Mozilla: A new Firefox every 16 weeks

After Firefox 4's release next week, Mozilla hopes to put out new browser versions every four months

Firefox 4 is due out next week, the culmination of more than a year's work and boasting features like a new tab manager and GPU acceleration. Once the latest Firefox is released, though, Mozilla plans to overhaul its development process so as to bring a new browser version to market every 16 weeks or so rather than the traditional 52 weeks.

Is Mozilla feeling the pressure from Google's uber-fast release cycle for Chrome (a new browser every six to eight weeks)? Officially, no -- the company says it just wants to get new features in users' hands as quickly as possible -- but it sure looks like Mozilla's trying to adopt Google's speed-demon ways.

"Chrome's development model has been a successful experiment in terms of getting production releases with improvements and new features out quickly and much faster than in the past," says IDC analyst Al Hilwa. "This is causing waves in the industry, specifically for direct competitors."

According to a release cycle plan posted by Firefox developer Rob Sayre, the new development philosophy is to make new features available more frequently by not holding up new releases to wait for incomplete new features. "Each release happens regardless of whether a given feature is ready, and releases are not delayed to wait for a feature to stabilize. The goal of the process is to provide regular improvements to users without disrupting longer-term work," writes Sayre.

Sayre also says that silent updating -- automatically delivering updates in the background -- will be necessary in order to make the faster release schedule work. Mozilla had tried to include silent-update capability in Firefox 4 but ended up stripping it out, as it needed more work.

This story, "Mozilla: A new Firefox every 16 weeks," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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