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by Michael Rolfe on 9th February 2012
Mozilla, the creators of Firefox now work to a ‘rapid release process’, meaning you need to get used to seeing a new release every 6 weeks. Most incremental updates to a program result in the version number increasing – from version 3.1 to 3.2 or 3.22 say for example. For Firefox each of the new rapid releases gets a whole number update, so you’ll likely be using version 20 in Q1 2013.
The reason they are doing this is because Mozilla see the browser as the window to the Internet, and the Internet changes in real time. The desktop-software release schedule can’t keep up with some features taking up to a year to release, and this is a bottleneck when trying to access the Internet in all its glory, so frequent updates are required.
Why is this bad for Firefox users and Mozilla?
Firefox (being open source) has an active, giving user base of enthusiasts and aficionados. It has a reputation of allowing innovation though all the available plug-ins and add-ons that make users’ lives easier. With each major update they make however, a swathe of 3rd party programs lose compatibility and are automatically disabled.
When users can no longer use their favourite browser to perform operations, they leave… probably to Chrome. When plug-in developers (especially the thriving hobby and small business creators) are forced to rewrite their software every update, these developers stop writing for Firefox also.
What’s new in Firefox 10?
Firefox 10 was released on January 31, 2012, with the following updates made:
For a full list of all Firefox update history, please see this Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Firefox
It is interesting to note that they say most add-ons are now compatible with new versions of Firefox by default. I upgraded to Firefox 10 myself recently and one plug-in I use was listed as incompatible. If I continue to lose functionality with each update then in the end i will be left with a very basic browser… that is considerably slower to render pages from sites I use often – try using Google Analytics for a comparison.
Firefox 10 is available with ‘extended support release’ which means users can keep using this version until Firefox 17 and still will be supported by Mozilla. They will receive security updates in the form of familiar 10.1, 10.11 etc updates. But is this enough for corporate users?
Firefox for Corporations
Corporate users especially install specific tools to perform particular operations. Installations often require research, approval, documentation and training so when updates break functionality, corporate depatments frown. If you manage a large amount of computers, would you want to update Firefox on each one every six weeks? And then find work-arounds for any add-ons that no longer work? Or install Chrome, once, and be done with it? Chrome updates automatically in a ‘silent’ fashion. It’s always up to date, and the plugins always seem to work. I’d like to support the open-source philosophy of Firefox over the corporate greed + managed image comb of a multinational such as Google, but Mozilla have made it much more difficult for people to support them with this new shift in policy.
How to downgrade to version 3
You may find that you need to backdate your version of Firefox to a previous edition in order to restore functionality. Previous versions of Firefox can be found at: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/all-older.html. You may find it useful to copy your user profile from one version to the other. This can be found on your computer at the following location: %APPDATA%\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\.
For more information (dependent on your operating system etc), please see http://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/Profiles#How_to_find_your_profile.
Do you really need to upgrade?
To stay secure, yes, you will need to accept the updates. Is your computer full of exploits anyway that you don’t know about from all the add-ons and plugins you download anyway? Well, if you install applications in to Chrome you may have noticed that they ask for premission to ‘all your data’ – if you follow this link you will see that this means that the application can control your webcam(!) and access all the files on your computer (!). For most people it will come down to functionality, and if you want to stick with Firefox, it’s time to just accept that the speed of updates is probably only going to increase. The future is now!