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Firefox rapid release cycle might improve security

Firefox's release cycle remains divisive but could be a boon, according to a software testing company.

Firefox's rapid release schedule – with a new version appearing a mere six weeks after the previous one – has proved divisive. In a previous .net report, developer Mike Woloszynowicz argued the version numbers were now just a marketing tool, and Aaron Gustafson worried that the cycle could confuse users, although he noted that it's a boon for developers, through faster adoption of standards support. (For further opinions on faster browser release schedules, see our recent Big Question feature.)

Software testing company BugFinders has echoed some of the criticisms of Firefox's schedule, stating in a press release that a major concern is Mozilla being unwilling to support the older version trunks, "meaning if you are currently still using version 4, Mozilla won't be providing any further updates". However, the company argued that benefits have been overlooked by many, such as "a potential increase in HTML5 and CSS3 functionality that will grant Firefox a similar level of support to that of Chrome, but more importantly a potential increase in security". The press release said that while regular updates may get repetitive for many users, that also means security updates will be easier to come through on a frequent basis.

Mozilla also recently revealed its thoughts on how it will address update fatigue, stopping users getting frustrated by regular notifications. Early in 2012, possibly with version 10, the browser will move to a silent upgrade model, as outlined in a blog post. Such a process will increasingly be essential, with Mozilla quickly ditching support for old versions of Firefox. And while Firefox users tend to upgrade fairly quickly, Mozilla revealed about one in four users still runs Firefox 3.6, released back in January 2010.

Despite remaining issues with Firefox's release schedule, BugFinders said that Mozilla "should be commended for trying something as ambitious and controversial as the rapid release cycle" and suggested we'll be able to see if the company's confidence has paid off within the next year.