This is not a major version increase
I’ve always hated what Google did to the term ‘beta’, and I’ve written about it before. Not content with utterly debasing the meaning of the word when applied to software, they’ve now set their sights elsewhere: the major version number. When ComputerBites posted on Twitter that he was about to install Google Chrome version 12, this was my response:
I got some interesting responses from that, all of them agreeing. Unfortunately, the disease has already spread, and Firefox has gone the same way. Three months after Firefox 4, and with only a single .0.1 update in between, Firefox 5 is ready to download.
- Firefox 4 update page, “What’s New in Firefox”: 41 bullet points.
- Firefox 5 update page, “What’s New in Firefox”: 11 bullet points, the last 2 of which are not even features and were clearly only added as filler. They are also almost all behind-the-scenes improvements rather than something the user will actually notice.
Firefox 4 to 5 is not anything like the update from 3 to 4. It has less than a quarter of the major changes. It’s Firefox 4.1; maybe 4.5 at a stretch. It’s not Firefox 5. This is purely a game of keeping up with Chrome, which at version 12 (and versions up to 14 in preview) is a farce. It’s insulting, even. The trend that started with Windows 95 of naming programs after years was bad enough, but at least then jokes about version number inflation were actual jokes.
But lets back up a minute: on the other hand, Firefox 5 does have some hallmarks of a major update that were curiously missing from Firefox 4. Specifically, bad backwards compatibility:
Oh sure, I’ll just do without those, shall I? I mean, they’re only two of my most-used add-ons (after Flashblock, naturally). Not a single one of my add-ons was incompatible with Firefox 4 when it was released. I don’t use many, so breaking two in one go, for almost no real benefit in terms of new functionality, is idiotic.
Also, here’s an idea for you Mozilla: while you’re so infatuated with updates, how about making this non-resizeable dialog a bit smaller so it doesn’t look so ridiculously stupid with so much wasted space? Or, you know, don’t break 20% of my add-ons for so little actual improvement.
Say what you want about Internet Explorer: it may be ahead of Firefox at version 9, but at least you can tell the difference between one version and the next without having to find the About box.