Firefox 6 is officially out, however the final build for all the platforms are now available for download from the official FTP channels. Much like the previous release, the changelog for Firefox 6 is quite flimsy, and the new build doesn’t feature any major new user facing feature. This is of course the side-effect of following a rapid release cycle. While it makes it easier for Mozilla to stick to the schedule, it also makes version numbers insignificant and immaterial. GHacks reported yesterday that Mozilla is planning on hiding the version number from normal users by removing it from the ‘About’ box. Of course, that would be an incredibly lame and stupid way to tackle the issue. The sensible thing for Mozilla would be to label these releases as minor version updates, and have one or two scheduled major updates per year that will actually deliver new features. Anyways, there is no point in blaming Mozilla alone. Google is the one who started this madness with their Chrome release cycle.
Coming back to Firefox 6, the biggest piece of new feature is that the address bar now highlights the domain of the website you are currently browsing. The site identity blocker has also received a minor facelift to make it sleeker than before. There are also a few behind the scenes improvements such as the support for WebSockets, improved Scratchpad, a new Web Developer menu item, an improved Web Console, and reduced browser startup time when using Panaroma.
There are as many as 1,300 changes in Firefox 6. However, almost all of them are bug fixes. When it comes to delivering new features, Firefox 6 disappoints, once again. If you have used Firefox 5, or even Firefox 4, you already know what to expect. If you liked either of those two releases, you will like Firefox 6. If you didn’t, then Firefox 6 will not change your opinion.
Mozilla Firefox 5 has been released earlier this week, only three months after rolling out Firefox 4 and a month after it released version 5 in beta.
Version 5 has “more than 1,000 enhancements,” which include the “Do Not Track” privacy feature and support for the CSS Animations standard, among other things.
In its rush to make the Web better, however, Mozilla is taking criticism for not making it especially clear to users that it would stop issuing vulnerability patches for Firefox 4.
That has given rise to concerns that users who delay updating for various reasons may not realize they’ll lack protection against the latest malware.
“Firefox 5 is the security update for Firefox 4, and we do not plan to release a Firefox 4.0.2,” Johnathan Nightingale, the Mozilla Foundation’s director of Firefox engineering, told TechNewsWorld.
Should Mozilla have more forcefully notified Firefox 4 users that they have to upgrade to version 5? Should it include automatic updates instead of just sending users a pop-up window reminding them to update their browsers?
The Paradox of Speed and Security
The release cycle for new versions of browsers has been drastically shortened as the players seek to trump each other’s products with newer and better ones.
That bumped-up product cycle has both advantages and disadvantages.
“Security is typically the first area to be sacrificed when developers are under increased pressure to get out new software releases,” Stach & Liu’s Brown pointed out.
“The industry will need to be vigilant in scrutinizing the security of new browser releases,” Brown warned.
On the other hand, hackers are ramping up their assaults and coming up with inventive new attacks, so browsers whose vendors lag in issuing an update pose a security risk.
“Hopefully, this rapid release approach will also result in the faster patching of security vulnerabilities,” Brown remarked.
That’s exactly what Mozilla thinks.
“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,” Mozilla’s Nightingale said.
“If a serious security issue is found between regularly scheduled Firefox updates, we will release an interim update quickly, as we always have,” Nightingale stated.
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