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Monday April 11, 2011 3:48 pm

Mozilla Firefox switched to 18-week dev cycle; Firefox 5 coming June 21


Posted by Andru Edwards - Categories: Corporate News, Internet, Software


Firefox 5No, you aren't crazy, Firefox 4 did just launch a week ago.

Mozilla is borrowing a page from Google Chrome and speeding up the development cycle for Firefox releases, setting new iterations of the browser for fixed time periods and bulldozing over features that just aren't ready to make it into a new browser release.

And if Mozilla sticks by its newly proposed plan, that means that we'll be seeing Firefox 5 on June 21—following a shortened 13-week development cycle instead of the proposed 18-week cycle for all future Firefox builds.

Within this 18-week cycle comes a new development stage that adds on to Mozilla's three previous update channels: Nightly, or builds created from the mozilla-central-repository that are highly unstable, but incorporate the latest texts and fixes; Beta, which ups the quality demands of features and tweaks added via the nightly builds; and Release, which becomes the version of Firefox that most consumers are used to using.

Mozilla's new stage, Aurora, will be a nightly update that splits the difference between the chaos of the company's Mozilla-central build (or Nightly build), and its Beta build.


That's a lot of gobbledygook for non-developer types, so here's a general walkthrough of how Mozilla development is going to be handled in the future. Developers will have a given window to write patches and improvements as part of Mozilla's initial nightly Firefox builds. As this build switches over to the new channel, Aurora, features will be analyzed and dropped off if they're deemed ineligible for the current release cycle—no new features will be added directly into the Aurora build.

However, Mozilla recognizes that some Firefox changes might take longer to develop than the six weeks they're sitting in the Nightly channel.

"Features that end up disabled or miss the scheduled transition to the experimental channel can be pulled again the next time the schedule permits," reads Mozilla's Developmental Process draft. "This policy does allow for features that take a long time to develop. It's just that they'll be present only on mozilla-central until they're ready."

Mozilla will pull code from its Nightly database at set intervals instead of a, "when it's ready" approach, which will allow developers to quickly analyze and eliminate problematic features at these critical junctures.

"Since mozilla-central will be pulled into the firefox-experimental channel at week 6 and week 12, such features will need to have a mechanism allowing them to be easily disabled. Essentially, it needs to be easy to get the code on mozilla-central into a shippable state by disabling new code," reads Mozilla's draft.

Mozilla estimates that it'll be able to pull 100,000 users to test and tweak its nightly Firefox builds. This number increases to one million for the Aurora build and ten million for the Beta build, which would be a weekly update that's intended to fine-tune the browser for full release. Release managers make a determination on Week 14 as to whether a Firefox release is possible and, if so, the build is scheduled for a full launch to Firefox's complete user base on Week 16.

That said, mark your calendars for a Firefox 6 release around mid-August.

This article, written by David Murphy, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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