Firefox Rendering Bug Fixed in Record Time

When Mozilla released Firefox 2.0.0.10 last Monday, the release notes made it out to be a relatively minor update correcting, as usual, a small number of security issues. As it turned out, however, the release contained a nasty surprise for developers whose sites relied on Canvas.drawImage, a JavaScript feature of recent browsers that lets developers display images with effects like rotation and drop shadows.

Firefox 2.0.0.10 completely broke this feature, causing images to disappear from sites that relied upon it. JavaScript effects libraries like instant.js suddenly stopped working, and developers had no way to fix the problem, because, as far as Firefox was concerned, everything was working perfectly.

A bug report was quickly filed, and helpless developers began reporting in. “Customers are complaining because their Firefox automatically updated to 2.0.0.10 and now they can no longer order photo prints in our shop,” wrote Klaus Reimer, highlighting just how serious a bug like this can be in the real world.

Mozilla developers mobilized quickly, and were able to produce a fixed version of the browser just 16 hours after the original bug report. The release team then took over to push Firefox 2.0.0.11 out the door in record time. “It’ll be the fastest turnaround between Firefox releases to date,” wrote Firefox developer Nick Thomas ahead of the new version.

With Firefox 2.0.0.11 now generally available, Mozilla is reviewing the circumstances under which this bug was allowed to make it into a public release. Automated regression tests have been put in place to prevent this particular bug from reappearing, of course, but other steps are being taken too. Mozilla developer Marcia Knous responded to requests for web developers to receive early notification of upcoming product releases by announcing a new Betatesters mailing list for developers interested in testing new Firefox and Thunderbird releases before they go live.

Summing up the episode, Jonathan Flack, Tools Architect for Feature Film VFX at GMP Worldwide, posted his thoughts:

[...] in our book the response to this was absolutely stellar. As developers ourselves we recognize that from time to time you are bound to introduce bugs like this. Anyone who claims that their company is procedurally immune from this kind of thing is completely delusional.

This, in our book, is a bright example of why open source development of this sort is working. I could never have imagined a closed source vendor responding to a critical fix with an actual release in +/- 48 hours.

Free book: Jump Start HTML5 Basics

Grab a free copy of one our latest ebooks! Packed with hints and tips on HTML5's most powerful new features.

  • http://www.tyssendesign.com.au Tyssen

    This is the second FF release in the last few months that’s introduced a bug that wasn’t there previously, so while it’s commendable that they fixed it so quickly, it would be better if the bugs hadn’t been introduced in the first place.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    This is the second FF release in the last few months that’s introduced a bug that wasn’t there previously, so while it’s commendable that they fixed it so quickly, it would be better if the bugs hadn’t been introduced in the first place.

    Agreed. I was actually noodling around with some Canvas code that I didn’t really understand yet. At some point along the way, Firefox asks to upgrade itself, I say ok, and immediately banish all memory of doing it to my ‘useless information never to be needed again’ pile.

    Ten minutes later I’m running my Canvas JS and getting a blank screen. “oooooo…kay!, what have I done here!? Undo, undo,.. nothing… undo.. nothing…”.

    I briefly considered the Firefox update, but if it comes down to me vs. the browser, the error is more likely mine, so I dismissed that out of hand. Eventually I tried the code in Opera and it worked perfectly. Insert sound of tearing hair here.

  • http://www.dustindiaz.com polvero

    At first I was angry with such a short update. Often times the alert can be annoying “Firefox is ready for an update. What would you like to do? [Later] [Cancel] [Restart Firefox]”

    But knowing the reasoning behind it is in-fact, quite good to know. Very cool.

  • http://www.dave-woods.co.uk csswiz

    Customers are complaining because their Firefox automatically updated to 2.0.0.10 and now they can no longer order photo prints in our shop

    Whilst this was an obvious bug in Firefox, surely a site that relies on JavaScript for critical functionality should have bigger concerns?

  • http://www.realityedge.com.au mrsmiley

    @csswiz, some features can only be used via javascript. Whether your site relies on a particular feature or not, every developer has the right to expect functionality will work as advertised. Somewhere along the line everyone needs to make a call if the grunt work for processing some things is better at the client or server. For a large photo processing site, I’d imagine moving things like what this function allows to the client side would be very beneficial.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    Whilst this was an obvious bug in Firefox, surely a site that relies on JavaScript for critical functionality should have bigger concerns?

    I kinda agree with that. If the functionality is fundamental to your company being able to trade, it’s smart business to design it to fall back to some kind of server-based solution. It will probably be slower and more clunky, but it protects your income from minor technical ‘acts of god’ like this, and provides an accessible version for JS-less devices.

    The photo company are unlucky canvas broke, but they’re also quite lucky it was fixed so quickly. Many other bugs have hung around for years.

    In fact, this is a nice little example you can quote when clients ask ‘So, why are we paying this extra time to make it accessible?’

  • HawayanSurfer

    Sorry to break the bad news, but the newest release 2.0.0.11 has plenty of rendering bugs for me.
    I am unable to properly view sites that used to work in Firefox, and still do in IE, like AT&T Wireless (Account Usage data detail), http://www.Bangkokpost.com (only advertising content displayed), and more….

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/ Kevin Yank

    HawayanSurfer,

    Definitely not seeing the rendering issues you are. Bangkokpost.com, for example, displays just fine in Firefox 2.0.0.11 here. You may need to investigate other possible causes of the problems you’re seeing.

  • Juan Pablo

    And what about firefox gmail problem???

    Somebody knows something about that?

    Thanks!