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Having been chastened for its decision to focus on release speed rather than product continuity, Mozilla has decided to rethink its Firefox release cycle.
Mozilla shifted to a six-week rapid release cycle for Firefox earlier this year to keep up with the pace of Google Chrome releases. But the change proved untenable for large corporate users of Firefox, such as IBM, who couldn't test and validate Firefox releases before a new version had been released and support for the old version had been dropped.
To make matters worse, statements from Mozilla employees suggested that enterprise concerns were not a priority, a gaffe that Microsoft immediately pounced on.
[ John Walicki, manager of workplace and mobility in IBM's office of the CIO, called Firefox's end-of-life policy "a kick in the stomach." ]
Caught in the middle ground between a company committed to competing with speed and a company committed to maintaining its threatened position as the dominant business software provider, Mozilla recognized it could not abandon its enterprise supporters and promised in July to make amends by reviving the Mozilla Enterprise User Working Group (MEUWG).
As a result of a MEUWG conference call last month, Mozilla says it will offer an Extended Support Release (ESR) of the desktop version of Firefox. The mobile version of Firefox is not part of this program. ESR releases will be maintained for seven release cycles, or 42 weeks, and point releases of Firefox will coincide with mainline Firefox releases.
"To permit organizations sufficient time for testing and certification, the ESR will have a two cycle (12 week) overlap between the time of a new release and the end-of-life of the previous release," Mozilla says in its proposal. "This will allow organizations to qualify and test against Aurora and Beta builds for twelve weeks leading up to the ESR, and an additional 12 weeks to certify and transition to a new ESR."
Beyond merely making its enterprise users happy, Mozilla notes that one of the principal benefits of the ESR will be "[giving] deployment groups an alternative to IE for their users."
Having worked for years to win browser market share from Microsoft, Mozilla would prefer not to give it back.
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