by Ken Mingis

The Takeaway: Why Firefox is picking up the release pace

Jul 07, 2015
BrowsersOpen SourceSoftware Development

Mozilla is dumping its old release schedule and now plans a version of its browser for Windows 10.

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Credit: Al Sacco
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Mozilla has decided that its current 18-week development schedule is too slow, prompting it to pick up the pace for pushing out new features for its Firefox browser.

And in a turnabout from plans discussed last year, Mozilla now says it will develop a browser for Windows 10. Microsoft’s new operating systems arrives July 29, and will include the new Edge browser to supplant Internet Explorer (IE).

Mozilla’s plans followed from decisions made last week at an all-hands meeting in Whistler, a Canadian ski resort town north of Vancouver, BC, last week. Dave Camp, director of Firefox engineering, posted detailed the company’s current thinking to a mailing list and in a blog post.

In nutshell, here’s what Mozilla has in mind, and why:

  • The company’s current development cycle has fallen behind the pace set by other developers, especially Microsoft, which plans to update Windows 10 on an on-going basis. “Since Firefox began, the industry has continually evolved how it deploys code to users, and today it isn’t done on an 18-week cycle,” Camp wrote. “We think there are big wins to be had in shortening the time that new features reach users….”
  • Mozilla hasn’t decided exactly what the new pace for browser development will be. “Some of these questions are going to take a while to answer, and will involve a bunch of concurrent discussions,” Camp said.
  • The organization plans to push a more binary development ethos, which Camp described as “Great or Dead.” Said Camp: “Every feature in the browser should be polished, functional, and a joy to use.” (Great) If Mozilla’s engineers can’t hit that bar, the feature would be killed or passed to a partner. (Dead)
  • The developer plans to focus on bringing multiple processes to its browser. Known as Electrolysis, or “e10s” for short, it represents efforts to separate page rendering in Firefox from content to bolster security and stability. (Rivals including Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome and IE already have separate processes.) “e10s is the only way to get the kind of snappy experience we need to make Firefox feel great,” Camp said. “We’re close, but it’s going to take some effort to get over the line.”
  • Mozilla plans to release a browser for Windows 10 “soon” similar to the one it’s working on for Apple’s iOS. Although officials offered no details about Firefox for either OS, it pledged to create an “independent and high-performing alternative to the stock browser” on both platforms.

With reports by Gregg Keizer from Computerworld.