Mozilla Considers Burying Firefox Version Numbers

by Sam Dean - Aug. 19, 2011Comments (1)

Quite a debate has arisen after a discussion on a Mozilla forum about how upcoming versions of the Firefox browser should not carry a version number in the familiar "About" box. As Computeworld has noted, on the online discussion, Mozilla's Asa Dotzler, a director of Firefox, wrote: "We're moving to a more Web-like convention where it's simply not important what version you're using as long as it's the latest version. We have a goal to make version numbers irrelevant to our consumer audience." While the backlash against this has become a little overblown, it is definitely not a good idea.

Mozilla's idea to jettison browser version numbers is similar to other such schemes that have arisen in the tech industry over the years. For example, it used to be very easy to tell which Intel processors were faster and more advanced than others. Everyone knew that the 486 was faster than the 386, and so on.

Then, someone in Intel's marketing department apparently decided that processor names consisting of long strings of random characters and numbers--similar to ransom notes--would make more sense. The result was an ongoing sea of confusion about Intel's processors. Nobody knew which processor did what.

As Tyler Downer writes on Mozilla's Usability forum:

"While I understand that the UX team wants to remove content from the UI and simplify it, there needs to be a balance between information that benefits someone, and cleaning up the UI...Even Chrome, which has a rapid release cycle and a VERY good updating process, shows the Version in the about window."

Mozilla only switched to a rapid release cycle for Firefox in February, as we cited here. Since then, the company has produced numerous new versions of the browser, some of which have been criticized for early performance problems. Don't users deserve to be able to see which version numbers are making them pull their hair out?

This is an instance where Mozilla needs to keep things simple, and follow longstanding convention.  Any other decision will result in confusion.


Shailesh Patel uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


Sounds like a great idea to me, these version numbers doesn't mean anything imo. It only shows what build version it is. ( its only handy for coders that work with mozzila plugins or for people that work at mozzila )

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