Recently Mozilla implemented a rapid release process, where we release a version of Firefox every 6 weeks. This has involved changing a number of our processes. It’s also raised some new issues. For example, some enterprises find the idea of rapid browser change to be disconcerting at best and potentially unmanageable at worst. Add-on compatibility is another. I acknowledge these issues are complex and difficult. There is work to be done to make the rapid release process smoother and hopefully more useful to more of our userbase. I’d like to describe why I believe the rapid release process is important enough to pursue despite these difficulties.
Before Mozilla instituted the rapid release process, we would sometimes have new capabilities ready for nearly a year before we could deliver them to people. Web developers would have to wait that year to be able to make their applications better.
A browser is the delivery vehicle for the Internet. And the Internet moves very, very quickly. Philosophically, I do not believe a product that moves at the speed of traditional desktop software can be effective at enabling an Internet where things happen in real time. If we want the browser to be the interface for the Internet, we need to make it more like the Internet. That means delivering capabilities when they are ready. That means a rapid release process. If we don’t do something like this the browser becomes a limiting factor in what the Internet can do.
Sometimes we can address this problem without a new release of code. For example, if one goes to the Firefox Menu Item for “Add-ons” the content one sees is a web page. This part of the browser enjoys all the benefits of the web. It can be managed in the ways people have come to expect of a web experience. The rapid release process is another technique we’ve adopted to allow the browser to deliver new capabilities quickly.
As my colleague Brendan is fond of saying, “There is no free lunch.” This means we need to listen carefully to those who are experiencing difficulties. We need to be creative and try to find practical ways of alleviating these difficulties if we can. This is true for the enterprise use case, and it’s true for the add-on experience. I know that’s not a perfect answer, and it’s not a promise that we can meet everyone’s needs perfectly. Despite this, I believe the rapid release process is the right direction.