It appears that Mozilla is at least exploring the possibility of an accelerating release pace for major Firefox iterations per the Google Chrome model, if not already working to make it a reality.
In this regard, users could be running the successor of Firefox 4.0 very soon after its release.
How soon? Well, according to Brendan Eich co-founder of mozilla.org and the CTO of Mozilla, Firefox 5.0 could be finalized and made available to customers just a few months after the release of Firefox 4.0.
Eich delivered the closing remarks in the first Weekly Engineering Newsletter, and while the focus was placed on the need to finalize Firefox 4.0 as soon as possible, he also mentioned Firefox 5.0.
At the time when the newsletter was published there were still some 90 severe bugs marked as hard blockers, which all need to be resolved before Firefox 4.0 could be launched.
In addition to the hard blockers there are also a few hundred less severe bugs which can always be pushed to maintenance updates for Firefox 4.0 or to the next version.
“Cast a colder eye on your blockers. Some of them can wait for a dot release or Firefox 5 that I do believe will be only months after 4 comes out. We are going to a fast release cycle. It serves our users better. To do that we have to get this touch and go done with Firefox 4,” Eich said. (emphasis added)
There’s no telling for sure at this point in time whether Mozilla’s release strategy for Firefox will change.
Fact is that Google has managed to put a lot of pressure on its competitors, and even Microsoft speeded up considerably the development process of Internet Explorer, narrowing the gap between releases.
Having major Firefox versions ship a few months apart would certainly be a response to Chrome, whose major iterations are now separated by approximately six weeks.
Of course, Mozilla still has to deliver Firefox 4.0, which it intends doing by the end of February 2011, with a couple of Beta release due in the next two weeks.
“You do a touch and go and then you can release and people get all this benefit of Firefox 4 instead of 3.6. That's what we need to do.
“Some of those blockers are, and I have some, soft in the sense that they're edge cases. We probably can wait on those. We're not going to kick them out yet because if we have the parallel bandwidth of all our great people and the volunteer community too where we have volunteers doing some of this work, we'll take a fix if it's an additive and safe fix.
“But at some point we have to stop that. I think we're past that point and I'm going to treat my bugs accordingly and I encourage everyone here to do that,” Eich added.
Firefox 4.0 Beta 9 for Windows is available for download here.
Firefox 4.0 Beta 9 for Linux is available for download here.
Firefox 4.0 Beta 9 for Mac is available for download here.