A few months later than expected, Mozilla is calling it quits for version 3.0 of its Firefox browser.
"There will be no more updates for Firefox 3.0.x," Mozilla said Tuesday in a meeting planning document. The last update will be Firefox 3.0.19, due March 30, according to the Mozilla Wiki page. Mozilla started building the new version after some last-minute security fixes over the weekend.
Mozilla had planned to discontinue support for Firefox 3.0 in January, but the browser got a lifespan extension after Firefox 3.6 arrived later than planned.
The move reflects a gradual shift toward upgrading browsers more frequently, not just to keep up with new features, but also to free up resources otherwise spent on testing and maintaining older browsers and to reduce security risks associated with them. Google is even more aggressive: its Chrome browser updates automatically in the background by default, and it calls new releases "milestones" to be passed rather than version numbers to be attained.
Microsoft issues frequent patches to its browsers but sees things differently when it comes to longer-term issues. It still maintains support for Internet Explorer 6, introduced in 2001. "We are excited for people to move on. We want people to move on," IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch said in an interview this week for the IE9 Platform Preview launch, but meanwhile, providing security updates is the "responsible" thing to do.
Browsers are a fast-moving, increasingly important, technology and are central to the shift toward cloud computing. But there's a tension between organizations and people, for whom change can be a technical challenge or an expensive compatibility-breaking problem. Compatibility with standards can ease these transitions, but Web standards are in flux and aren't uniformly supported either with browsers or Web sites.
Mozilla released Firefox 3.0 with great fanfare in June 2008, and it's been patched as 3.0.18. Firefox 3.6 is the current supported version, and, of course, future work is under way. Mozilla has released two public alphas of its successor, which is called 3.7 for now though that's not necessarily the final name.
In the nearer term, Mozilla also preparing a Firefox 3.6 update called Lorentz. Mozilla had hoped for a beta release of Lorentz. But its chief feature--the out-of-process plug-ins (OOPP) design aimed to reduce crashes by putting Flash Player and its like into a separate memory compartment--is proving thorny. In addition, Mozilla programmers have only just begun the OOPP work for Mac OS X.