Skip to main content

Firefox apes Chrome with rapid dev cycle

Mozilla is planning four new update channels

Mozilla is planning four new update channels

In a GitHub draft document entitled Mozilla Firefox Development Specifics, Mozilla has revealed its plans to rival Google Chrome's breakneck development schedule. There will now be four update channels: nightly, aurora (a new channel that aims to be more stable than nightly, but offer a similar update frequency), beta (with weekly updates, depending on found issues) and release. The last of those anticipates a new major Firefox update every six to twelve weeks. Despite Firefox 4 only recently arriving, Mozilla already plans to release Firefox 5 in June.

This increase in pace should give Mozilla the boost it needs as it finds itself under fire from a major new release of Internet Explorer and the rapid turnover of Chrome. By upping the frequency of major releases, new features can be added more quickly and easily, and those deemed immature for public consumption can be held back, in the knowledge that the next major update is only a couple of months away.

Standards advocate and director Drew McLellan was positive about the Mozilla announcement. "I'm all for more frequent browser updates, provided it doesn't add unnecessary burden on end users. Firefox has always automatically updated without requiring much effort, which is great because frequent updates and an arduous upgrade process quickly turn off users and stop them upgrading all together." (Indeed, Mozilla states that the new plan involves a "silent update" mechanism, automatically upgrading the browser once a new version ships.) From a development standpoint, McLellan also considers this a smart move on Mozilla's part: "The more browsers are frequently updated, the faster the pace of competition. Provided that implementations are solid and not rushed, that can only be a good thing for users and developers alike."