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Standards Make Rapid Software Releases Workable 97

jfruhlinger writes "There was a bit of a kerfuffle when the Mozilla Foundation's community coordinator brushed aside concerns from enterprises that Mozilla's rapid release schedule clashed with organizations' need to carefully vet software upgrades. One thing that could bridge the gap between these worldviews is a widespread adoption of open standards. After all, if IE 6 dealt with web pages in a standard way, it wouldn't have been so painful to keep it around as long as it lurked on many corporate desktops."
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Standards Make Rapid Software Releases Workable

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  • Version numbers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cgeys ( 2240696 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @10:26AM (#36711194)
    Firefox's release schedule isn't any more "rapid" than it was before just because they now change major version number instead. It's just taking away the real problem and trying to be push your software to the version numbers that long term projects like IE and Opera have got over the years. Same problem with Chrome.
    • by Lennie ( 16154 )

      You are right, it isn't the version numbers. What they do now have is a more rapid release cycle. But also they don't have security updates for Firefox 4 after the release of Firefox 5.

      • Weird, you say "you are right, it isn't the version numbers", when what the GP said was that it is the version numbers. Either he's right or it isn't the version numbers, both cannot be true.

        Mozilla was stupid simply because they forgot that guys like you cannot get it through your skull that Firefox 5 is actually Firefox 4.1 with a different name and thus Firefox 4 is in fact still supported. But it isn't just you, it seems to be most people, so there you have it, Mozilla really shot themselves in the foo

        • by hitmark ( 640295 )

          Similar to the hoopla regarding Torvalds shaving a vestigial number form the Linux version by going 3.x.

          I have long wondered why various projects, if they are not maintaining a stable branch for fixes, do not simply use a single rolling number to indicate a new release.

    • Re:Version numbers (Score:5, Informative)

      by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @10:52AM (#36711378)

      Firefox's release schedule isn't any more "rapid" than it was before just because they now change major version number instead. It's just taking away the real problem and trying to be push your software to the version numbers that long term projects like IE and Opera have got over the years. Same problem with Chrome.

      Tell that to an addon developer, where the churn of compatibility-breaking changes (many for no apparent reason) is causing a real headache.

      There is a promised SDK to land sometime this summer. We'll see if Mozilla can deliver a stable API for more than a few months.

      • That's one of the major points in this change.

        Keeping API compatibility slows down development. On the other hand, from what I can tell it's not that hard to update your extension to the new APIs.

    • How is this a problem for Chrome?
    • In projects that have stable branches actively maintained, developers tend to do a good job of discipline in not doing large changes. When they do have a large, potentially long term change to enact, they push it to a branch with 5-6 months of time to release, and maybe push minor feature additions to a minor feature release.

      Now firefox has dispensed with all that and all major features, minor features, and bugfixes/security issues into a single cycle. That release cycle is sufficiently short such that ma

    • Re:Version numbers (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday July 10, 2011 @02:24PM (#36712972) Journal

      Actually if you read the Moz dev's blog when the stink first hit he said they are pushing for a six week turnaround so I honestly don't see how you could say it is less rapid. We aren't talking minor point releases here, we are talking about extension breaking serious alterations to the underlying code.

      Watching the backlash after this stupidity I'd say there was one clear winner...Chrome. After pulling this BS I noticed the extensions for Chrome started going up as developers started jumping ship. Most of these developers are either working for donations or on their spare time and trying to keep their code working with a 6 week release schedule simply isn't possible and the Chromium codebase doesn't seem to be broken with their extensions with regards to updates. I myself have upgraded from Comodo Dragon 6 through to Comodo Dragon 12 with ZERO broken extensions, compared to more than a third of my extensions broken on the single update from 4 to 5 with Firefox.

      And finally lets get to the meat of the matter...testing. With a schedule so fast testing simply is NOT possible, not on extensions, not on the codebase itself. With the push to Intranet and Internet based applications having no way to see if your organization is gonna end up crippled by an update really is inexcusable. And when they talk about "standards" everyone's bullshit o' meter should shoot off the charts. What standards? HTML V5 is still a draft at best yes?

      Final prediction...the Google juggernaut will crush Firefox thanks to their own stupidity. Many people use at home what they learned at work and no admin with a brain is gonna touch FF now. Chrome offers .MSIs and GPO controls and don't seem to be planning any major ripping out of the internals (We saw here a few months ago one of the devs talking about how there was gonna be serious work on the memory and CPU usage, which will mean major guts ripping) and more importantly you can write an extension for it and it "just works" between updates.

      The only thing FF had going for them anymore was the extension framework IMHO. The GUI was more and more becoming a Chrome ripoff, in most performance tests both Chrome and Opera usually stomped all over them, the only real difference was the extensions. by adopting this "fuck you, get on board or piss off" attitude they have succeeded in running off a LOT of extension writers to the greener pastures of Chrome. Out of the extensions I use the ONLY one left exclusive to FF is NoScript and I hear the Chromium guys are working on giving the NoScript guy an API that will give him the hooks he needs.

      So goodbye Mozilla, it was great while it lasted but after breaking a third of mine and my customers extensions I have removed FF from my standard installs and replaced it with Dragon. You are quickly becoming like Netscape before you, arrogant while having a codebase not able to back up that arrogance. So goodbye Moz and thanks for all the fish.

      • by Lennie ( 16154 )

        How do you test for Chrome ? How many updates does it get ? daily ?

        No, really, I want to know.

    • by laffer1 ( 701823 )

      My complaint isn't the version bump, it's that it behaves differently like a point release or major version. It's NOT Firefox 4. It broke selenium for instance which I use for testing sites at work. There was a fix for it rather quickly, but the fact that pages render differently means it's not the same software and that is why people are pissed. Firefox 4 was EOL and anything that renders like Firefox 4 is not getting patched!

  • They make things more workable until people start MacGyvering new ideas, throwing them into the public half done and start calling them the new standard.
    • good job we did that other wise we would be using OSI standards not this half baked hippy TCP/IP (that's a joke BTW)
  • Can't be stupid as the summary makes you believe.

    And its not. Seriously who summerised it?

    Newsflash: Using open standards means your browser won't suck. Wow!

    • The article may have been summerised before posting in the summer, but the Slashdot poster summarized it.
    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      And yet Firefox sucks. Basically because they don't follow standards themselves. Perhaps with the websites, but running it over ssh needs an extra parameter.
      Forced upgrades outside of the distribution I use is another non-standard behavior. There are several more things that does not make it work as other programs.

      • running [Firefox] over ssh needs an extra parameter.

        Since when? I used it just fine over ssh just the other day. Is this a new problem with FF>=4?

  • The problem isn't really the browsers, it's the standards that can't keep up. If the browsers had to wait for the standards to be finalized, IE 6 would still be relevant. If the specification is incomplete what are you supposed to do, watch your users switch to a different browser, or implement the proposed feature in the best way you know how. Maybe the standards need to move to a rapid release cycle?
    • If you want standards to drive an industry, then the innovators have to be the ones setting the standard. Yet people are already afraid enough of de facto standards; even less will they hand control of a new de jure standard over to an innovator. Result: a committee is formed, most of whose members are there to see that their company does not get locked out of the market for the new functionality. Thus we get a standard that works 3 years after the innovation and is widely used and understood 5 years after
    • "If the browsers had to wait for the standards to be finalized, IE 6 would still be relevant"

      That is why IE 6 still is relevant and why new software coming off the shelves today require IE 6 and nothing else. IE waited on things to be finalized because it something was implemented and the standard changed it would break intranet and internet site usage. Businesses do not like this. They want things to just work.

      IE 9 was a break from this. If they kept their old way of doing things HTML 5 would not be suppor

    • Agreed. We don't have internet web standards really. Sure they're out there but no one complies and it takes an amount of time to adapt to these standards. A rapid release schedule does not fix this problem, it just means that one browser is closer to the ever changing standard but it does not mean that the standards are being used by web sites or demanded by internet users. When you get down to it the real standard is the de-facto one; do what the most popular browser does.

      Besides, the web already work

  • God befuddled the languages of the world at the tower of babel because He was tired of His Firefox add-ons breaking.
  • "Well we can go with Internets Explorer 9 or Mozzarella Foxfire 5 and 9 is a bigger number than 5 so therefore that means it must be better right?"

    Footnote: I actually have heard an executive refer to Firefox as "Mozzarella Foxfire"
  • with 10s thousands of users (large corp, gov't, uni) it's a significant effort to determine if every problem is/isn't related to a release version

  • by aix tom ( 902140 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @12:01PM (#36711894)

    .... anyway, what the hell do they change from version to version?

    If they tell you "Changes are not *dangerous*, because we stick to standards", then that is bullshit. If a change is "not at all dangerous" then it is also "not at all necessary", since it would imply the change does not change anything. What I have seen in 15 years in IT is that even some pretty minor thing that changed in a software product can bring your work flow to a halt. And you can lose business for hours or days.

    • by Lennie ( 16154 )

      I think what they mean is:

      If the big corporations stick to using browser-/webpage-features which are actual standards their code won't break.

      That means real standards: Things that are done, ready and _stable_.

      Not some new, shiny HTML5-/CSS3-effect.

  • So, why are Mozilla still patching FF 3.xx versions of Firefox?

    That's pretty much based on the same open standards as FF5, so why not ditch it and support the most recent version only? Otherwise it's in danger of becoming Mozilla's XP/IE6...
  • As long as 'open standards' are open to different interpretations (as HTML is/was) we still have big problems, we still see different results between different browser with the latest HTML standards..

    And what are 'standards'? personally when I see stuff like 'bold' being replaced with 'strong' I get a big feeling of 'wtf, which moron decided something like that', and that's something I see in more and more standards, instead of keeping it simple and clear, they make it illogical and difficult...

    and even
    • by Lennie ( 16154 )

      A real standard is something which is widely used.

      So that is what big companies should use. The HTML4/CSS2/JS which is already out, what they've been using for quiet a while now.

      Wait a bit before the other things are widely used if you want/need stability.

  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @01:15PM (#36712472)

    Sure, implementing standards in *theory* should mean the browser choice doesn't matter. The problem is the difference between theory and practice. You think you write in standards, but you only validate that in one browser, you may accidentally not be standards compliant. Conversely, you may fairly be totally standards compliant, but a browser defect results in your site not behaving correctly. Or a standard could be sufficiently vague as to have multiple implementations vary in behavior without being able to point at any particular one as non-compliant.

    All this is ignoring that things like browser crashes, memory exhaustion, and security issues are critical issues to worry about that generally have no bearing on standards compliance.

    If standards meant the choice and version of a browser wouldn't matter, then why would there be a choice of browser and version in the first place?

    • by laffer1 ( 701823 )

      Not to mention that HTML 5 is a moving target with no clear versions thanks to Google and friends. You can't target a standard that is never complete.

      • by Lennie ( 16154 )

        HTML5 isn't a standard yet. This is all new things. If you need stability, stick with the older standards for a while. And nothing will break.

  • Firefox's decision to change UI elements for *existing installs* (from 3.6 to 4, aping IE 8 and Chrome) caused our trainer/support team angst. We want to keep autoupgrade for security but when we get a volley of "wtf" calls from users that is a problem.

  • The real problem is that organisations/the enterprise/etc.. are still THIS carefull with upgrades. My has alot of pc pools. All those still run XP.. which might be ok. All of them also run outdated versions of Firefox, Java, Flash and whatnot. (and not even like a few days outdated, it s worse. They dont even run the most current version of Fx 3.6. Why is this a problem? Because of the internet, the existance of security holes and the fact that exploting these has another dimension than 10 years before. It
  • My personal hunch is that IE 6 was intentionally crippled.

    Under Gates, Microsoft has been known to make things intentionally proprietary and crippled to make adoption hard so people only stick with Microsoft products. When slashdotters were debating who should replace Balmer, my first reaction was Gates even though as a user I do not want him back. I have read comments from old Unix geeks here on slashdot who even accused Xenix of being crippled on purpose as it is so hard to port Unix software to Xenix/Sco

    • by Anonymous Coward
      And how was and standard html? Shit being adopted as a standard after the fact isn't exactly a solid argument. I seem to remember that the competition for IE 5/6* was Netscape 4.x. The Netscape 4.x stuff was crappy. It crashed quite regularly. I know this because I suffered through it. History isn't kind to Netscape 4.x either. Do you remember how crappy Netscape 5 was? It was so bad it was never released, the code abandoned to start a rewrite. And then Netscape 6. It sucked. If you want to bit
    • Your "hunch" is completely wrong. Well, I'm not saying that Microsoft didn't benefit from the state of affairs around IE6, but the fact of the matter is, IE6 was not "deliberately crippled". In fact, IE6 was the most standards compliant browser out there when it was released. The fact that IE6 sat stagnant for years and did not become as standard compliant as the competition became afterwards has no bearing.

      Also, XAML is just a schema of XML. It's impossible to make it "only work with visual studio + sh

  • Even for small business, upgrading firefox on every station is a huge headace, an admin (aka IT staff) have to log in to update a major version of firefox.
  • I'm seeing a lot of folks saying Chrome may be the big winner out of all of this, but not much comment about Opera making gains. I confess to being a bit out of the loop when it comes to browser alternatives, but my impression was that Chrome isn't entirely open source. It uses WebKit, but that licensing does not seem to cover the whole of the browser - wikipedia at least cites some sort of "Google Chrome Terms of Service".

    Are the "GCTS" open source, or is the current sense of the community that Chrome is

    • by ace123 ( 758107 )

      First to answer your question: I agree about using Opera in business--I actually think that makes a lot of sense for businesses concerned about stability. I'm sure Opera would sell support agreements, and they don't have an insane release schedule, though they manage to keep up with standards. I suspect Opera doesn't have brand name recognition, so no IT manager would bother suggesting it out of fear of a backlash. For example, what if an obscure version of Oracle's timecard crapware fails on Opera? Then yo

  • After doing a lot of research, I can say it is amazing how many people forgot IE6 actually improved standards compliance over IE 5.x. The original name of a Quora question for example was "Why did MS release IE6..." which later was renamed. Most IE-specific features actually came from IE 4.x and IE 5.x. IE6 introduced DOCTYPE switching. The problem is that IE then stagnated for five years, and guess what people did with the IE6 "standard mode" during that period?

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe