On February 10, 2010, Mozilla released Firefox 3.7 Alpha 1. Yes, that is correct version number 3.7. Since it was still being built on the Gecko 1.9 rendering engine and was supposed to be an update to Firefox 3.6 (features/changes that were not ready in time for Firefox 3.6 would be implemented into this version).
So here we are a little under two-weeks from the anniversary of this release. So what happened in the past year? Let’s see the numbering (and purpose) was changed to Firefox 4 when the first Beta on the Gecko 2.0 rendering engine was released back in July 7, 2010. Sometime in early February Beta 11 is expected to be released. Then (I’ll believe it when I see it) the Release Candidates. Mozilla wants Firefox 4 to be out in February 2011. They really want Firefox 4 to come out before Microsoft releases IE9 (also planned for some time in February). Really?! Firefox 4 seems to be stuck in perpetual Beta release mode right now.
Back in 2008 when Firefox 3 was being developed there were 8 Alpha and 5 Beta releases. Firefox 3.6 in 2009 had 1 Alpha and 5 Beta releases. At that time I thought 5 Beta releases was a bit excessive. However, that seems trivial now since Firefox 3.7/4.0 had 5 Alphas (under the 3.7 numbering) and to date 10 Betas (under the 4.0 numbering) with number 11 on the way around the 1-year mark of the first Alpha release.
Now there is ‘talk’ of a Firefox 5 by Mid 2011.
Mozilla’s CTO Brendan Eich wrote that Firefox 5 is likely to be available four months after the release of Firefox 4, which seems to be sometime in February.“Cast a colder eye on your blockers,” he wrote and hinted that not every bug needs to be fixed in Firefox 4. “Some of them can wait for a dot release or Firefox 5 that I do believe will be only months after 4 comes out. We are going to a fast release cycle. It serves our users better. To do that we have to get this touch and go done with Firefox 4.”
Funny, something very similar was said in 2009 about Firefox 3.7 (which was suppose to come out before Firefox 4 instead of being replaced by it). I do have to agree they really need to “get this touch and go done with Firefox 4” otherwise in four months we’ll be up to be Beta 16.
Mozilla really should have stuck with original plan and done a Firefox 3.7 release then rolled out to Firefox 4. Sadly, I think a lot of the improvements gained in Firefox 4 (which were in place while still under the Firefox 3.7 numbering) are going to be over-shadowed by the user backlash of the dramatic user interface changes that come with Firefox 4.
Whilst on the subject of changes and Firefox 5, in the next day or so (still researching this) I’ll be talking about the elimination of the current profile manger after Firefox 4 (I assume that means Firefox 5). But then I wonder how much truth there is to this talk as the original ‘bug’ was reported back in 2003 but kind of went dormant in 2006 and resurrected in late 2009 (when the first nightly builds of Firefox 3.7 started).