Mozilla Firefox 3.6 – a minor update?

From the ‘Number Games‘ files:

What constitutes a major vs. a minor release for a browser vendor?

The upcoming Firefox 3.6 release is going to be classified as a minor update to the open source browser, as opposed to being a major update like Firefox 3.5.

The difference between a minor and a major release for Mozilla has a number of implications.

Earlier this year, when I was in the Mozilla Toronto office ahead of the Firefox 3.5 launch, Mozilla’s Director of Firefox Mike Beltzner (Go Leafs!) explained to me what it would take to have a major release called Firefox 4.0. A major release implies major changes and requires users to migrate over to the new version. With a minor release, it’s a simple upgrade, that should enable more users to adopt the release faster.

The whole issue of what is minor and what is major is now an active thread on a Mozilla mailing list, with Beltzner publicly explaining Mozilla’s policy and why Firefox 3.6 will be a minor update.

“Major updates have been for code which has
been in development for at least 12 months, features visible changes to
the user interface either in terms or appearance or interaction, and/or
contains major technology changes at the platform level which may cause
significant differences in system requirements or support requirements,” Beltzner wrote. “Minor updates have been for security and stability releases which do not
contain any visible user interface changes, and are limited in terms of
technological change.”

Makes good sense to me, though I can also see how it can be confusing to some.

Take Google Chrome for example, which is now at version 4.x in the dev-channel. Is the 4.x version a ‘major’ change over 3.x in that it has major user visible changes? Not really.

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