It sounds wimpy, but I have to say it: Can't we all just get along? The fight between enterprise IT and Mozilla over Firefox 5 is a classic culture clash in which neither side is capable of listening to the other. And both sides will lose if they don't cut it out.
The Web needs to move fast. It's as simple as that. If it weren't for the Mozilla Foundation and the competitive juice it injected into the Web, we'd all still be running an elderly version of IE -- and none of the innovations we've come to expect would exist. Indeed, we're still hampered by legacy browsers. How many websites still avoid new technologies because IE6 remains so common? IT needs to understand that.
Mozilla isn't blameless. It wants to pretend that Firefox is just a consumer product, ignoring the fact that enterprises like IBM (with 500,000 users) have made it their default browser and have real concerns about compatibility and security. Telling IT to go bleep itself, as Firefox director Asa Dotzler did last week, is arrogant and really, really stupid.
It didn't help that Mozilla failed to signal in advance that the release of Firefox 5 also meant an end to security updates of the three-month-old Firefox 4. Caught flat-footed and feeling dissed, IT hands were furious.
Whose Web is it?
The Web is a shared resource. It's not just for consumers, it's not just for business, and it's not just for government. It's for everyone, and that's why browser technology -- which of course dictates what can be implemented on the Web -- is so critical.
As Peter Bright over at Ars Technica put it, the Web is like a network slowed down by an 802.11b device; it won't move faster than its slowest component. That's not an exact analogy, but the lingering presence of older browsers acts that way. It took forever for IE6 to fade away (it has a share of about 5 percent now), and while it was prevalent, huge numbers of websites marched to its excruciatingly slow beat.
Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome (also on a very fast cycle) are pushing innovation, and there ought to be a way to keep those browsers inside the enterprise. Can testing be modified to recognize that whatever the version number, only limited functions have changed in the new version of the browser?