Per Wikipedia :

Firefox 5 is the first release as part of Mozilla's new rapid release plan, matching Google Chrome's rapid release schedule and rapid version number increments.

From the same article,

A draft roadmap indicates that Mozilla hopes to release versions 6 and 7 in 2011 following the release of Firefox 5 in June 2011. These versions will be smaller incremental updates, primarily focusing on improving speed, stability and security.

  • Why do they want to increase the base version of software instead of releasing smaller version revisions? Is it simply because calling something just because software 2.0 sounds better than 1.3.4?
  • If you just give something an arbitrary version number, not based on changes, does this mean that the version is not reflective of the quantity of changes anymore?
  • Just ranting??? how could we possibly know the answer to this? unless we work at google or Mozilla any answers are purely speculative... – Supercereal Jun 28 '11 at 18:45
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    It does defeat the point. More average people are beginning to use browsers on a daily basis, so to pull in a bigger crowd, you have to "dumb it down" big numbers. Chrome v20 - The biggest version yet! – Breakthrough Jun 28 '11 at 18:46
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    @Kyle, no I'm not ranting. I'm not upset by it at all, I'm just looking for understanding. – Gary Jun 28 '11 at 18:47
  • possible duplicate of Are users really impressed by a browser's version number? – Daniel Beck Jun 28 '11 at 18:49
  • I understand the duplicate (which sorry, I didn't catch), but 'not constructive'? What is illegitimate about asking why something is the way it is? – Gary Jun 28 '11 at 18:52

My guess: They're fast-tracking the version numbers of Firefox to "catch up" with IE and Chrome. So I don't think this really has anything to do with code or features.. But rather, with trying to compete in the minds of users who actually think they can compare two totally different software applications by comparing their version numbers. Sadly, I have encountered many such people. They've also been allowed on the Internet.

Edit: Here's some actual meat I found on the subject:

The rapid-release cycle, in which Firefox issues four new versions a year, is intended to bring new features to people sooner. That could be better performance, new Web programming technologies, or user interface improvements.

With the older style, a version number change was a rare event that signified major change. As a result, releases often were pushed back by months as programmers worked to include and debug their new features. With the rapid-release approach, new versions of Firefox ship quarterly with whatever new features are done. The consequences to missing the release train are lower, since another train will come around again soon.

"By releasing small, focused updates more often, we are able to deliver improved security and stability even as we introduce new features, which is better for our users, and for the Web," Needham said.

The idea is based on how Google develops Chrome, a browser that in less than three years has won over one out of every eight people on the Web. Last year, Chrome switched from quarterly releases to an even faster six-week schedule.

While that doesn't blatantly support what I said, I still think that's really going on is what I've said. But I think you'll have a hard time finding a public statement from Mozilla that admits my interpretation. I still think it's all about getting more users and moving version numbers in line with the competition, annoyingly, won't hurt.


What this stems from is a bit of a kickoff in what is known as Agile Programming. The practice promotes a well defined release schedule with frequent builds.

Older methodology programming would have projects work on features for a long time and provide them all in one massive update with security patches / fixes mixed inbetween major releases.

This newer methodology is to release early/release often. The idea is to roll out features & bug fixes more frequently in smaller doses. This model suits browsers in the consumer market very well as it keeps us up to date & security holes plugged quickly.

The numbering system is just a side-effect of this entire process. Most notable is chrome who's major revision moves up once every (6 months i think) dev cycle. It doesn't indicate a large release, but more accurately which release cycle.

Firefox's numbering scheme from 1-3 followed the old paradigm where the first part of the version indicated major rollouts. Starting at 4 Firefox is moving to a more rapid style like chrome.

While some speculate this is a bid to catch up to IE & Chrome's version numbers it may be partly a PR thing, but frankly with this new style the number means nothing to you as long as you're up to date.

  • How is this methodology responsible for 5.0, 6.0, 7.0, but does not apply with 4.1, 4.2, 4.3? – Daniel Beck Jun 28 '11 at 18:55
  • In researching an answer a little bit, I saw a fair number of articles/posts complaining about this switch as bigger companies IT departments won't be able to keep up - which I can totally see. It may be a good thing in terms of growing in new features, but I think the concern that it could cause a lot of reputation damage in the corporate world is pretty sane. – James T Snell Jun 28 '11 at 18:58
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    @The White Phoenix: This is why I mentioned in my post that it suits browsers in the consumer market. – Aren B Jun 28 '11 at 19:06
  • Ahh, gotcha. – James T Snell Jun 28 '11 at 19:49

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