By Craig Buckler

Mozilla Pushes Firefox 3.6 Update

By Craig Buckler

If you’re still using Firefox 3.6 or below, you’ll soon be prompted to upgrade to version 8.0. Following several postponements, Mozilla has finally pushed the kill-switch which should bring most users up to date.

Firefox 3.6 was released in January 2010 but the 3.0 codebase originally shipped in June 2008. That feels a little ancient now and, while 3.6 remains a capable browser, it’s relatively slow and doesn’t support many of the new HTML5 facilities Mozilla introduced in version 4 and above. Currently, around 7.5% of web users retain Firefox 3.x or below — it will be interesting to assess the impact of the recommended upgrade on Firefox’s market share.

Rapid Updates

Users with the old version of Firefox may be slightly surprised by Mozilla’s rapid 6-week update schedule. While it’s great for developers adopting cutting-edge technologies, it’s attracted criticism from private and business users who don’t want broken plugins or frequent test and release plans.

To appease enterprise users, Mozilla has announced a new Extended Support Release (ESR) version of Firefox which will be released every 30 weeks — proposed to start with version 8. The browser will be supported for 42 weeks and, bar any essential security fixes, will receive its next update when Firefox reaches version 13.

An Uncertain Future?

In 2010, 84% of Mozilla’s revenue — approximately $100 million — came directly from a Google advertising revenue share. That has come to end and it’s not clear how Mozilla will replace it.

When the deal was negotiated in 2008, Chrome was a new browser with a small user base. That’s no longer the case and Chrome has overtaken Firefox to become the world’s second-favorite browser.

Firefox is an open-source product. While it doesn’t necessarily depend on the fortunes of Mozilla, it’s a worrying development and the organization needs to adopt a new finance plan quickly.

Are you using Firefox 3.6? Do you plan to upgrade? Will you be sticking with the older browser?

  • Wow, this is a very troubling development. As one that has moved to Google Chrome, I guess I’m part of the reason of Mozilla’s decline, but I still believe Firebug is the most comprehensive web development tool out there.

    Maybe Mozilla can strike a deal with Bing? I’m not sure if that would still mean dealing with the enemy since admittedly IE 9 and IE 10 are very promising. Bing is looking for any sort of way to increase their market share and a deal with Mozilla could help.

    • Chris Emerson

      “Wow, this is a very troubling development. As one that has moved to Google Chrome”

      I don’t think you can complain about Firefox’s update schedule when you then say you’ve moved to Chrome!

    • Guest

      John Barton, the lead Firebug developer is working for Google Chrome team, so Firebug won’t miss you much more…
      I’m glad that i see some very useful things from Firefox in Chrome now. Mozilla just doesn’t have enough money to keep the browser on the edge, that’s why they don’t want to implement Electrolysis.

      • I don’t think money’s currently a problem – $130 million+ should be enough to develop a browser especially in a non-profit organization. The Google deal has ended, but I’d be surprised if they couldn’t replace it in some way.

  • Alec

    I downloaded version 8 a few days ago and spent quite some time carefully setting up fresh installations on two PCs. I thought it best to remove the old version and discard the old profiles.

    Version 8 starts slightly more quickly (about 10 seconds) but its memory usage with tabs is, I think, more than it was in 3.6. I have mixed opinions about the UI changes. The refresh button is in the wrong place, but it can be moved to where it was. The pop-up URL at the bottom of the viewport doesn’t work well at all: it flashes rapidly (and unpleasantly) when hovering on a link that happens to be in its way. My son, who can’t use a keyboard, finds that it appears over focused links in the same place, thus obscuring them. How hard would it have been to show it on the right side when focus/hover is somewhere on the bottom left of the viewport?

  • Are you guys really firefox users???
    Just type something like, say, css menus, into the address bar in firefox and you’ll soon see who their new deal is with!
    They’ve been with them for months now.

  • I have a friend who is using Mac OSX 10.4. Unfortunately, she can’t upgrade from Firefox 3.6, because it doesn’t support OSX 10.4. People complain that they can’t use IE9 on older Windows OS, but OSX 10.4 isn’t that old, and modern browsers don’t support it either.

    I suspect many of the people on older browser versions are, like my friend, stuck being unable to upgrade because browser vendors aren’t interested in supporting their computers.

  • I’m very pleased with the current version of firefox. Dont know if i will upgrade when the upgrade is available

  • Jim

    The oligarchs have pulled the financing again. Tesla anyone? There goes innovation. Nope, the guy in his mom’s basement will end up destroying the world with a mini black hole. HAHA

  • Both google and firefox have said that the funding deal hasn’t ended, although they are still negotiating and they won’t disclose the current deal. It seems likely it’ll be a lot less than the current deal though, as Firefox’s market share is a lot less. (and even on the current deal i assume that would cause their revenue to fall. ).

    There’s no reason for google to end it though, as having 25% of web users searches default to google still has to be worth a lot to them. they also have similar deals with opera, and microsoft has similar deals with firefox and opera, despite having IE.
    As for my browser, I’ve just gone back to FF8. I love firefox and I’ve been a loyal user for years, but over the last few iterations the frustrations have increased – rapid updates have cause extension problems and FF seems to have gotten slower and slower over the last 12 months.

    I finally decided to switch to Chrome – and I loved it for a few days. I guess it was the thrill of the new (like when you re-arrange your furniture). It does start up super quick too. But then the cracks started to show – horribly high memory usage, very slow shutdown, limited extensions. But the main problem was the way it was using 1.5Gb of memory. Anything over 20 tabs and it’s lightning speed slowed to a crawl.

    Then I switched to Opera, which is a simply stunning brower. Quite how it has such a low market share is beyond me. It starts up quick, it has great features out of the box (tab stacking, tab previews, blocking, etc.), it looks lovely, and it does some magic where it is always super fast and responsive, even with 80 tabs open and no matter how much memory it uses. BUT i was very sad to find that, through no fault of it’s own, several of the main sites I use don’t work properly in Opera. It’s their dumb bbrowser sniffers, but that doesn’t help me. So that, and an annoying not-shutting-down bug, made me jump back to FF8.

    And FF8 now seems awesome. (how great are new things?!). They’ve made one small but HUGELY IMPORTANT change in FF8 – the “don’t load tabs until selected” option. Now it starts in a second or two, it uses 200mb of memory with 80 tabs, instead of 800mb, and everything is more responsive. So i can uninstall all the “save memory” extensions, and just add a few to try and make it as much like Opera as possible.

    I’ll stick with FF8 for now. (though being able to run Bastion under NativeClient does make me want to jump back to chrome a little…)

    • Thanks Tom. I agree that, following a slightly rough patch, Firefox is better than ever.

      Opera is also a stunning browser, but can be let down by websites. Browser sniffing is an abhorrent practice but developers still do it. Like any browser, Opera has it’s fair share of bugs but a little website testing goes a long way.

      Finally, Chrome is a great all-round browser for general surfing. That said, it is memory hungry for lots of tabs and the frequent update processes can make slower PCs unresponsive for several minutes.

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