Xia did not retract his comments, but in a follow-up blog he issued a blanket apology to former colleagues. "I'm deeply sorry if the result of my careless speech has been to make their jobs harder," he wrote on Friday.
He also said he is still a Firefox user, and noted -- as he had in the initial July 5 post -- that he thought the browser's updates "have been much less obtrusive" of late.
But he stuck to this primary point: Software developers don't understand how much users detest updates, even good ones.
"The whole software industry needs to learn some humility," Xia said in his email to Computerworld. "It's full of people who think their next Internet widget is going to be the salvation of humanity. It's not; it's just a tool we're offering to people in the hopes they find it useful. And a tool isn't very useful if the way you used it yesterday suddenly doesn't work tomorrow."
There is circumstantial evidence that Firefox's move has not stemmed the slide of the browser's usage share, which some -- though Mozilla did not make the claim -- expected. According to Web metrics company Net Applications, Firefox lost 2.9 percentage points of share in the 12 months since the release of Firefox 5, the first rapid release edition; in the 12 months before that, Firefox fell 1.5 points.
Irish measurement firm StatCounter's figures were similar: Firefox lost 3.8 percentage points in the 12 months after Firefox 5's debut, while during the 12 months before, it fell 2.8 points.
Firefox owned a 20.1 percent share in June, Net Applications said, edging Chrome for second place; StatCounter put it in third, with 24.6 percent.
Usage statistics can't reveal whether Firefox's accelerated decline was caused by rapid releases, or whether Chrome's corresponding increase was, as Xia maintained, fueled by dissatisfied Firefox users. However, in the last 12 months, Chrome's share did climb by 5.2 percentage points, to 19.1 percent, in Net Applications' accounting, and increased by 4 points to 32.8 percent in StatCounter's estimate.
Changing browsers isn't the answer, Xia maintained. "There isn't another browser that manages updates better," he told Computerworld. "Apple, Google, and Microsoft all have the same attitude, that they should get to decide what versions of software their users are running."
The tension between developers and users on the topic may never dissipate -- Xia said he didn't expect "Silicon Valley culture and its delusions of grandeur to change any time soon" -- but Xia and Varma were adamant that it should be resolved, and that developers are the ones who needed to bend.
"I and most people I know outside of the software industry view upgrades as potential attacks on our productivity, not as shiny new experiences," said Varma.
Xia was even more blunt. "We assumed our users loved Firefox enough that they would put up with the irritation of updates in order to have a better product," he said in his July 5 blog. "[But] your users do not 'love' your software. Your users are temporarily tolerating your software because it's the least horrible option they have -- for now -- to meet some need. Developers have an emotional connection to the project; users don't."
Mozilla plans to ship Firefox 14, the latest in its rapid release line, early Tuesday, July 17.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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