firefox is only on version 4 after all these years) is waking up to rapid, agile development. That's good news for Firefox fans.
Meanwhile, Mozilla is getting very close to delivering a final version of Firefox 4. Beta 11 of the new browser is to be released today. Keep your eye on the duke-out between Firefox and Chrome this year. It should be one of the best battles in the whole software arena, because these open source browsers are defining innovation in a product category that we all depend on every day.